ROMAN EMPIRE, Marcus Aurelius, 161-180 AD, denarius


ROMAN EMPIRE, Marcus Aurelius, 161-180 AD, denarius, no date (171 AD), Rome mint, Obverse: laureate head R, IMP M AVREL ANTONINVS AVG, Reverse: Providentia standing L holding globe & cornucopia, PROV DEOR TR P XV COS III, silver, 17mm, 3.4g, RIC20, ragged edge obscures part of rev. legend, XF/VF

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The Emperor Hadrian had created a succession agreement that required Antoninus Pius to adopt Aurelius as heir, and also that Aurelius would make his brother, Lucius Verus, co-Emperor. Aurelius was immensely competent, but the hand he had been dealt by fate included a lot of war.

In the Imperial Period Roman coinage became an engine for governmental propaganda. All of the themes of the coins are celebratory of some aspect of govermental authority or achievement.

The Roman Republic was founded in response to tyrannical kings. It functioned for several centuries in a kind of balance of rich and poor people (slaves didn’t count). The general idea was that laws would constrain personal power. During the days of Julius Caesar, et al, powerful people became too powerful, and a new system of slightly constrained autocracy, the Empire, developed. The Empire was split for administrative purposes into eastern and western branches, the west devolving into local kingdoms in the 5th century AD, while the eastern branch continued as what we call the Byzantine Empire until 1453.

“Ancient Coins” includes Greek and Roman coins and those of neighbors and successors, geographically from Morocco and Spain all the way to Afghanistan. Date ranges for these begin with the world’s earliest coins of the 8th century BC to, in an extreme case, the end of Byzantine Empire, 1453 AD.