World Coins

Gold aureus of Roman Emperor Nerva in auction

A gold aureus of Emperor Nerva is symbolic of the balancing act between the soldiers and the ruling class in ancient Rome.

Coin images courtesy of Numismatica Ars Classica.

A gold aureus of Roman Emperor Nerva reflects the delicate balance of power between the military and the ruling class in ancient Rome.

An example of this coin is being offered by Numismatica Ars Classica at an Oct. 24 auction.

The circa A.D. 97 gold coin features “a very attractive portrait” of Nerva on the obverse, with clasped hands holding a legionary eagle set upon a prow on the reverse.

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Nerva’ s reign was influenced by his predecessor’s decision to increase wages for soldiers from 225 denarii to 300 denarii, annually. In addition, the coins used to pay the wages were of increased weight and purity compared to previous coins, so the payout was even stronger.

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“This was a difficult act for an elderly senator to follow, especially since for at least six decades now the army had been instrumental in making and maintaining emperors,” according to the catalog. “Money was key to Nerva’s success: he maintained Domitian’s standards of heavy, pure aurei and he devoted reverse types to the army.”

The reverse may represent Nerva’s hope that the army and the senate could work together (though their relationship was strained by two assassination plots the year this coin was issued). Nerva died of natural causes four months after issuing this coin and was succeeded by Trajan.

The coin has “an almost invisible edge nick at four o’clock on obverse,” but is otherwise Good Very Fine / About Extremely Fine. It has an estimate of 12,500 Swiss francs ($12,882 U.S.) in the auction in Zurich.

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