Cistophor of Hadrian, “COS III”

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128 CE
Mint of Nicomedia
Yale University Art Gallery: Ruth Elizabeth White Fund with the assistance of Ben Lee Damsky; 2009.110.14

Obverse: Laureate head of Hadrian, bearded, facing right.

Legend: HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS PP or “Hadrian Augustus Pater Patriae (Father of his Country),” clockwise from 7 o’clock. A border of dots encircles the field.

Reverse: A distyle temple with two highly stylized Corinthian columns.  A helmeted female holding shield and spear, equal in height to the central space, stands in contrapposto with her right hand outstretched over a lighted altar.

Legend: COS (left) and III (right), or “consul for the third time,” in the field.

This text was prepared by Jingwei Pan, Class of 2014.


During his reign from 117 to 138 CE, Hadrian abandoned his predecessor’s expansionist policy and instead established one of defense and consolidation. His coinage reflects his extensive travels as well as his personal inclination toward Greek culture. In this cistophor, Hadrian is shown in profile with a wreath around his head. His bearded face demonstrates his philhellenism (“love of Greek culture”) by alluding to the bearded Greek philosophers. His portrait is extremely similar to those carved of marble in the round with the same recognizable features and attributes.

This text was prepared by Mellon Special Projects Curatorial Intern Kasia Vincunas.

Not on view

 Additional views (1)




BMC 1082 (Pl. 74.6)

Related exhibitions

Faces of Antiquity: Portraiture of the Roman Empire

 Further reading

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2009–June 30, 2010,” (accessed February 11, 2010).

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