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    Vitellius (AD 69), with Lucius Vitellius (died AD 51). AR denarius (2.99 gm). NGC Fine 5/5 - 5/5. Rome, July-December AD 69. A VITELLIVS GERM IMP AVG TR P, laureate head of Vitellius right / L VITELLIVS COS III CENSOR, laureate and draped bust of Lucius Vitellius right; eagle-tipped scepter to right. RIC 77 (R). RSC 3a (Lucius Vitellius). Rare! Struck on a broad flan and nicely toned, with two clear portraits.

    The most successful politician of his age outside the Julio-Claudian family, Lucius Vitellius was born into a moderately well-to-do household sometime before 5 BC. His father, the Quaestor Publius Vitellius, had been a loyal supporter of Octavian and prospered politically after his patron became the emperor Augustus. Young Lucius cultivated the friendship of Antonia, the emperor's niece, and became something of a mentor to her sons Germanicus and Claudius. He served a brief stint in the military in AD 18, but found himself better suited to the Forum and Senate house than the camp. He attained his first consulship in AD 34 and performed energetically as governor of Syria in AD 35-37; it was Lucus Vitellius who ordered the dismissal of Pontius Pilate for incompetence. His excessive flattery of Gaius "Caligula" (AD 37-41) won him great influence and immunity from that mad emperor's whims, but also earned him the reputation of a shameless brown-noser among the Roman aristocracy. Stories of his groveling before members of the imperial family, even begging for the honor of removing the ladies' shoes, became common currency and duly found their way into Tacitus' "Annals." However, few senators could claim to have behaved with much more dignity during Caligula's reign, and the elder Vitellius clearly proved himself a skilled facilitator and bureaucrat. When his close friend Claudius ascended the throne in AD 41, Lucius became virtual co-emperor with him, attaining a second consulship in AD 43 and even a third four years later; afterward, he served jointly with Claudius as Censor, a position of enormous prestige. The death of Lucius Vitellius in AD 51 meant Claudius had to lean more heavily on his scheming wife, Agrippina the younger, thus setting the stage for Nero's disastrous reign.

    Aulus Vitellius, son of Lucius, seems to have inherited all of his father's vices but none of his virtues. Nevertheless, he coasted on his father's reputation into a powerful position of governor of Germany, allowing him to make a bid for supreme power when Nero's regime collapsed in AD 69. This reverse of this rare silver denarius, struck during the younger Vitellius' brief reign during the chaotic "Year of the Four Emperors," depicts his illustrious father bearing an eagle-tipped scepter


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    June, 2017
    25th Sunday
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