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Hadrian AV Aureus. Rome, AD 118. IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right / P M TR P COS II, bust of Sol, radiate and draped, right; ORIENS in exergue. RIC 43b; Calicó 1295. 7.20g, 20mm, 6h.

Extremely Fine. Rare.

Struck in AD 118 at the beginning of Hadrian’s reign and shortly after the death of Trajan on his return journey from the campaign against Parthia, this stunning aureus contains layers of symbolism hidden within its splendour.

The murky circumstances surrounding Hadrian’s accession needed to be legitimised. He had, officially, been adopted by Trajan on his deathbed. Yet whether this was actually the case, and whether it was Trajan’s uninfluenced will, were subjects of whispered debate. It was rumoured that Plotina might have compelled the dying emperor to adopt her favourite, Hadrian, or even perhaps that Trajan had died leaving no successor and that Plotina had afterwards forged Trajan’s will herself. Hadrian was therefore required to cement his own position as well as to consolidate the vast territorial gains of his predecessor, tasks that he undertook quickly and decisively.

Realising the untenable position that the annexation of Mesopotamia had created, Hadrian withdrew the legions stationed there and effectively abandoned this province, also later giving up Armenia to a local king, who was soon defeated by Parthia. Unpopular as Hadrian’s abandonment of his predecessor’s conquests in Mesopotamia would have been, it did help to stabilise the empire. At the same time, although the rumour of a falsified adoption carried little weight, Hadrian was keen to emphasise the legitimacy of his position and therefore we see on his coinage of this period obverse legends that closely follow those of Trajan's, proudly proclaiming his adoptive heritage.

The reverse type of Oriens may be understood to have several meanings. At the time it was struck, Hadrian remained in the East consolidating the frontiers of the empire and assisting in the restoration of Egypt, Cyprus, Cyrene and Judaea. Thus it may refer to the new emperor who had arisen in the East, yet it might also be viewed as a celebration of the end to the Jewish rebellion that had so ravaged the eastern provinces. One may also see in this type a melancholic marking of the conclusion to Trajan’s glorious conquests on that most distant border of the Roman empire, a demanding campaign that had ultimately claimed the life of this great and wise emperor.

Hadrian AV Aureus. (rxii734)

Price: £7,368.00

  • US $9,825.97
  • EUR €8,233.74
  • AUD $12,901.37
  • CHF 9,624.08
  • CAD $12,482.13
  • (Rates for 25/11/2017)


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