Denarius of Antoninus Pius, “AVRELIVS CAESAR”

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140–144 CE
Hood Museum of Art: Gift of Arthur Fairbanks, Class of 1886; 27.1.29347

Obverse: Bust of Antoninus Pius, facing right, bearded, laureate. Border of dots.

Legend: ANTONINVS AVG(ustus) PIVS P(ater) P(atriae) TR(ibunicia) P(otestas) CO(n)S(ul) II[I], (Antoninus Augustus Pius, Father of his Country, endowed with power of the Tribune, consul for the third time) clockwise from seven o’clock.

Reverse: Bust of Marcus Aurelius, facing right, bearded. Border or dots.

Legend: AVRELIVS CAESAR AVG(usti) PII F(ilius) CO(n)S(ul) (Aurelius Caesar, son of Augustus Pius, consul) clockwise from seven o’clock.


By minting a double portrait coin showing his predecessor Antoninus Pius and himself, Marcus Aurelius exploited a numismatic language that claimed succession and insinuated economic and political stability; the legend itself describes him as the son of Pius. Rather than representing a glorious military past, as was the wont of other regimes attempting to legitimize themselves, Marcus Aurelius used his personal piety and filial devotion as a platform for his political role. This approach ultimately allowed Marcus to enjoy a reputation of remarkable moral dignity.

This text was prepared by Claire Nan, Class of 2014

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