Aelius: The Emperor Who Wasn’t

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Nov 7, 2019.

  1. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    I’m at it again with my Nerva-Antonines in Imperial Silver! This one is a nice coin I picked up of one of the lesser known figures of the high princepate.

    Roman Empire
    Aelius as Caesar (AD 136-138)
    AR Denarius, Rome mint, struck AD 137
    Dia.: 17 mm
    Wt.: 3.24 g
    Obv.: L AELIVS CAESAR Bare head right
    Rev.: TR POT COS II Felicitas standing left holding caduceus and cornucopia
    Ref.: RIC II 430 (Hadrian) Scarce
    Ex Pars Sale 3, lot 357 (Oct. 2019), Ex Numismatik Naumann 75, lot 643 (Mar. 2019), Formerly slabbed by NGC

    Lucius Aelius Caesar
    You know how sometimes when you are really rich and handsome and are always in the know about the best places to eat and party but nobody seems to recognize those things as valid qualifications to be emperor? Well, that is exactly the kinda nonsense that Aelius had to deal with on his way to the front of the line for the top job.

    To observers both then and now Hadrian’s decision to name Aelius as his successor made no sense. There was already a leading candidate for the position who Hadrian had put to death after raising Aelius. It is possible that Hadrian, who was always cautious of plots against him (even on his deathbed), felt that Aelius’s lack of military experience made him less of a threat. The entire Roman elite were duly mortified by Hadrian’s decision.

    Hadrian paid a huge donative to the army to ensure their loyalty and sent Aelius off to cut his teeth as proconsul of Pannonia in AD 137 where he predictably… performed all together competently?? Despite a love for the high life, Aelius was intelligent and capable enough to perform his duties in an adequate manner… top-shelf drink in hand. In this way he very much reminds me of his son, Lucius Verus, for whom much the same things could be said. However, we never got a chance to find out how Aelius would have performed as emperor because he died before Hadrian.

    Look at that handsome devil. I took these pictures at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. As you have probably learned from some of my other posts this museum has a fantastic collection of imperial busts, even some of the really obscure ones. Those Medici had great taste… and a lot of money.

    I am not aware of any primary sources that tell us how large the donative Hadrian paid to the army was but since Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus had to shell out 5,000 denarii per soldier when they became co-emperors it seems the sum for Aelius could have been up to that amount. I suspect that a lot of the coins struck with Aelius’s portrait were made as part of the donative. After all, what better way to ensure the army understands that Aelius is next in line than to give them a bunch of money with his face and the title Caesar on it?

    The reverse of this coin shows the Roman figure of lady luck. Felicitas is sometimes confused with Fortuna but there is actually a major difference between the two; Felicitas was always associated with luck in a positive context. At least by the imperial period she was also associated with happiness in general. This seems to be the message of this coin: The adoption of Aelius was a happy occasion for the empire to celebrate. See here for an interesting page on Felicitas

    One interesting fact about Felicitas that I found out while putting together this write up is that it is extremely difficult to find an extant statue of this goddess anywhere. I looked through my photos of the museums I have been to and scoured google images… nothing. Good luck finding Good Luck on the internet.

    However, I was able to find some interesting images and information of the caduceus that I wasn’t previously aware of. Felicitas is only shown holding this implement during the imperial period. The caduceus had connotations of wealth and prosperity due to the staff being traditionally associated with god of commerce, Mercury. Thus it seems that the iconography is acknowledging a connection between luck and prosperity.

    Here is a great image of a caduceus from the second century that shows the same curved form factor we see on the coin. This lovely object is housed in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which is a fantastic museum which I highly recommend if you are ever in Minnepolis (I recommend the summer!).

    Did you guys get me addicted to crack?
    I recently bought a small vise for the purpose of cracking slabs and this is the first coin I have tried it out on. It worked pretty well. The coin is free and I didn’t smash my thumb with a hammer. Mission accomplished folks.

    The scene of the crime

    I think you all know what is coming next... Please show
    • Aelius coins!
    • Nerva Antonine denarii
    • The most recent coin you cracked
    • The Holy Grail
    • Felicitas
    • The Caduceus
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
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  3. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Wow, great coin and super write-up, @Curtisimo !

    Heh, I share the Crack Kool-Aid with you... in two easy to execute versions...

    RI Aelius Caesar 138 CE AE As 26mm Rome mint Fortuna-Spes cornucopia and rudder

    A) SLAM-DANCE Method:


    B) VISE SQUAD Method:
    If you have a Vise, and you want to free a coin from a slab; I found putting the slab length-wise (both on end and on side), then slowly turn the handle. You will hear the slab crack and it will bow a little. Then change sides, and slowly turn again. It will crack and bow. Afterwards, the slab will easily come apart!
    Step 1

    Step 2


    Step 3

    Step 4: Breath DEEP and enjoy Nirvanna:
    Orielensis, PeteB, TIF and 16 others like this.
  4. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    As @Curtisimo noted, Aelius was governor of Pannonia. This type of sestertius explicitly connects Aelius to Pannonia.

    30 mm.
    TRPOT COS II with Pannonia holding standard and
    PANNO-NIA across the field.
    RIC (Hadrian) 1059. Sear II 3981.
  5. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    A nice coin!

