Here we have a lovely example of a debased silver coin from the reign of Aurelian — a soldier who became Emperor and was credited with saving the Roman Empire from collapse. Indeed, his contemporaries were so grateful, that they named him Restitutor Orbis, or ‘Restorer of the World'.
Aurelian was born in the valleys of the Danube River almost 1800 years ago, although ancient sources do not agree on an exact location. Having joined the legions at the age of twenty, he quickly rose through the ranks during a time of major upheaval and military anarchy in the Roman Empire. Today, this period is known as ‘The Crisis of the Third Century’, when the Roman Emperor Severus Alexander was assassinated and over two dozen military leaders competed for the title of ‘Emperor’ during the following fifty years.
Such was the impact of these warring generals that the whole empire began to fragment. Its economy was collapsing, its borders falling to invading barbarians, and Rome’s streets were filled with rioting citizens — that was until Aurelian seized power in A.D. 270.
Within five years, Aurelian had gained control of the empire’s borders, pushing back the barbarian Juthungi, Marcomanni and Alemanni in northern Italy, and the Vandals in the northwest. He defeated the Carpi, the Arabians, the Palmyrenes and Persians until the Empire’s borders were secure.
But not only was Aurelian a gifted military strategist, he was also a far-sighted politician, recognising that the empire required more than military strength to survive. During his short reign, he introduced a swathe of social, economic and religious reforms. He restored public buildings, significantly increased the amount of food given to the poor, and rooted out and prosecuted corrupt public officials across the whole empire.
This is a coin minted during his reign – a bronze radiate (called an antoninianus) which had a value of two denarii. On the obverse is the god, Sol, advancing with a bow and trampling the enemy.
Provided with a full description – now available in the Timeless Galleries
ROMAN BRONZE COIN OF AURELIAN
Acquired by Timeless on the UK antiquities market, 2019.