Roman Empire Hadrian (AD 117 – 138) AR Denarius, Rome mint, struck ca. AD 134 – 138 Dia.: 17 mm Wt.: 2.98 g Obv.: HADRIANVS AVG COS III PP; Laureate head right Rev.: AFRICA; Africa with elephant headdress reclining left, holding scorpion and cornucopia, basket of grain at feet Ex L. Rose Collection Hadrian’s accomplishments in Africa Hadrian’s travel series coins were struck all together near the end of his reign while he was living in Tivoli at his magnificent villa there. The coins are probably meant to reference the accomplishments he made during his travels. He is well known to have invested heavily in the regional traditions as well as the infrastructure of the places he visited. His completion of the Temple of Zues in Athens and the construction of Hadrian’s Wall in Britannia are two of the most famous examples. One of the construction projects that Hadrian initiated in Africa that is still extant is a series of stone walls that were constructed along the southern border of the province. These walls may have been built to regulate the movement of nomadic tribes and as a deterrent against raiding so that previously marginal land could be more confidently used for agriculture. Considering that North Africa had overtaken Egypt as the primary supplier of grain to the city of Rome maximizing the agricultural output of the region was a major imperial concern. Here is an interesting video from the BBC that talks about Hadrian’s southern wall. Personification of Africa The reverse of this coin shows a reclining Africa wearing an elephant headdress while holding a scorpion and cornucopia with a grain basket at her feet. The cornucopia and grain basket are easy to identify as symbols of Africa’s fertility (i.e. grain supply) and the scorpion as a distinctive native species. It should be noted that all the attributes of the provinces on Hadrian’s travel coins are shown in a positive, even celebratory, light. When I started researching this coin I assumed that the iconography of the province would be purely Roman. However, it seems that the iconography might predate the Roman period as evidenced by some coins of Numidian kings depicting Africa with an elephant headdress (perhaps iconographically related to the early tetradrachms of Ptolemy I?). Houghtalin proposes that the iconography of Africa personified may have been developed in North Africa and introduced to the Romans in 80 BC during Pompey the Great’s triumph . In any case, the iconography was well established by the time of Hadrian. In fact, there are several similar depictions of Africa that were found at or near Pompeii dating from before AD 79. For example; Queen Dido looks toward Africa while Aeneas’s ship approaches in the distance. Gilded silver dish showing Africa with cornucopia, elephant headdress and animals. Some believe this dish to be a portrait of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VIII’s daughter, Cleopatra Selene II. References on Hadrian’s Travel Series A comprehensive(?) list of all of Hadrian’s travel types http://www.fredericweber.com/HADRIEN/serie_des_provinces.htm A write up on Hadrian’s travels by NGC https://www.ngccoin.com/news/article/2789/Ancient-Hadrian-coins/ References  Houghtalin, L., The Personifications of the Roman Provinces; Byrn Mawr College, 1993 Please feel free to post any comments or thoughts. Also please post your coins of Hadrian! Travel or not.