Roman Empire, Commodus - Youngest Consul in Roman History

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When this type was minted Commodus was only 16 or 17 years old, and yet the reverse legend declares him to have held tribunician power three times, been acclaimed imperator twice, consul once, and ironically, to be pater patriae - father of the state. That he was offered this honorific, accepted it and used it immediately upon his coinage is an indication of his disposition, for it was the custom of emperors to decline the honour if offered to them too early or while they were too young. Even Nero declined the title when it was offered to him in the first year of his reign, accepting it only later. It was also customary for the honoured to defer the usage of the title for a suitable length of time out of humility - Hadrian deferred its use for eleven years.

Only the previous year had Commodus been granted the rank of Augustus, thus formally sharing power with his father, being also consul in that year - the youngest in Roman history up until that time. The reverse displays Castor as the patron of the Equites and protector of the young emperor, and represents Commodus in his role as princeps iuventutis, a title of great honour even in the days of the republic that since the reign of Augustus had been conferred on those who were intended to succeed to the throne, and which Commodus had received in AD 175.

The unhealthy overindulgence of Commodus by his father Marcus Aurelius, which may have in part led to his megolamania in later life, was perhaps due to his being Aurelius’ only surviving son. He was showered with honours beyond his years, including having been made Caesar at the age of five. Yet still in this time, never far from his father or his entourage of worthy tutors, Commodus did not publicly display any of the maniacal tendencies that would later come to characterise his reign.

Commodus, as Caesar, AV Aureus. Rome, AD 178. L AVREL COMMODVS AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right / TR P III IMP II COS P P, Castor standing left, holding spear and horse by its bridle. RIC 648; Calicó 2337 (this coin); BMC 774/775. 7.35g, 21mm, 11h.

Fleur De Coin. Very Rare.

Ex Numismatic Fine Arts 16, 2 December 1985, lot 482.