AD 54 – 68
NGC XF / Strike 4/5
NGC AU /Strike 4/5
Though normally associated with hedonistic excess and debauchery, Nero’s first years were actually a relatively peaceful time in the empire. Nero began his rule at the tender age of 17 with much promise – his mother Agrippina Jr. was regent at first, until he began to assert his independence the following year. With the government largely in the hands of capable administrators like Seneca and Burrus, Rome enjoyed peace and prosperity for the first five years of Nero’s reign. Things began to take a turn south for his reign, however, with his involvement in the murder of his mother in 59 and the subsequent shedding of his key advisors Seneca and Burrus in 62 AD. He also divorced and executed his wife Claudia Octavia in that fateful year. So, at the age of 25, Nero had reconstructed his life, shedding moderating influences on his activities – he was now able to pursue his interests in acting, carousing, various persecutions, chariot racing and random sexual adventures – in short, he was becoming the Nero we all know and love.
Probably most shocking to the populace, however, was the Great Fire of 64 AD, where it was thought that Nero had started it to clear out large portions of prime Rome real estate to build his ostentatious palace. With much of Rome destroyed and his grand palace usurping the dwindling financial resources of the empire, conspiracies began to form against the emperor. His stage antics, poetry readings and singing and dancing had never been particularly well received by the populace, anyway, who not only viewed his talents as marginal, but also saw them as not dignified for an emperor.
Nero embarked on a “Grand Tour” of Greece in AD 67, where he participated in the Pythian, Nemean and Olympic Games – as Vagi notes, Nero was declared victor in the latter, even though he fell out of his chariot mid-way through the race!
With Imperial finances stretched to the limit with Nero’s excesses, the populace finally had enough and forced Nero to flee to his country villa on the outskirts of Rome. On June 9 of 68, surrounded by hostile soldiers, Nero uttered the famous dictum, “what a great artist we are losing”, and died in a murder/suicide situation. Not long afterwards, Rome descended into civil war.
Always conscious of his artistic portrayals on the coinage, Nero took special efforts to ensure favorable images and favorite musical themes, such as him playing the lyre. The austere portraits of his predecessors gave way to naturalistic poses and a realism previously unseen
An Extremely Fine aureus and an AU hemidrachm are on offer here today, providing splendid examples of his portraiture and reflecting the high artistry of his coinage in general.
Offered at $9,550 delivered
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