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Brass sestertius of Hadrian

  • Hadrian's Wall

    Hadrian's Wall


Diameter: 3.500 cm (approx.)

CM BMC (Hadrian) 1672

Room 49: Roman Britain

    Brass sestertius of Hadrian

    Roman, early 2nd century AD

    The emperor Hadrian addresses his troops in Britain

    All Roman emperors found it vital to stay popular with the soldiers. The usual way for an emperor to make contact with the common soldier was through the ritual of the adlocutio, or imperial address. These morale-boosting talks are depicted on the reverses of many coins of the early Empire.

    A series of them are shown on the coins of Emperor Hadrian (reigned AD 117-138), recording the progress of his publicity tours of the provinces. On this particular coin the emperor is before the army of Britain. He is on horseback, looking like he has just arrived. His horse appears to be drawing to a halt - an elegant pose known as diatrochazein, much favoured in classical and renaissance art for equestrian statues. Hadrian holds his hand above his head to attract the attention of the troops he is about to address. Only the front of the legion is shown: the standard-bearers wearing their traditional lion-skin headresses. The legend below reads EXERC[ITVS] BRITANNICVS ('army of Britain').

    R.A.G. Carson, Principal coins of the Roman-1, vol. 2 (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)

    A. Birley, Hadrian: the restless emperor (London, Routledge, 1997)

    C. Fosse, Roman historical coins-1 (London, Seaby, 1990)


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    On display: Room 49: Roman Britain

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