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AVGVSTVS GERMANICVS




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AVGVSTVS GERMANICVS. - On an aureus of Nero, bearing this legend on its reverse, the type depicts a male figure standing, dressed in a toga, his head surrounded with rays, holding in his right hand a branch and in his left a small Victory on a globe. The obverse exhibits NERO CAESAR and a laureate head. This gold coin has given rise to opposing interpretations amongst numismatic antiquaries. Occo considers this figure to represent the Emperor Claudius, by whom, to the prejudice of Britannicus, Nero was adopted. Vaillant (Pr.ii p.63) concurs in this supposition, and points to the radiate head as indicating the apotheosis of Claudius. - Tristan, (vol.i p.211) who has copiously treated of this coin, differs from the above writers. After judiciously observing that the legends on both sides of this aureus are to be taken in connection with each other, viz. NERO CAESAR AVGVSTVS GERMANICVS, and that the epithet, or surname of Germanicus, both in history and on coins, was given to Nero as well as Claudius, he decidedly pronounces that the radiate image is meant to be that of Nero himself. Tristan is moreover of the opinion that Nero was distinguished by the corona radiata because he was ambitious to rival Apollo; and indeed even Seneca, in his Apocolocyntosis, compares Nero to that deity, both in form, as of the rising sun, and in his vocal powers. After such gross flattery on the part of his preceptor, it seems a natural consequence that this spoiled child of an emperor should have appointed five thousand praetorians to accompany him to the theatre, and who used, when he sang, to shout - "O beautiful Caesar - O Apollo - O thou Pythias, etc."

Eckhel (vi. p.269), expresses his agreement with Tristan, as to the type in question being an indication that a statue of similar character had been erected in honour of Nero; and he remarks, that it is the first instance of a radiate crown appearing on the head of a living emperor, though from that time it very frequently occurs on the obverses of Nero's coins, on second brass. - The learned author of Doctrina goes on, however, to say that he does not regard this distinction of crowning with rays, as conferred upon Nero, either from an admiration of his person, or through the extravagant language of the theatres. - "For why (he asks), does not the radiate crown appear on those coins on which Nero is typified as moving in the full costume of Apollo the harp-player (Citharoedus)? Are we to imagine that Vespasian also, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, were desirous of being thought beautiful and good musicians, because they too appear with radiate heads? Or that those renowned and honourable princes coveted for themselves an honour, which Nero whose memory they abhorred, had acquired with so unworthy a motive? We must conclude then, that it was the pleasure of Nero, the vainest of men, to be considered as a deity - of which honour, or at any rete of a divine lineage, the radiate crown was the invariable symbol, as well amongst the Romans as the Greeks. - To Julius Caesar, after his victory over the Pompeys in Spain, a radiate crown was (according to Flavus) decreed in the theatre, amongst other honours obviously of a divine character. - Augustus is represented, with radiate head, on many coins struck after his death. And long before that period, Antiochus IV, king of Syria, was exhibited with this ornament; indeed he went so far as to cause himself to be reverenced as a diety, by the inscription, on his coins, of the word QEOT. - The emperors who succeeded Nero, cannot be said, so much to have sought divine honours, as to have shown no repugnance, when any distinction, above the lot of man, was conferred upon them, by which they might inspire the people with veneration, and a kind of superstitious awe. - A convincing proof of this is to be found in the fact, that the heads of the Augusti, in the gold and silver coinage, (which was under the direction of the Emperors) are without exception destitute of the radiate crown, up to the time of Caracalla, who first introduced it, more frequently and promiscuously on his silver coins. - On the other hand, this radiate type constantly occurs on brass coins, especially of the second size; but, as is well known, the care of this coinage devolved on the Senate, whose flattery of the Emperors was thoroughly appreciated and acquiesced in by them. - Eckhel's remarks on the divinity ascribed to Nero are admirably illustrated from the following passage, which he cites from Tacitus (Ann.xv 74):- "Cerialis Anicius, the consul elect, moved a resolution, that a temple be erected as soon as possible, at the public cost, in honour of DIVVS NERO." Although, as he afterwards adds, "the honours of the Gods are not bestowed on a prince, till he has ceased to live amongst mortals." - See Corona Radiata.



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