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    Aurelius: Portrait of a Young Caesar

    Marcus Aurelius, as Caesar (AD 139-161). AV aureus (18mm, 7.33 gm, 7h). Rome, under Antoninus Pius, ca. AD 159-160. AVRELIVS CAES AVG P II F, bare head of Marcus Aurelius right, with slight drapery on both shoulders / TR POT XIIII COS II, Mars advancing right, holding spear and trophy. RIC 481b. Calic├│ 1973. NGC MS 5/5 - 5/5.

    From The Lexington Collection of Jonathan K. Kern.

    Originally given the name Marcus Annius Verus, the future Marcus Aurelius was born in AD 121 into a patrician family of Spanish origin. A solemn and dutiful youth, Marcus was noticed by the Emperor Hadrian, who nicknamed him "Verissimus," or "most truthful one," an accurate reflection of his character. In AD 138, as Hadrian's terminal illness worsened, he formally adopted a solid, reliable senator, T. Aurelius Fulvius Boionius Antoninus, as his intended successor. Antoninus in turn adopted the 17-year-old Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, the son of Aelius Caesar; it is widely assumed Hadrian induced Antoninus to make these adoptions and thus secure the succession for another generation. Some historians have even concluded that the 52-year-old Antoninus was intended merely as a "placeholder" until the young Aurelius could come of age. At any rate, Antoninus succeeded smoothly to the throne in July, AD 138 and raised Marcus to the rank of Caesar in AD 139. The young man took an increasingly important role in his adoptive father's government for the next 22 years. This aureus records Marcus's 14th year with the Tribunican power (AD 159-160) and shows him as a handsome man in his mid 30s, with a head of loose curls and a fashionable "philosopher's beard." However, the reverse image of Mars striding off to war points to one shortcoming of his long apprenticeship in government: Antoninus failed to provide Marcus with an army posting that would have gained him much-needed military experience. Although Antoninus' reign was almost entirely peaceful, the gathering storm clouds portended future troubles of a type for which Marcus had no training.




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    August, 2014
    8th Friday
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