A lot of American politicians today talk about getting tough on
handouts, but one ancient Roman emperor did the opposite.
Antoninus Pius, who died March 7, 161, made handouts a recurring
part of his reign, events that are honored on some of his coins.
Antoninus Pius (Latin: Titus Fulvus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus
Augustus Pius, also known as Antoninus), was Roman Emperor from 138 to
161. He was one of the "Five Good Emperors" in the
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The Roman emperor was “famously frugal,” according to Heritage
Auctions, but that didn’t keep him from “maintaining his popularity by
regular cash disbursements to the Roman populace” in events known as congiaria.
He even issued gold aureii showing the congiaria, his generosity
personified by the goddess Liberalitas, who is shown on one of these
coins helping the emperor distribute coins to deserving citizens.
A congiarium is recorded at the outset of his reign and at least two
more occurred in the period A.D. 140 to 143.
Tiberius is recorded to have given the first Imperial cash
distribution, of 300 sesterces; Nero later upped the amount to 400
sesterces, an amount that could have been given in the form of four
gold aurei or 100 silver denarii.
The Antoninus Pius gold aureus shown here was graded Choice Very
Fine by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., with strike and surface both rated
5/5. The coin realized $4,465, including the buyer’s fee, during
Heritage Auctions' Jan. 3, 2016, auction.
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