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Description

Exceptional Portrait of the Young Commodus

Commodus (AD 177-192). AV aureus (20mm, 7.23 gm, 6h). Rome, AD 181. M COMMODVS ANTONINVS AVG, laureate and draped bust right / SECVRITAS PVBLICA TR P VI IMP IIII, COS III P P in exergue, Securitas, draped, seated right, resting head on right hand and holding transverse scepter in left. RIC 23c. Calicó 2325a. Rare. Well-centered and lustrous. Good Extremely Fine.

The sole reign of Commodus, AD 180-192, is often viewed as the tipping point where the Roman Empire's long decline began. Commodus has thus been featured in novels, plays, and feature films as a villain, most recently in the cinema epics "Fall of the Roman Empire" (1964) and "Gladiator" (2001). Son of the greatly revered "Philosopher Emperor" Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-180), Commodus was the first emperor born "in the purple" in AD 161. Marcus made him co-Augustus in AD 177. He accompanied Marcus on a strenuous military campaign against the Germanic tribes in 178; worn out by his exertions, Marcus died on 17 March AD 180. Freed of his dutiful father's control, Commodus immediately cut a deal with the Germans and abandoned all further plans of military conquest. Returning to Rome, he plunged into sensual pursuits and left governing to a succession of favorites who plundered the public purse and aggrandized themselves. His lax rule led to plots against the regime, ruthlessly suppressed. Rejecting the intellectuality of his father, Commodus fancied himself as a great athlete, hunter and gladiator. After the fall of his corrupt vizier Cleander in AD 190, Commodus took control of governmental affairs himself and his megalomania ran riot. Wealthy Romans in high positions were routinely executed so their estates could be confiscated to finance this orgy of self-indulgence. While the Roman commons  seemed to enjoy his antics, his close advisors began to fear for their own lives and ultimately arranged his death by strangulation at the hands of his wrestling instructor, Narcissus. The damage done by his 12 years of listless, corrupt rule was deep and lasting.

While Commodus continued and worsened the debasement of Roman silver coinage begun by his father, the gold coinage remained of high purity, weight and artistry. This beautiful aureus, struck early in his sole reign, depicts him as a young man very much in the image of his father. The historians Dio and Herodian both describe him as exceptionally handsome, a picture borne out by his coin portraits and sculpture. The reverse evokes the "Security of the Public" in an uncertain age.



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Auction Dates
Sep-Oct, 2013
25th-1st
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 8
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