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    Didius Julianus: Disgrace Erased

    Didius Julianus (AD 193). AV aureus (21mm, 6.52 gm, 6h). NGC Choice VF 5/5 - 4/5. Rome, March-June AD 193. IMP CAES M DID - IVLIAN AVG, laureate head of Julianus right / P · M · TR - P · COS, Fortuna standing left, holding in right hand tiller set on globe and cornucopia cradled in left arm. RIC 2a. BMCRE 4 and plate 3, 7 (same obverse die). Cohen 8. Calicó 2395 (R1). Very rare. Strong portrait of this 65-day ruler, struck on an exceptionally broad flan.

    Didius Julianus was born to a wealthy family in AD 137 and had a prominent government career, including several provincial governorships in the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Though successful, did not earn the respect of his fellow senators, who regarded him as a sensualist and a spendthrift. When the Emperor Pertinax was killed by the Praetorians after only a three-month reign, no ready successor was at hand. Pertinax's father-in-law, Flavius Sulpicianus, entered the Praetorian camp and tried to get the troops to proclaim him emperor, but he met with little enthusiasm. Sensing an opportunity, Didius Julianus rushed to the camp and began to make cash promises to the soldiers from outside the wall. Soon the scene became an auction, with Sulpicianus and Julianus striving to outbid each other for the favor of the troops. When Sulpicianus reached 20,000 sesterces per soldier, Didius Julianus upped the bid by a whopping 5,000 sesterces. Sold! Julianus was allowed into the camp and proclaimed emperor. Confronted by the swords of the Praetorians, the Senate approved his elevation, but could not hide its disgust at his disgraceful elevation. Disturbances broke out throughout the city, and a crowd at the Colosseum loudly called for Pescennius Niger, governor of Syria, to march on Rome. But Niger was not the only alternative. Two other provincial governors also declared themselves emperor: Clodius Albinus in Britain, and Septimius Severus in Pannonia. Severus, closest to Rome, immediately marshaled his troops and invaded Italy. Julianus at first tried negotiations, then sent assassins to kill Severus, to no avail. Julianus next tried to fortify Rome but the results were ineffective and ludicrous. With Julianus' authority in Rome rapidly deteriorating, Severus was able to send messages to the Praetorians, who renounced their allegiance to Julianus. Seeing their cue, the Senators proclaimed Severus emperor and passed a death sentence on Julianus. On June 1, AD 193, a Praetorian officer found the cringing Julianus hiding in the palace and dispatched him, erasing his pathetic 65-day reign. 

    Despite his ephemeral rule, the rare gold coinage of Julianus boasts exceptionally fine portraiture, as exemplified by this wonderful aureus. The reverse image of Fortuna holding a tiller is intended to reassure the populace that the "ship of state" was in good hands. One doubts the message was widely received or believed.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2017
    3rd Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 6
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