About This Artwork

Roman, minted in Rome

Aureus (Coin) Portraying Emperor Vespasian, AD 75/79, issued by Vespasian

Diam. 2 cm; 7.37 g
"Emperor Caesar Vespasian Augustus"
"Fortuna Augusta"

Gift of Martin A. Ryerson, 1922.4867

In A.D. 68 the chaotic reign of the Roman emperor Nero came to an end with his forced suicide, but what followed was an equally chaotic struggle to succeed him. The support of the army was critical: the year A.D. 69 saw one general after another claim the throne only to be killed by one of his rivals. Finally, the Roman army in Egypt joined the army in Syria to back General Vespasian. Knowing that Egypt was the empire’s breadbasket, Vespasian’s first effort as emperor was to pacify and control this important province. Thearmor he wears on this coin emphasizes his role as a warrior king.

—Permanent collection label

This work appears in the online catalogue Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, featuring art historical essays and conservation reports on artworks from the ancient Roman world in the Art Institute’s collection. Entries include new high-resolution photography, stunning 360-degree views of the works, and in-depth technical imaging and analysis. The volume is free to the public.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

"Ruling Families: Imperial Dynasties of the Early Roman Empire 31 B.C.- A.D. 235." Nov.
1997-Nov.2001, Gallery 155 (Coin Case)

The Art Institute of Chicago, When the Greeks Ruled: Egypt After Alexander the Great, October 31, 2013 - July 27, 2014.

Publication History

Theresa Gross-Diaz, “Cat. 44 Aureus Portraying Vespasian: Curatorial Entry,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2016).

Karen B. Alexander, "From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago," in Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, by Karen Manchester (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2012), p. 29.

Karen Alexander and Mary Greuel, Private Taste in Ancient Rome: Selections from Chicago Collections (Art Institute of Chicago, 1990), n. pag. (n. 59).

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