Aureus of Antonius Pius
- Place of origin:
Rome, Italy (made)
140-144 AD (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Bequeathed by Mr George Salting
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval and Renaissance, room 8, case 2
This coin bears the head of Emperor Antoninus Pius (AD 86–161) and an image of the Roman God Mars. The presence of a powerful deity on a coin lent authority to the emperor. Mars stands before Rhea Sylvia, the woman with whom he fathered Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome.
Emperor Antoninus Pius' fulltitle was Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius. He was Roman emperor from 138-161AD. Of Gallic origins, he served as consul (120) before being assigned judicial administrative duties in Italy. He later governed the province of Asia (c. 134). He became an adviser to Hadrian and in 138 was made Hadrian's heir. On accession he had the deceased emperor declared a god; for such dutiful acts he was named Pius ("Pious"). Mild-mannered and capable, he was the fourth of the "five good emperors" who guided the empire through an 84-year period (96-180) of internal peace and prosperity.
The aureus was an ancient Roman gold coin, issued from around the 1st century BC up to the 4th century AD. One aureus was worth 25 silver denarii. The denarius was a small silver coin and the principal silver coin issued in the ancient Roman currency system from the late 3rd century BC until the early 3rd century AD.
Small gold coin.
On the obverse: a portrait of the emperor Antoninus Pius.
On the reverse Mars god of war, naked with a helmet, shield and spear appearing before the sleeping figure of Rhea Sylvia.
Place of Origin
Rome, Italy (made)
140-144 AD (made)
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
'ANTONINVS AVG PIVS PP'
'TRIB POT COS III' With power as Tribune and Consul for the third time
Diameter: 1.9 cm, Weight: 7.35 g
Object history note
Historical context note
The coin bears the head of Emperor Antoninus Pius, whose full title was: Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius. He was born Sept. 19, 86AD at Lanuvium, Latium and died on March 7 161AD at Lorium, Etruria. He was Roman emperor from 138–161AD. Of Gallic origins, he served as consul (120) before being assigned judicial administrative duties in Italy. He later governed the province of Asia (c. 134). He became an adviser to Hadrian and in 138 was made Hadrian's heir. On accession he had the deceased emperor declared a god; for such dutiful acts he was named Pius (“Pious”). He quelled rebellions in Britain and other provinces and built the Antonine Wall.
Mild-mannered and capable, he was the fourth of the “five good emperors” who guided the empire through an 84-year period (96–180) of internal peace and prosperity.
The reverse of the coin shows Mars appearing to Rhea Sylvia. According to Virgil's Aeneid , Jupiter predicted that Mars would father twins by Rhea Sylvia, one of the virgins guarding the eternal flame before the Pallas Athena statue at the temple of Vesta.
According to legend Rhea was raped by Mars and had two children, the twins Romulus and Remus who later founded Rome.
Coin (aureus), gold, of Antonius Pius / Mars, Roman, ca. 140-144 AD
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
'Salting Bequest (A. 70 to A. 1029-1910) / Murray Bequest (A. 1030 to A. 1096-1910)'. In: List of Works of Art Acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum (Department of Architecture and Sculpture). London: Printed under the Authority of his Majesty's Stationery Office, by Eyre and Spottiswoode, Limited, East Harding Street, EC, p. 112
Shield; Helmet; Mars; Spear; Antoninus Pius; Rhea Sylvia
Sculpture; Myths & Legends; Coins & Medals