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Aureus (Coin) Portraying Emperor Nero

A work made of gold.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of gold.

Date:

66 (December)/67 (December), issued by Nero

Artist:

Roman; minted in Rome

About this artwork

Portraits of important people appear on local currency all around the world. The same was true in ancient Rome, which began producing its first coinage in the late 4th century BC. Early coins depicted the heads of gods and goddesses on the front side, often in profile, while the back depicted animals, natural resources, symbols, and references to historical events. It was not until 44 BC that the portrait of a living person—Julius Caesar—appeared on coins. Thereafter, profile portraits of rulers or other members of the imperial family became the standard subject on coins throughout the Roman Empire.

Inscriptions on coins help identify the ruler. While the front side depicted the sovereign’s portrait, the back was often used to communicate the ruler’s accomplishments or aspirations. Until Late Antiquity, portraits usually appeared in profile. The tiny images were carved by engravers into bronze dies, with one for the front and another for the back. The coins were then struck, one by one, in a process similar to how coins are created today.

Early imperial coin portraits included individualized features that identified each ruler. The first Roman emperor, Augustus (reigned 27 BC–AD 14), dictated that he retain his youthful appearance in his portraits throughout his lifetime). Depictions of subsequent emperors, like Caligula (reigned 37–41), and Nero (reigned 54–68), seen here, were less idealized. The gold aureus gradually replaced the silver denarius as the most common coin for imperial portraits.

On View

Ancient and Byzantine Art, Gallery 153

Culture

Ancient Roman

Title

Aureus (Coin) Portraying Emperor Nero

Origin

Rome

Date

66 CE–67 CE

Medium

Gold

Inscriptions

Obverse: IMP NERO CEASAR AVGVSTVS Reverse: SALVS

Dimensions

Diam. 1.8 cm; 7.27 g

Credit Line

Gift of William F. Dunham

Reference Number

1922.4254

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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