Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hadrian Portrait Supplement

Portraits andTypes, 117-8 to near the end of his reign
The world of portraits and associations on coins is more varied than that of statuary!

04 X 99  AR denarius  Hadrian (AD 118: Cos II).  Laureate bust right.  IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG.  Rev:  PAX (looking like Abundantia, with cornucopiae and ears of grain): P M TR P  COS II (the second consulship is AD 118).

15 V 00 AR denarius.  Hadrian, left-draped bust to r., laureate: IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS [AVG.  Pietas stg frontal, facing l.  P M TR P  COS II and PIE TAS across field.  AD 118.  RIC 45.
This Rome mint denarius shows Hadrian at the beginning of his reign.  Compare the fourth coin, below.  Note, too, that this bust is what, to be accurate, is described as 'bare, with drapery on his left shoulder'.  Altogether bare would communicate some degree of real divinity, and the reverse type (whose meaning need not always be significantly related to the obverse) claims only Pietas (not quite the same as modern piety, but expressive of family and civic values).

04 I 00 AR denarius  Hadrian / Aeternitas with heads of sun and moon.  Obv. IMP CAESAR TRAIN HADRIANVS AVG  Rev.T]R P  COS.DES  III, and, r. and l. of figure, AET AVG.  Eternity stands facing, but her head, facing left, regards the head of Sol (radiate) which she holds in her r. hand, rather than that of Luna (crescent on crown) which she holds in her left.
Like most beginning collectors (once I'd gotten over the thrill of owning an Apollo Sauroktonos different from the one in G. M. A. Richter's Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks), I was attracted by  subjects, generically astrological, that someone had taught me belong to Late Imperial art, not Flavian to Hadrianic.  Collecting denarii (and not only in these instances) taught me otherwise: even Augustan is not early for astrology.  But the Aeternitas coins make plain that the line between symbology/iconology and astrology is hard to draw—and we do not, I think, see here anything like Sufi Islam or US American Holy Rollers.
The portrait of Hadrian here is one of those that the textbooks call still rather Trajanic, but the mood of the portrait is already different and notably less swan-necked.

31 X 00 AR denarius.  Trajan (RSC, 1968, 3a: with slight drapery on far shoulder; RIC 91).  IMP TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P (AD 103-112).  Rev. Aeternitas, veiled, stg looking l., holding the heads of the Sun and the Moon.  AET AVG across field and COS V  P P  S P Q R OPTIMO PRINC around Aeternitas.
So within months (while I was still using Roman numerals for months, which gets them out of order of acquisition), I was delighted to get a Trajan only five or six years earlier than the Hadrian.  Trajan's portraits, in all media, are remarkably consistent.

One of the cities named Aegeai (or -ae) is right at the crotch (or armpit, if you prefer) where Asia Minor meets Syria: east of Tarsus and north of Antioch.  Its bronze coinage just shows a goat; it is the canting badge of Aegeai.  The autonomous (early in his reign) silver "tetradrachms" (not very pure, but the shinier ones like the first here are also lighter), instead of the usual Syrian eagle reverse, have rather delightful mythological subjects.  They are dated, too.  ETOUS DELTA-XI-RHO, which is AD 117-8 in the Caesarian calendar.  And the ethnic is AEGAION.
The obv. legend on both is: AUTOKR KAIS TRAIANOS ADRIANOS SEB (the legends in Greek letters, of course).
The upper portrait, with Amaltheia (search, which includes all the sources), is very strikingly comparable with the PIETAS denarius at the top.
Prieur, Aegeae, p. 85, no. 716.  Amaltheia.  With Aegeai's goat as the type, Amaltheia with her Horn, dandling the infant Zeus, is a natural choice.
Prieur, Aegeae, p. 85, no. 717. Perseus, with harpe.  The harpe, the weapon that decapitated Medousa, is usully curved like a sickle.  Perseus is properly shown as a mere boy.  The portrait of Hadrian is just slightly sturdier, and cuirassed.
Recently published, at the time these coins were available, was:
M. & K. Prieur, The Syro-Phoenician Coins Tetradrachms and their Fractions, from 57 BC to AD 253, Classical Numismatic Group, 2000.

Notice that this little hemidrachm, which was one of my earliest acquisitions and looked curious to me, considered as a portrait of Hadrian, is clearly related to the Pax and Pietas at the top of this Post.  Caesarea in Cappadocia had a long-standing franchise to mint official silver for Rome.  It is the modern Keyseri in Turkey, south of Ankara.  I wonder if my pretty galley (at bottom) could be Cappadocian.

04 X 99  AR hemidrachm (smaller than a dime) of Caesarea in Cappadocia (Asia Minor).  Hadrian, laureate bust to r.   Transliterated the legend is AUTO KAIS TRAI ADRIANOS SEBAST, the Greek equivalent to Imp Caes Trai Hadrianus Aug.  Reverse: Nike advancing r., holding palm and wreath.  EpsilonTauDelta in field is Year 4, or AD 120.  Only a few provincial mints were authorized to issue silver.

Paris, Louvre.  From Heraklion in Crete.  Finely carved, very deliberately Greek, with Athena's gorgoneion on his cuirass.  Beginning in AD 127, he traveled in Greece, usually with Antinoos.  His visit to the Olympieion in Athens and his addition of the epithet Pater Patriae lies behind the Louvre's dating to 127-8.

