The Roman Empire, Hadrian 117 – 138, Aureus 134-138, AV 7.36 g. HADRIANVS – AVG COS III P P Bare-headed and draped bust l. Rev. Nilus naked to waist reclining r., leaning l. arm on rock and holding cornucopiae and reed; before him, hippopotamus standing r. and below, crocodile over waves. C 1499. BMC 836 note. RIC 314. Kent-Hirmer pl. 81, 284 (these dies). Biaggi 671 (this coin). Calicó 1165 (this coin). Very rare. A delightful portrait of masterly style struck on a full flan, extremely fine / about extremely fine Ex Cahn 75, 1932, 1150; Santamaria 1950, Magnaguti 632 and Sotheby’s 8 June 1996, 109, sales.
The Roman Empire, Hadrian 117 – 138, Aureus 134-138, AV 7.10 g. HADRIANVS – AVG COS III P P Bare-headed bust l., with drapery on r. shoulder. Rev. RESTITVTORI – ACHAIAE Hadrian, togate, standing l., holding roll in l. hand and extending r. to raise up kneeling figure of Achaia in front of him; between them, palm in vase. C -. BMC 868 note (this coin cited). RIC –. Calicó 1347 (this coin, described on 1348). Very rare. Several scratches on reverse, otherwise extremely fine Ex Rollin & Feuardent 20 April 1896, Montagu, 303 and LHS 97, 2006, European Scholar, 21 sales. If any emperor could claim to be the ‘restorer of Greece it was Hadrian, whose love of the Greeks earned him the nickname “the Greekling” (Graeculus). His infatuation with Greek culture predated his reign: his first documented visit to Greece was in 111-112, during which he was made an honorary citizen of Athens and was elected archon eponymous. This was the most important magistracy in Athens, and that year in Athenian history took the name of the 36-year-old future emperor. The Athenians knew of Hadrian’s importance, and their gestures paid off well, for when he became emperor Hadrian lavished Greece – particularly Athens – as would no other emperor in the history of Rome. While emperor Hadrian visited Athens at least three times: 124, 128/9 and 131/2. Without question it was his favourite destination, and had he not been afflicted by a general wanderlust and a sense of duty, Hadrian might have spent the whole of his reign in the shadow of the Parthenon. This spectacular aureus is part of the “travel series” issued by Hadrian, and it does not require too much imagination to believe this coin pleased him the most: an aureus in honour of the Greeks. Hadrian paid for many capital improvements in Greece – new temples, statues and monuments were erected, and dilapidated ones were restored. He also sponsored games and festivals, launched the cult of Antinous, and established a league of Greek states, the council of the Panhellion. This latter innovation was a focus of intense competition among Greek cities, which worked hard to demonstrate the authenticity of their Greek heritage and their record of friendship with Rome. During his last visit to Athens Hadrian attended a revitalization of the mysteries of Eleusis and presided at the consecration of the newly completed temple of Olympian Zeus. It is believed that the council of the Panhellion was inaugurated at this time, and that its first archon was installed, perhaps with the title “high priest” of Hadrian Panhellenios. Plans were made for the Hadriania, a festival associated with the council and its member-cities that was to be held in Athens every four years. Hadrian went further still by assuring Athens had major festivities every year, including the rotating events of the festival of the Dionysia, the Panhellenia, new Olympic games, new Panathenaic games, and the Hadriana, which began near the end of his life or soon after he died. Hadrian understood the cultural and political importance of games to the Greeks, and the design of this aureus clearly reflects that by the inclusion of the agonistic urn with a palm branch – a symbol of Greek games. It may specifically relate to Hadrian’s most distinctive contribution, the council of the Panhellion, as it seems likely that games were held at the councils inauguration during Hadrian’s visit of 131/2.
The Roman Empire, Hadrian 117 – 138, Aureus 125-128, AV 7.52 g. HADRIANVS – AVGVSTVS Laureate bust r., with drapery on l. shoulder. Rev. COS She-wolf l., with twins; in exergue, III. C 422 var. (no drapery). BMC 448. RIC 193d. Calicó 1233a. A magnificent portrait. Virtually as struck and almost Fdc Ex NAC sale 33, 2006, 485.