Hadrian's Augustan VisionHadrian (AD 117-138). AV aureus (20mm, 7.13 gm, 5h). Rome, AD 125-128. HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS, laureate head of Hadrian right / Hadrian on horseback right, raising right hand; COS III across field. RIC 186c. Calicó 1218a. Deeply struck from dies of refined style, with full "mint bloom." Brilliantly lustrous, and certainly among the finest known Hadrian aurei. NGC MS? 5/5 - 5/5, Fine Style.
From The Lexington Collection of Jonathan K. Kern.
Publius Aelius Hadrianus was born in AD 76, the son of a distinguished Spanish senator and related through his mother to the future Emperor Trajan, who took him into his household when Hadrian was nine years old. After Trajan's accession, Hadrian held a series of civilian posts, including a consulship in AD 108, and commanded legions during the Dacian and Parthian wars. Hadrian was not formally adopted until Trajan lay on his deathbed in August, AD 117; after succeeding to the throne, Hadrian abandoned many of Trajan's over-ambitious conquests and engaged in a policy of peace abroad and reform at home. He spent most of his 21-year reign traveling, visiting every province of the Roman Empire. Under his patronage, Roman art and sculpture reached its creative peak. Hadrian came to see himself as a "second Augustus," providing the empire with a new foundation as a vast commonwealth of nations under Rome's guiding hand. Midway through his reign, in AD 125, Hadrian's coinage underwent a thorough redesign to reflect this conception. His early militaristic portrait style, which depicted his entire upper bust either armored, draped or "heroically nude," was replaced by a much larger head of highly refined style; the obverse legend, which in Trajanic fashion had formerly provided all his names and titles, was simplified to HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS. Reverse types and legends were also simplified, with many providing only providing the title COS III ("Thrice Consul"). This beautiful aureus, struck in high relief with a portrait of remarkable serenity, perfectly embodies Hadrian's Augustan vision. The style is thoroughly Hellenistic, idealistic, and highly reminiscent of coins of the original Augustus. The reverse type, showing Hadrian astride a horse setting off on one of his many journeys, proved highly influential and was copied by many future rulers.
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