You’ve just unearthed a Roman coin and you’re ecstatic. You don’t know exactly what it is but soon find out from your local FLO, the UKDFD or learned friends that ‘the little cracker’ is silver and called a denarius. You now know that the guy depicted on the obverse is Nero, but who is that on the reverse and how much do you know about Nero?
Nero, the Roman emperor from 54 to 68 AD, can be seen on over 30 coins recorded by lucky detectorists on the UKDFD. Here’s one with the record number 30704 and reproduced with permission.
Few ancient coins are as recognisable as the Roman denarius. This small silver coin carries massive historical significance, serving as the backbone of Roman coinage and was the inspiration behind many later European coins.
We all know about Nero, of course we do! The history books will tell you that he slept with and murdered his mother. Married and executed a stepsister, raped and murdered his stepbrother and kicked his pregnant wife to death … and so on. It is an understatement to suggest that he was one of the most infamous of Rome’s emperors; a complete barrel of laughs.
Nero is best known for his debaucheries, political murders, persecution of Christians and a passion for music that led to the rumour that he ‘fiddled’ while Rome burned during the great fire of 64 AD … and that’s the only thing I remember from what Mr Bramwell – my last history teacher – said about him!` The ‘fact’ is certainly untrue because the fiddle wasn’t invented until the fifteenth century. So what is true?
The purpose of the portrait on coins was to identify the person, in this case, the emperor. Nero looks like a nice boy. The reverse is quite revealing and the UKDFD tells us it is:
Virtus, helmeted and in military dress, standing left, right foot on pile of arms, holding spear and parazonium, shield on the ground.