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Description

Superb Verus Aureus

Lucius Verus (AD 161-169). AV aureus (19mm, 7.09 gm, 6h).  Rome, December AD 163 - early 164. L VERVS AVG ARMENIACVS, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Verus right / TR P IIII IMP II COS II, Victory, half-draped, standing right, placing on a palm tree a shield inscribed VIC / AVG. RIC (Aurelius) 525. BMCRE (Aurelius) 296 note.  Calic√≥ 2177 (these dies). Small mark on neck, otherwise Choice Mint State.

Late in AD 136, the Emperor Hadrian adopted a handsome, but otherwise undistinguished young aristocrat named Lucius Aurelius Commodus as his intended successor, giving him the name Aelius Caesar. The new heir already had a seven-year-old son, who received the name Lucius Verus, and the boy's place in the dynastic succession seemed secure. But Aelius died of consumption only 16 months later, forcing Hadrian to adopt as his replacement another, rather more qualified senator,  who duly succeeded as Antoninus Pius. Antoninus in turn adopted Lucius Verus and another youth of a good Spanish family, Marcus Aurelius; it is widely assumed that he was following Hadrian's wishes that both young men eventually succeed to the throne. After Hadrian's death, Antoninus kept young Lucius in the background while he showed Marcus every preferment. Probably he sensed that Lucius, while handsome and charming, was something of a lightweight. Nevertheless, when Antoninus died in March, AD 161, Marcus Aurelius insisted that the Senate also grant Lucius Verus the title of Augustus, for the first time giving the Empire two theoretically coequal rulers. The arrangement was immediately put to the test in AD 162, when the Parthians attacked Rome's eastern provinces. Though neither ruler had any military experience, Lucius traveled eastward at the head of a large legionary task force to repulse the invasion and restore order. Lucius' generals served him well and the Parthians were quickly expelled. In AD 165, Roman forces counter-invaded and captured the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon, winning Lucius the title Parthicus Maximus. He received a hero's welcome in Rome in AD 166 and basked in the glow of a triumph. But returning troops brought with them a virulent plague, probably smallpox, which spread rapidly through the populace and killed millions. At the same time, the Germanic barbarians of the north attacked the weakened Rhine and Danube frontiers, prompting another military crisis that demanded the presence of both emperors. In the spring of AD 169, Marcus and Lucius moved  into the Balkans to boost the army's flagging morale, but another outbreak of plague in the region brought the imperial cortege to a halt. Verus turned back for Rome, but at the northern Italian city of Altinum, he fell into an epileptic fit and died at the age of 38. His sensuous nature contrasts poorly with the dutiful character of Marcus Aurelius, but he seems to have had a good heart and was sincerely mourned by Marcus and the populace.  Whatever his merits as a ruler, Lucius Verus' striking features lend themselves well to coin portraits, which are among the most attractive in the Roman series. This rare aureus was struck in AD 163/4 to mark his victories on the eastern frontier.


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Auction Dates
January, 2013
6th-7th Sunday-Monday
Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
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