Introduction to Julio-Claudian Roman Imperial Coins


Biographical Notes & Portraits

Last updated: 12 November 2017

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AUGUSTUS (Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus) 27 BC - AD 14
born 63 BC - died AD 14

The first Emperor of Rome, he was the great-nephew of Julius Caesar who adopted him in his will. After his forces under Agrippa defeated those of Mark Anthony at the battle of Actium in 31 BC he became undisputed master of the Roman world. In 27 BC the Roman Senate bestowed on him a series of titles, offices and powers which were expanded in the next several years and which represented, in total, an Auctoritas - complete authority over the Roman government and people. He was designated Princeps and exercised a supreme Imperium over the Roman State. Although considered a weak and inconsequential youth by the power brokers and generals after Julius Caesar's assassination, he surprised everyone with his leadership, administrative abilities and political acumen. When he died of natural causes at the ripe old age (especially for that time) of seventy six, he was acknowledged as a great Emperor and beloved leader -- a status he has maintained throughout history.

The titles, offices and powers bestowed on Augustus devolved to, or were claimed by, each succeeding Emperor. The reverential title of Augustus (often abbreviated to Aug) was the unique appellation of every Emperor until the end of the Roman Empire.

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TIBERIUS (Tiberius Claudius Nero) AD 14 - AD 37
born 42 BC - died AD 37

Tiberius was a scion of the Patrician Claudian family. He was the son of Livia, the wife of Augustus, and an outstanding general in the army. He eventually married Julia, the daughter of Augustus, and was subsequently adopted by him as his heir after the death of his grandsons, Caius and Lucius Caesars. He became Emperor upon the death of Augustus in AD 14 and initially established himself as a wise and just ruler. Eventually, however, he came under the influence of the evil Sejanus, head of the Praetorian Guard, and retired to Capri where he became a cruel and depraved recluse. He died there, some claimed by the hand of his nephew, Caius (Caligula), at the ripe old age of seventy eight.

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CAIUS [CALIGULA] (Caius Julius Caesar Germanicus) AD 37 - AD 41
born AD 12 - died AD 41

The son of the great general, Germanicus, he was eventually adopted by his great-uncle, Tiberius, as his heir. Caligula was a nickname meaning "little boots" (after Caligae -- the heavy lace-up sandals worn by soldiers of the day) given to him by soldiers of his father's Army on the northern frontier because of his habit of dressing like them in miniature. His ascendency to the Principate was at first hailed as the start of a golden age but his depravity and cruelty soon surfaced. He exhibited signs of insanity and horrified the Patricians and political leaders by declaring himself a living God. His reign became one of terror and he executed anyone he believed opposed him. His depravity include rumors of incestuous relations with his sister, Drusilla. He was finally assassinated by the Praetorian Guard at the age of twenty eight in a coup staged by political factions -- the first of many Emperors to die this way.

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CLAUDIUS (Tiberius Claudius Drusus Germanicus) AD 41 - AD 54
born 10 BC - died AD 54

The brother of Germanicus and uncle of Caius (Caligula), he was installed as Emperor by the Praetorian Guard (the first - but by no means the last - to be so elevated) after the assassination of Caligula. He was afflicted with what many now believe to be a form of polio or cerebral palsy. In any event he drooled constantly, had a pronounced speech defect and walked with a noticeable limp. Although often secretly ridiculed by members of the Senate, and even members of his own family, he proved to be -- in sharp contrast to his predecessor -- a just and competent Emperor with excellent administrative and organizational skills. In later life he married his niece, Agrippina Jr. (daughter of his brother, Germanicus, and sister of Caligula), who persuaded him to adopt her son, Nero, and proclaim him his heir. Agrippina subsequently poisoned Claudius at a feast to make way for Nero.

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NERO (Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus) AD 54 - AD 68
born AD 37 - died AD 68

At first controlled by his mother and tutored by the Philosopher, Seneca, he soon broke out of his promising mold to become a cruel and depraved despot. He systematically had Seneca put to death and poisoned his mother, Agrippina. He commenced a reign of terror that resulted in the executions of many prominent Romans. Nero fancied himself a great performing artist - a poet and musician - and insisted on attendance at his performances by influential Romans who were required to shower him with praise and adulation. He was accused of setting the great fire of Rome, which he blamed on the Christians, leading to their persecution. His depravity led to an execution plot which he avoided by committing suicide.

Thus ended the blood lineage of the Caesars ..........

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