    Aelius (136 - 138 A.D.)
    AR Denarius
    O: L AELIVS CAESAR, bare head right.
    R: TR POT COS II, Felicitas standing left, caduceus in left, cornucopia in right.
    Rome Mint, 137 A.D.
    SRCV II 3973, RIC II Hadrian 430, RSC II 50, BMCRE III Hadrian 969
    Orielensis, TIF, Limes and 14 others like this.
  6. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Very nice coin with a brilliant portrait, congrats on a great acquisition Curtis.
    Curtisimo likes this.
  7. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    WoWiE!!! Nice new Aelius:artist: I always thoroughly enjoy your write ups. Thanks my friend.
    I've read that he was handsome other places as well. And whenever I joke about him being a boy toy to Hadrian or the next Antinious people say, oh, but Aelius was married... So what?! So was Hadrian!
    Here's my eye candy for the EMP who brought back the beard (in more than one way;)):
    Orielensis, TIF, Limes and 7 others like this.
  8. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Very nice Aelius my friend.

    I did indeed try the vice method. I don’t think I have the same finesse you do because even though I clamped down slowly I still cracked the front face of the slab into pieces. I can only image the carnage had I whipped out the old hammer.

    That is beautiful!.. and an excellent example of a coin that is an unambiguous reference to an historical event. Those seem rare for Aelius considering the short reign.

    Excellent coin sibling of my new example. It’s interesting how some of the reverse dies have the caduceus held high like yours and some low like mine.

    Thank you my friend!
    Ancient Aussie likes this.
  9. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Very true. Even though I wouldn’t think that Hadrian would be so irresponsible as to pick a successor based on good looks I can imagine that Aelius being handsome couldn’t have exactly hurt his chances either.

    My best guess is the reason for his elevation was probably a mixture of family pedigree, popularity, personal charm and lack of an ability to challenge Hadrian’s authority in any way while he was still alive.
    Ryro and Limes like this.
  10. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    Superb coin and great write-up!

    And of course it is good to see another recruit in the 'crack' army.
    Curtisimo likes this.
  11. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    LOL, yeah, I was involved in a lot of sonic-welding in my career. Sometimes, there is a little finesse to crack them. I am not overly impressed with the various TPG’s sonic welds. I am satisfied with them, cuz I crack ‘em all. :) But, if I were making them, I would have Operations seriously re-think the welding-horns.
    Curtisimo likes this.
  12. Suarez

    Suarez Well-Known Member

    Congratulations on the acquisition of a special denarius (like all of Aelius would be)

    I bet you're going to go to town now with that vise. Always such fun to jailbreak your coin!

    Here's my denarius. Really love that bit o' blue :)

  13. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Thank you David, your recent MC Hammer moves helped give me the courage to go for it :D

    I’m sure I’ll get to practice some more. I will report my progress :)

    Wow Rasiel! That is a special denarius. It’s also one that looked very familiar.
    I have enjoyed your book.
  14. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Curtisimo likes this.
  15. dadams

    dadams Well-Known Member

    That's a nice once Curtis and honestly I've seen the name Aelius but really knew nothing of him so thanks for the write-up.

    I guess I'll share the one I cracked a couple weeks ago:

    and I know it wouldn't be fair to not show the reverse so here it is with a pretty poor pic:
  16. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    I love the reverse on your new Aelius... beautiful & realistic style.

    I've had my only Aelius for decades:

    Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 10.44.27 PM.jpg

    And here's his replacement as Caesar:
    Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 10.48.48 PM.jpg
  17. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Love it Die vile slab !! I have bought 3 coins in coffins and all are out breathing free air. My Aelius Never has been in a slab. Denarius of Aelius RIC 439 137 A.D. Obv Head left L. AELIUS CAESAR Rv. Pietas standing right over altar TR. POT. COS II in field PIE TAS 3.50 grms 18 mm aelius5.jpg
  18. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

    Nice denarius of Aelius @Curtisimo. And thanks for the write up. For me, Aelius was the last of the "adoptive crew", which I have now completed in silver. It was also the more difficult one. Not that it is in particular very rare, but I have been looking for a decent example which was also affordable.

    Here is my recent Aelius denarius:


    And here is the whole gang together:

    Adoptive emperors.png
  19. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Excellent coin, and writing as usual, @Curtisimo

    Aelius, Denarius - Rome mint, AD 137
    L AELIVS CAESAR, bare head right
    TR POT COS II, Spes standing left holding flower and lifting skirt
    3.25 gr
    Ref : Cohen # 55, RCV # 3977

  20. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Beautiful coin, Curtis!! (And fantastic photos :))

    @Valentinian-- wow, what a marvelous coin!

    Here's one that is very special to me:
    EGYPT, Alexandria. Aelius
    137 CE
    Billon tetradrachm; 23 mm, 13.16 gm
    Obv: ΛAIΛIOCKAICAP; bare head right
    Rev: ΔHM EΞOVC VΠAT B; Homonoia standing left, holding cornucopiae and patera over garlanded altar
    Ref: Köln 1271; Milne 1539; Emmett 1350.2
    Ex John A. Seeger Collection
    Gift from my CoinTalk Secret Saturn, 2018
  21. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    As usual, Curtis, you picked a great example. Very attractive on both sides, IMHO.

    I just posted my Aelius a few days ago on another thread, so here's one of my favorites of his son Lucius instead.

    Lucius Verus - Consecratio.jpg
    AR Denarius. 3.64g, 19.7mm. Rome mint, AD 169, Consecration issue under Marcus Aurelius. RIC III 596a; BMCRE IV p. 456, 503 and pl. 62.19; C 55. O: DIVVS VERVS, bare head right. R: CONSECRATIO, Eagle standing front, body inclined right, head turned left, stands on bar.
    Ex A.K. Collection
    Orielensis, Justin Lee, TIF and 6 others like this.
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