An aureus of Vespasian (reverse)

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An aureus of Vespasian (reverse)

This coin is made from gold and dates from AD 75-79. Mr Norman Shiel, a specialist in Roman coinage, has written as follows:

This aureus of Vespasian is a fine example of Flavian portraiture showing the rugged features of the soldier emperor who had emerged victorious from the turmoil of the Civil War which followed Nero’s suicide in AD 68. Vespasian reigned as emperor from AD 69-79 and brought order and stability back to the Roman world. During his reign, the Second Augustan Legion left the fortress base which it had established in Exeter (and from which the early town of Isca Dumnoniorum developed). Much earlier in his life Vespasian himself had been the commander of this same legion during the emperor Claudius’s invasion of Britain in AD 43. His biographer tells us that he led this legion into the south-west of Britain where he encountered heavy resistance from the British tribes occupying hillforts in the area and had to fight many battles.

The aureus, made from almost pure gold, represented very considerable wealth, and few have ever been found save in hoards. So far only four have been found in Exeter, which was occupied continuously by the Romans from the 50s AD. At the time of issue an aureus represented about six weeks’ earnings for a legionary soldier. Anyone who lost one would make every effort to find it again.

The reverse of the coin depicts Ceres holding ears of corn and a sceptre. Ceres was a Roman corn goddess, symbolic of good harvests, whose name has given us our word ‘cereal’.

Acknowledgments: RAM Museum