World Coins

Gold aureus of Trajan for ancient grain giveaway in sale

Roman emperor Trajan issued this circa 103 to 111 AD gold aureus to commemorate a public welfare program known as the alimenta.

Coin images courtesy of Stephen Album Rare Coins.

Auction house Stephen Album Rare Coins may be synonymous with Islamic coins, but the firm’s success at its frequent auctions has led it to offer numismatic material that casts a wider net.

A circa A.D. 103 to 111 gold aureus of Trajan, the man that presided over one of the greatest military expansions in Roman history, is proof of how wide-ranging the company’s auctions have become.

The coin was struck at Rome, and depicts a laureate and draped bust of Trajan on its obverse.

Trajan makes a return appearance on the reverse, where he is standing facing left, a scroll in his left hand, extending his right hand to two children standing with their arms raised toward him.

The inscription below the scene, ALIM ITAL, is a reference to the alimenta.

A reference to public welfare

Alimentary grants (alimenta) were a form of state support in Italy for citizen children, initiated by Emperor Nerva and expanded under Emperor Trajan.

Unlike previous grain doles, which were privately funded and limited to the capital (Rome), the new initiative represents a serious attempt at state-funded subsidy at regular intervals for children all across Italy, according to the auction house.

“In one locality, records indicate that boys received 16 sestertii per month, whereas girls received 12 sestertii,” the firm said.

Trajan’s pride in the alimenta led to a series of coins in gold, silver and bronze to commemorate his achievement. This program continued under his successor and lasted into the mid-third century.

Graded Very Fine by the auction house, the coin has an estimate of $1,500 to $2,000.
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