Roman Empire, Marcus Aurelius - The Capitoline Statue

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Perhaps struck to coincide with a triumph relating to his campaigns against the Marcomanni, Quadi and Iazyges which was delayed until after a revolt in the east led by Avidius Cassius could be put down, the reverse of this coin depicts the famous equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. Cast in bronze and clad in gold, it is today the only fully surviving bronze statue of a pre-Christian emperor. Although there had been many imperial equestrian statues, most were melted down for their metal to be used either for coin or new sculptures. Many were also destroyed for no better reason than because medieval Christians thought that they were pagan idols. It is only because this statue was erroneously believed to be of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, that it was not also destroyed.

The original position of the statue is debated, though the Forum Romanum and the Piazza Colonna (where Aurelian’s column stands) are likely suggestions. In the 8th century it stood in the Lateran Palace in Rome, from where it was relocated in 1538 to the Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill) during Michelangelo’s redesign of the Hill. Though he disagreed with its central positioning, he designed a special pedestal for it. The original statue is now on display in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, and a replica now overlooks Rome in its stead.

Standing at over 4 metres tall, the statue shows Marcus Aurelius holding his right hand out and slightly open in the traditional gesture of peace and clemency; some historians assert that a fallen enemy may have been sculpted begging for mercy under the horse’s raised hoof (based on accounts from medieval times which suggest that a small figure of a bound barbarian chieftain once crouched underneath the horse’s front right leg). It is a fitting representation of an emperor who has been universally admired as a philosopher-emperor, and who saw himself not as a conqueror but as a bringer of peace - an attitude evidenced by the emperor being garbed in a toga rather than military dress.

Marcus Aurelius AV Aureus. Rome, AD 173-174. M ANTONINVS AVG TR P XXVIII, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind / IMP VI COS III, Marcus Aurelius on horseback right, raising right hand, parazonium at his side. Calicó 1869; RIC 294; C. 303. 7.09g, 19mm, 6h.

Fleur De Coin. Extremely Rare, no examples have been offered at auction for more than 15 years.