Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich

Auction 114 - Part I

Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich, Auction 114 - Part I

Greek, Roman and Byzantine Coins

Tu, 07.05.2019, from 11:00 AM CEST
The auction is closed.


Hadrian augustus, 117 – 134. Aureus 136, AV 7.37 g. HADRIANVS – AVG COS III P P Bare-headed and draped bust r. Rev. RESTITVTORI – ACHAIAE Hadrian, togate, standing r., holding roll in l. hand and extending r. to raise up kneeling figure of Achaia in front of him; between them, palm in vase. C 1214. BMC 868. RIC 321c. Calicó 1345 (these dies).
Very rare. A magnificent portrait of high style. Almost invisible
mark on reverse, otherwise extremely fine

Ex Stack's 9 December 1991, 49; NAC 18, 2000, 525; NAC 41, 2007, 79 and NAC 59, 2011, 1001 sales. From the collection of a retired banker.

If any emperor could claim to be the ‘restorer of Greece’ it was Hadrian, whose love of the Greeks earned him the nickname ”the Greekling” (Graeculus). His infatuation with Greek culture predated his reign: his first documented visit to Greece was in 111-112, during which he was made an honorary citizen of Athens and was elected archon eponymus. This was the most important magistracy in Athens, and that year in Athenian history took the name of the 36-year-old future emperor. The Athenians knew of Hadrian’s importance, and their gestures paid off well, for when he became emperor Hadrian lavished Greece – particularly Athens – as would no other emperor in the history of Rome. While emperor Hadrian visited Athens at least three times: 124, 128/9 and 131/2. Without question it was his favourite destination, and had he not been afflicted by a general wanderlust and a sense of duty, Hadrian might have spent the whole of his reign in the shadow of the Parthenon. This spectacular aureus is part of the ‘travel series’ issued by Hadrian, and it does not require too much imagination to believe this coin pleased him the most: an aureus in honour of the Greeks. Hadrian paid for many capital improvements in Greece – new temples, statues and monuments were erected, and dilapidated ones were restored. He also sponsored games and festivals, launched the cult of Antinoüs, and established a league of Greek states, the council of the Panhellion. This latter innovation was a focus of intense competition among Greek cities, which worked hard to demonstrate the authenticity of their Greek heritage and their record of friendship with Rome.During his last visit to Athens Hadrian attended a revitalization of the mysteries of Eleusis and presided at the consecration of the newly completed temple of Olympian Zeus. It is believed that the council of the Panhellion was inaugurated at this time, and that its first archon was installed, perhaps with the title ‘high priest of Hadrian Panhellenios’. Plans were made for the Hadriania, a festival associated with the council and its member-cities that was to be held in Athens every four years. Hadrian went further still by assuring Athens had major festivities every year, including the rotating events of the festival of the Dionysia, the Panhellenia, new Olympic games, new Panathenaic games, and the Hadriana, which began near the end of his life or soon after he died.

Hadrian understood the cultural and political importance of games to the Greeks, and the design of this aureus clearly reflects that by the inclusion of the agonistic urn with a palm branch – a symbol of Greek games. It may specifically relate to Hadrian’s most distinctive contribution, the council of the Panhellion, as it seems likely that games were held at the council’s inauguration during Hadrian’s visit of 131/2.

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Price realized 45'000 CHF
Starting price 32'000 CHF
Estimate 40'000 CHF
The auction is closed.
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