About This Artwork

Roman, minted in Rome

Aureus (Coin) Portraying Emperor Trajan, A.D. 114/15, issued by Trajan

Diam. 2 cm; 7.36 g

Gift of Martin A. Ryerson, 1922.4871

Five Good Roman Emperors

The Roman Empire, which flourished from 27 B.C. to A.D. 410, was ruled by a variety of emperors, some who inherited the throne and some who seized it. As rulers came and went, it was important to announce the transition of power quickly. Since the Mint regularly struck coins to pay the armies stationed throughout the empire, it was easy to change the portrait, revise names in the inscription, and publish the news.

During the reign of the emperor Trajan, Rome reached the apogee of its power and territory. Wars of expansion extended the empire from Scotland in the north to Egypt and Gibraltar in the south and east to the Euphrates River. This rare coin was minted during his conquest of Parthia and Armenia. Instead of victory, however, the newly pacified territories soon rose in revolt, ending in Rome’s retreat and Trajan’s death.

—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)

Publication History

Katharine A. Raff, “Cat. 2 Cinerary Urn: Curatorial Entry,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2016), para 11, fig. 2.16.

Robert Lerner, Robert E. Standish Meacham, and Edward McNall Burns. Western Civilizations: Their History and Their Culture. Vol. 2. 13th ed. pp. 171. (W. W. Norton & Company, 1998).

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), pp. 28-29.

Manchester, Karen. 2012. Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, pp.90-91 (cat.20), 113. Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press.

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