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Aureus of Vespasian minted at Tarraco

Aureo de Vespasiano. Anverso Pulse para ampliar
Aureo de Vespasiano. Reverso Pulse para ampliar

Inventario 2020/111/2

GoldSalto de línea Minted at Tarraco (Tarragona)Salto de línea AD 69

In addition to being one of the few gold coin issues struck on the Iberian Peninsula in antiquity, this aureus of Vespasian is also a piece that illustrates the importance of Hispania at crucial moments in Roman history. Specifically, it played a relevant role in the civil war of AD 68–69, which had an important consequence for the local population: the granting of Latin rights to all of Hispania’s cities.

Nero’s death in June of the year 68 led to a series of armed conflicts, which lasted a year and a half, between four men who aspired to succeed him on the throne: Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian, each theoretically supported by the province he governed. In fact, the year 69 was known as the “Year of the Four Emperors”. The senate finally acknowledged Vespasian as emperor in late December, ushering in the new Flavian dynasty.

Two of these ephemeral emperors were directly related to Hispania: Galba was governor of the province of Hispania Tarraconensis, and Otho of Lusitania. However, in late 69 Hispania threw in its lot with the man who would ultimately emerge victorious, Vespasian. During the war, the Tarraco mint struck several anonymous series and others in the name of Galba and Vitellius to cover military expenses, and it remained active in the early months of Vespasian's reign until its closure sometime in the year 70.

This aureus, minted during that short period of time, is remarkable not only for its rarity but also for its technique and iconography: a portrait of Vespasian far removed from the realism of Roman coinage, a particular epigraphic tradition on the legend and, above all, the personification of Hispania, represented as a women dressed for battle, armed with a shield and spears and holding out two ears of grain, an image that combines the ideas of territory, military might and contribution to the welfare of the empire.