About this artwork
Portraits of important people appear on local currency all around the world. The same was true in ancient Rome, which began producing its first coinage in the late 4th century BCE. Early coins depicted the heads of gods and goddesses on the front side, often in profile, while the back depicted animals, natural resources, symbols, and references to historical events. It was not until 44 BCE that the portrait of a living person—Julius Caesar—appeared on coins. Thereafter, profile portraits of rulers or other members of the imperial family became the standard subject on coins throughout the Roman Empire.
Starting in 96 with the reign of Emperor Nerva, Rome was ruled by five wise leaders who came to be known as the “Good Emperors.” Nerva (reigned 96–98) was an honest and respected senator who enacted compassionate social programs. His rule ushered in a period of peace and prosperity, which is suggested by the sheer abundance of coins produced during this era as well as by the skill and artistry of the images created. Coins of this period, especially gold aurei like this one, were often perfectly round, well struck, and centered.
On this coin Hadrian - another “Good Emperor” - wears a short beard, initiating a trend that was popular among his successors for the next two centuries.
- On View, Gallery 153
- Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium
- Ancient Roman
- Aureus (Coin) Portraying Emperor Hadrian
- Roman Empire (Minted in)
- Struck 120 CE–123 CE
- Obverse: IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG Reverse: P M TR P COS III
- Diam.: 1.9 cm (3/4 in.)
- Katherine K. Adler Memorial, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Alexander, and Ancient Art Purchase Funds