The Roman Empire
Livilla

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Coin Details

Origin/Country: ANCIENT - ROMAN EMPIRE (1st CENT BC - 5th CENT AD) ROMAN EMPIRE Drusus, d.AD 23
Design Description: Drusus Dupondius with Livilla as Pietas
Item Description: AE Dupondius rv SC in inscription obv Livilla(?) as Pietas
Full Grade: NGC Ch XF Strike: 5/5 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 coin represents the sole issue attributed to Claudia Livia Julia (13? BC – 31 AD), more commonly known as Livilla or “little Livia,” differentiating her from grandmother, Augusta Livia Drusilla. Since the teenaged Livilla hailed from such noble lineage (the daughter of Nero Claudius Drusus and Antonia Minor), many aspiring dynasts sought to betroth her. In 1 BC, she married her second cousin, Gaius Caesar, at that time in-line to succeed his grandfather Augustus. Gaius died a few years later, leaving the widowed Livilla available once again. Subsequently, she wedded her first cousin, Drusus the Younger.

Clearly Livilla was ambitious, although no one recorded her feelings about her personal situation. Initially she served Drusus as a dutiful wife, and bore their daughter, Livia Julia. Over time, however, she grew apart from her husband. It is easy to imagine that a contributing factor was Drusus’ growing reputation for irritability, heavy drinking, and wagering on gladiator fights. In 19 AD, shortly after the tragic death of her brother Germanicus, Livilla presented mourning Rome a pleasant surprise: the birth of twin sons, Tiberius and Germanicus Gemellus. Owing the imperial couple’s malcontent, many Romans believed that, instead of Drusus, the twins’ true father was Livilla’s lover, Lucius Aelius Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard.

Prominent among the skeptics was Livilla’s father-in-law and uncle, Emperor Tiberius. Even so, the Emperor wanted to foster a stable succession for his son Drusus. To this end, Tiberius struck coins, including this bronze dupondius in 22-23 AD. The verso inscription DRVSVS CAESAR TI AVGSTI F TR POT ITER, gives Drusus, the Caesar and son of Augustus Tiberius, credit for once again serving as tribunicia potestate, and encircles the letters S C, denoting senatus consulto, or by the decree of the Senate. The obverse bears a veiled, diademed, and draped female bust and the inscription PIETAS. Pietas represented the concept of duty, particularly duty to family, Rome, and the gods. The theme of Pietas wove intimately into Roman culture, dating as far back as the earliest legends of Italy’s settlement. Not surprisingly, Pietas appears frequently on ancient coinage issued in the name of Rome’s prominent women, including, in this particular case, Livilla. The current attribution, proposed a century ago but not discussed in older numismatic references, is presented cogently and convincingly in the source cited below.

The depiction of Livilla as Pietas is one of the most ironic examples of Roman numismatic propaganda, and that’s saying something. It is likely that Livilla not only had an adulterous affair with Sejanus (resulting in the twins), but also conspired to poison her husband and overthrow her father-in-law. In any case, her husband fell mysteriously ill and died soon after this coin debuted. Once again, Livilla was single, and she asked her father’s permission to marry Sejanus. Emperor Tiberius adamantly refused at that time, increasingly suspicious of wrongdoing - yet still lacking proof of perfidy. Afterwards, the Emperor moved to Capri, leaving Livilla free to continue her love affair with Sejanus, who grew increasingly influential back in Rome.

Several years later, Livilla and Sejanus announced their engagement, their nefarious plans apparently progressing towards fruition. However, it was not Livilla’s destiny to marry thrice. In 31 AD, Tiberius received evidence of Sejanus’ treacherous plans. His suspicions finally verified, the Emperor ordered Sejanus' execution. A bloody pogrom ensued, claiming many of Sejanus’ kin and supporters. Among the victims was Livilla, whose fate, according to some ancient sources, Tiberius left up to Antonia Minor, who watched her daughter starve to death.

Additional Reading: D L Vagi, Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, Vol I: History, 1999, p. 127.

Coin Details: ROMAN EMPIRE, Tiberius, AD 14-37, Æ Dupondius (30mm, 12.33 g, 12h), Rome mint, struck AD 22-23, NGC Grade: Ch XF, Strike: 5/5, Surface: 3/5, Obverse: Veiled, diademed, and draped bust of Livilla as Pietas right, PIETAS, Reverse: DRVSVS CAESAR TI AVGSTI F TR POT ITER around large S C, References: Vagi 477; RIC I 43 (Tiberius); from the Olav E. Klingenberg Collection.

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