This finely considered and beautifully carved Greek statue or bust of Hadrian in the Louvre is dated by comparison with coins adding the title PP, Pater Patriae.  The only sestertius of Hadrian readily at hand also may show Hadrian just past his 50th year (he was born in AD 76, in Spain, which is not to say that that he was an Iberian any more than an Anglo-American would be a certified Native American.  The statue, ex-New Iberia (see last Post) surely was thought to be comparable with these PP but not elderly Hadrians.
30 05 07 Æ25 8.07g axis 11h  Egypt, Alexandria.  Hadrian, laureate, draped bust from behind.  Rev., Isis enthroned to r., suckling Harpokrates.  Lotus-bud crown.

This coin debuted in my favorite thread in Forum Ancient Coins: 
What is so great about it is that so many specialists with so many angles and depth of knowledge contributed to it.  True, I initiated it (teaching ancient Egyptian art I brought interest in Isis to my novitiate in ancient coins) with another, lovelier Isis, but the thread became richer than any one of us could have made it.  I keep dreaming of a blog working this way.  If only people weren't (perhaps) afraid of looking silly. In Forum, no one minds looking silly, and we all help one another.

Aegeai in Cilicia
25 03 09 AR4dr Cilicia Aegeae  Prieur cf no. 721 (with long obverse legend)  I cannot read the date on reverse, and this specimen is not illustrated in Prieur, but the long obv legend resembles their no. 721, which dates AD 133-134

Pontos Amisos
12 10 04 ARdr  3.06g  axis 6:00  Pontos Amisos.  Hadrian, laureate, head (with bit of drapery on l. sh.) to r.  AVT K AI TRA ADRIA  |  NOS SEB P P VP G (COS III).  Rev., Demeter veiled stg. frontal, facing l., holding grain in her r., resting on long torch in her l.   AMISOV ELEVTh  |  ERAS ETOVS RZE (=165 =133/4 CE).  Waddington RG I, p. 63, no. 86, pl. IX, fig. 6.
Bithynium Claudiopolis
04 04 08.  AE25.  9.74g, axis 630h.  Bithynium-Claudiopolis.  Hadrian, laureate, bust in armor, from in front.  Rev, Athena in helmet (perhaps with aegis, but not plainly so), wearing peplos, standing r., leaning on spear in her left and holding owl on her l. hand.  For the rev. legend, see http://  For the obverse, at least ADRIANOS (Greek) is plain in the photos here.
Claudiopolis in Bithynia was Antinoos' birthplace.  Not before Hadrian's  first visit there, which was in AD 123 (when Antinoos would have been about twelve).  One of a few portraits that LOOK as if it is based on firsthand knowledge of Hadrian's face in the 120s.

Bithynian mints were very, very good.  Ordinary dies, including many of Rome herself, express Hadrian's aging as he neared 60 by increased formality (as the excellent Aegeai tetradrachm, above, does), but my favorite Hadrian, with Demeter reverse, though contemporary with the Aegeai eagle tetradrachm, really does show a tired-fleshed Hadrian.  The Pontos Amisos denarius that he had struck to honor Sabina when she died shows the famous crouching Aphrodite that may well be the creation of Doidalsos of Bithynia.  Administratively, under the Empire, on the northern coast of Asia Minor, Pontos and Bithynia, side by side, were combined.  See the convenient reference map in David Sear's Roman Provincial Coins, where you can also find lists of equivalent dating systems, for example.
Though my worn, but very rare, Bithynium-Claudiopolis bronze need not be as early as Antinoos's childhood on the occasion of Hadrian's first visit to the place, I suspect that it may be several years earlier than the first PP issues.  A good enlargement of a good photo of the coin can be found in the thread,

Back in Rome
Not all coins marked COS III, but not PP, so far as I have determined, are AD 128 or later.  I do have one Hadrian sestertius,  though, and it looks mature but not elderly (the kind of lively refinement we just saw in Pontos and Bithynia—Rome tended to be somewhat more formal, even in the finest work).  The black goop on the sestertius is typical of coins that had lain on river beds.

27 IX 00 AE sestertius.  Hadrian.  Laureate head r.  HADRIANVS   AVGVSTVS P P.  Rev. Hilaritas stg between two children, boy and girl.  HILARITAS  P R COS III S C.  RIC 970, Sear 1116.
(reference may be to earlier edition)

14 10 08 AR denarius  Rome 3.09g axis 6h.  Hadrian, head, bareheaded, to r.  HADRIANVS  |  AVGVSTVS.  Rev., Tranquilitas, leaning on very slender pillar or column, holding scepter and stg. to l.  TRANQUILIT A  |  S AVG COS III P P.  RIC III, p. 365, no. 222 (a: bare head).

So far as the combing of Hadrian's hair goes and the gracefulness of Hilaritas and Tranquillitas this denarius and sestertius are alike.  Beware of the clogged letters G S, then one I in COS III on the denarius.

09 VI 00 ARden  Hadrian, laureate, draped bust r.  IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG.  Rev., galley oared l., sail furled, P M TR P COS III.

Finally, I do not know how to date the beautifully plump face of the portrait or the unusual galley on this denarius,  which I bought off eBay purely for its appealing design and engraving.  If any of the real Roman numismatists see this, I'd be grateful to be educated.  At one point I thought of the Ephesos mint, but all I can say is that it is atypical for what I know of Rome—and, of course, like Christian apostles and purveyors of other cults, too, and merchants, die engravers and other skilled craftsmen were perfectly free to travel and seek work in Rome.  They only mustn't make forgeries!
I do not keep most of my coins at home, and more than one of these needs to be weighed, too.
A couple of bibliographical first hints to be added.


  1. this is a great collection of coins really. i am impressed what you have done so far. i also like collecting coins but this seems that you have some masterpieces in your pocket.:)

  2. I have a coin can someone tell me what it is