Marcus Aurelius, Gold Aureus (161-180 AD)

The first philosopher emperor, who was beloved by all

Marcus Aurelius is one of the most well known Roman emperors, he is considered the last of Rome’s five good emperors and he was popular with the Roman people and the Senate. He fought campaigns against Germanic tribes, but also famously embraced Stoicism, becoming the first ‘Philosopher’ emperor. Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations are studied, enjoyed and embraced to this day.
The coinage of Marcus Aurelius was vast, this is for no specific reason. A long reign (AD 161-180) resulted in an extensive series of coins in all metals being struck. Silver denarii were struck en-masse to pay his soldiers fighting on the frontiers of Parthia and later Germania, and precious gold aureii were produced to fund larger expenses. Marcus Aurelius’ earliest coins were issued while he was Caesar (essentially a ‘junior’ emperor) under his predecessor and adoptive father Antoninus Pius. Marcus Aurelius’ coins often feature the adoptive titles of the late emperor.

It is from this series that the gold aureus featured here was struck. The renowned philosopher emperor appears in spectacular artistic form on this impressive gold piece minted in Rome. The coin bears an unusual left-facing portrait of the young prince. His portrait appears somewhat in the style of his heir, who would die a decade after this coin was minted, heralding the reign of Marcus Aurelius as emperor.

The reverse depicts Roma; the personification of the eternal city. She appears on countless Roman coins, of all values and metals. The goddess was an ideal choice to juxtapose with an ‘up-and-coming’ young emperor, full of promise and ambition. As it would turn out, Marcus Aurelius would be considered one of the greatest emperors Rome had ever seen.
The dies used to produce this marvellous coin are of notable artistic merit, engraved to an impressive depth. This combined with a brilliant central strike has created a gold piece of fantastic high relief.