BEFORE HE BECAME A MONSTER
“A Denarius of Nero”
By: Terry Cheesman
Nero has been for a long time an exemplar of the cruel and corrupt Roman Emperor. This is a title which he does have a valid claim. Though it is unlikely that he set fire to the city of Rome in order to recite heroic poetry, he had certainly murdered his mother, his wife, and numerous other Roman citizens. About the only good thing that Seutonius, the Roman historian can say about him is that he ordered the first massacre of Christians.
Nero was not born to become an Emperor, though he was part of the Imperial family. His mother Agrippina the younger was the sister of Caius otherwise known as Caligula, the third Emperor of Rome. Claudius, the fourth Emperor eventually married Agrippina and adopted the young Nero as his son and thus heir presumptive. This coin a denarius minted from 50 A.D to 54 A.D. celebrates this event.
On the obverse one can see the image of the 13 year old Nero with the legend NERO CLAVD. CAES. DRVSVS GERM. PRINC. IVVENT. Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus Principes Iuventutis. Roughly translated this means The Caesar Nero Prince of Youth. The Claudian family used the names Nero Claudius Drusus as names for their male children. Nero’s grandfather also got the name Germanicus because of his success against German tribsmen along the Rhine. This name was passed down to his children hense its use by Nero. The Prince of youth was a title given to the leader of boys who took part in the Trojan games. From the reign of Augustus the title increasingly began to denote the designated successor to title of Emperor. Later this title was dropped and the name Caesar became the title denoting the successor. The reverse inscription reads SACRED COOPT IN OMH CONL IN SVPRA NVM EX S.C. Sacerdos Cooptatus In Omnia Collegia Supra Numerum. Roughly translated this reads Co-opted as a priest into all the colleges above the usual number. The reverse features the symbol of each of the four most important religious organizations of the Roman state. From the top left we see a simpulum and a lituus. From the bottom left we see a tripod and a patera. The Simpulum or ladle was the symbol of the Ponifices the chief priest of Rome. The Lituus was the symbol of the Augurs who used this staff to study cloud formations so they could foretell the future. The Tripod was the symbol of the Quindecimvirate, a panel of fifteen who oversaw religious affairs. The Patera or sacrifical dish was the symbol of the Septimdecimvirate, a panel of seven who oversay religious banquets.The last part of the reverse legend would read Ex Senatus Consulto. Essentially this means with the authority of the Senate of Rome. In this case the most likely meaning is that the Senate authorized the awarding of these exceptional awards to Nero. In October 54 A.D. The Emperor Claudius was murdered by his wife Agrippina and Nero became Emperor. In 68 A.D., in order to escape a humiliating death he committed suicide.
Previously published in the ENS “The Planchet” Magazine Vol-56 Issue-11