Beautiful Claudius Aureus, Ex BiaggiClaudius (AD 41-54). AV aureus (20mm, 7.79 gm, 3h). Rome, AD 46-7. TI CLAVD CAESAR AVG PM TR P VI IMP XI, laureate head of Claudius right / CONSTANTIAE AVGVSTI, Constantia seated left on curule chair, feet on stool, right hand raised towards mouth, left hand holding scroll. RIC 31. Calico 340 (this coin). Biaggi 200 (this coin). Sharply struck on an exceptionally broad flan from dies of wonderful style. Choice Extremely Fine.
Ex Numismatica Ars Classica 49 (21 October 2008, lot 139); ex Biaggi Collection, privately purchased in 1954.
As the son of the great general Drusus and Antonia, niece of the emperor Augustus, Tiberius Claudius Drusus seemed well-positioned for greatness when he was born at Lugdunum, Gaul in 10 BC. But a serious childhood illness left him with a limp, a stammer, and other uncouth qualities that made him the black sheep of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. While these problems barred him from a political career, such exclusion also granted him immunity from the family's murderous intrigues and he managed to survive the bloody reigns of his uncle Tiberius and nephew Caligula while most of his relations perished in unpleasant ways. Upon Caligula's assassination in January, AD 41, Claudius was the sole surviving Julio-Claudian male and, when members of the Praetorian Guard found him cowering behind a curtain in the palace, they immediately acclaimed him as Emperor. Claudius astutely awarded the Praetorians a substantial bonus, and with 10,000 heavily armed soldiers backing him, he easily forced the Senate to accept him as the next princeps. Once installed in power, Claudius surprised everyone by ruling with intelligence and moderation. During his formative years, Claudius had devoted himself to scholarly studies and playing the "fly on the wall" in the halls of government, all of which served him well. In AD 43, he ordered the invasion and annexation of Britain, the first major addition of territory to the Empire since the days of Augustus. He chose provincial governors carefully and managed foreign relations with considerable skill. He erred only in his obsession with detail, his reliance on freedmen and cronies, and his atrocious taste in women. Messalina, his promiscuous third wife, ran wild as Empress and nearly brought down his regime with a sex-crazed conspiracy in AD 48. His next wife, Agrippina the Younger, used her wiles to enhance her own power and advance Nero, her son by a previous marriage, in the succession arrangements. This done, she fed Claudius a dish of poisoned mushrooms in October, AD 54 and brought his 13-year reign to an end. Despite many missteps and his unsavory demise, Claudius had been a fairly successful ruler and his regime set a pattern for the Flavians and the reigns that followed.
The unusual personification of Constantia (steadiness, courage, steadfastness) on the reverse of this beautiful gold aureus was first used on Claudius' first gold coinage in AD 41 and revived in several subsequent years. It no doubt contrasts his even-handed rule with the capriciousness of his predecessor Caligula.
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