The Roman Empire
Drusus the Younger and Germanicus, with Tiberius

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Coin Details

Origin/Country: ANCIENT - ROMAN PROVINCIAL (2nd CENT BC - 3rd CENT BC) SPAIN, ROMULA Tiberius, AD 14-37
Design Description: Tiberius AE27 with Drusus the Younger and Germanicus
Item Description: AE27 and Drusus confronted rv heads of Germanicus
Full Grade: NGC VF Strike: 4/5 Surface: 3/5
Owner: Kohaku

Set Details

Custom Sets: The Roman Empire
Competitive Sets: This coin is not competing in any sets.
Research: NGC Coin Price Guide

Owner Comments:

This ancient Roman provincial coin was struck near modern-day Seville, Spain. Julius Caesar established the site, inland yet conveniently accessible to sea via the Baetis river, as Colonia Romula. Romula became an important ship-building and economic center of the Roman province Hispania Baetica. Romula was one of only a few Spanish cities to strike coins for the Roman Empire.

This particular bronze is one of only four types published for Romula, and represents a so-called “dynastic issue,” i.e., it depicts multiple members of the imperial dynasty. The obverse presents the radiate head of Emperor Tiberius with the inscription COL ROM PERM DIVI AVG, meaning that the coin hails from the colony Romula, by permission of the divine Augustus. On the verso, the bare heads of Tiberius’ two Caesars face one another, their identities advertised by the accompanying inscription, DRVSVS CAESAR GERMANICVS CAESAR. Both obverse and reverse inscriptions read counterclockwise, a relatively unusual device for an ancient Roman coin.

This particular bronze dates from 14-19 AD, when Drusus (13 BC – 23 AD) and Germanicus (15 BC – 19 AD) reigned as co-Caesars under Emperor Tiberius. Drusus, also referred to as Drusus the Younger or Drusus Junior, was son and only child of Tiberius, by his first wife, Vipsania Agrippina. Germanicus was Tiberius' nephew, the son of Nero Claudius Drusus and Augustus’ niece Antonia.

In 4 AD, Drusus wedded his cousin Livilla, who also happened to be Germanicus' sister. The marriage was arranged very soon after the death of Livilla’s previous husband, Gaius Caesar, grandson and former Caesar to Augustus. Drusus was thus cousin, adoptive brother, and brother-in-law to Germanicus. As Tiberius' son, Drusus represented the obvious heir, however, his direct bloodline comprised only the Claudian clan (his association with the Julians was only by marriage). On the other hand, Germanicus’ bloodline comprised both Claudian and Julian clans. Moreover, in 5 AD Augustus arranged his granddaughter Agrippina Senior’s marriage to Germanicus. Willing or not, Tiberius was forced to accept his nephew Germanicus as co-Caesar along with Drusus.

Echoing the reverse confronted portraits, the co-Caesars’ shared destinies intertwined, marked by both parallels and contrasts. Germanicus was active in the Roman military starting from a very young age, and rapidly advanced in political power. Drusus, two years younger, forged a similar political trajectory, only several years behind, although he largely owed his status to the military accomplishments of his father Tiberius, rather than any of his own.

When Augustus died in 14 AD, his will emphatically declared Tiberius the next Emperor, followed by Germanicus; Drusus maintained an advisory role, pursuant with political, rather than military aptitude. Even so, Drusus earned prominence during the exequies held in Rome. When Tiberius collapsed under stress while eulogizing his predecessor, Drusus rushed in to support his father and finished delivering the speech. Meanwhile, Germanicus remained in Germania, where local forces showed signs of rebellion. The troops, who swore their allegiance directly to Augustus (and not necessarily his successor), were dissatisfied with their service terms and conditions, and many tried to promote Germanicus as the new Emperor. Germanicus refused to claim the throne, and regained control by utilizing his leadership skills, charisma, and a bit of chicanery (a forged letter from Tiberius promising to buy the troops' support). A similar revolt also brewed in Pannonia, providing Drusus an opportunity to demonstrate his mettle. Leveraging his trusted advisors, employing shrewd diplomacy, and brandishing his status as son of Rome’s new Emperor, Drusus managed to control the Pannonian situation. This success firmly established Drusus as co-Caesar alongside Germanicus.

The co-Caesars were ostensibly rivals, although any true rivalry was the machination of others, notably Tiberius. If not rivals, Drusus and Germanicus were opposites. Germanicus was a consummate hero, famous for his strength and kindness, idolized by soldiers and civilians alike. In contrast, Drusus earned a reputation for irritability, heavy drinking, and wagering on gladiator fights. Despite such different personalities, Drusus and Germanicus appeared to get along; in fact, they were friends, often pairing together within the Senate. When Tiberius assigned Germanicus to Asia (perhaps a move to diminish his power), the co-Caesar stopped on the way to pay a visit to his brother-in-law and sister. It would be the last time Drusus and Germanicus enjoyed each others’ company.

By 18 AD, Germanicus arrived at his new command and, regardless of the Emperor’s intent to weaken his influence, subsequently defeated the kingdoms of Cappadocia and Commagene, further expanding Rome’s lands. The following year, tragedy struck; Germanicus died, not in glorious combat, but by a sudden and mysterious malady. Many suspected the cause of death as poison, and Syrian governor Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso as the culprit, perhaps under Tiberius’ orders. The allegations were never proven; Piso died while facing trial, perhaps the victim of suicide or murdered by his co-conspirators. Whatever the true cause of Germanicus’ demise, it triggered intense public mourning that lasted for days. Drusus grieved along with the rest of Rome, even though he emerged as frontrunner to succeed his father.

As Fortuna would have it, Drusus’ path once again paralleled Germanicus.’ In 23 AD, the only son of Tiberius fell ill and died. It is highly likely that he, too, was poisoned, victim of a murderous plot by Livilla and Tiberius’ Praetorian Prefect Sejanus, who were having an affair. Imperial succession plans were once again upset, and history will never know how either Drusus or Germanicus might have fared as the supreme ruler of the early Roman Empire.

Coin Details: ROMAN PROVINCIAL, SPAIN, Romula, Tiberius, with Germanicus and Drusus as Caesars, AD 14-37, Æ As (27mm, 12.32 g, 7h), NGC Grade: VF, Strike: 4/5, Surface: 3/5, Obverse: Radiate head of Tiberius left, PERM DIVI AVG COL ROM, Reverse: Bare heads of Germanicus and Drusus facing one another, DRVSVS CAESAR GERMANICVS CAESAR, References: ACIP 3361; RPC I 74; Burgos 2016; SNG Cop 422.

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