The Roman Empire
Germanicus II Gemellus, with Tiberius Gemellus





Coin Details

Origin/Country: ANCIENT - ROMAN EMPIRE (1st CENT BC - 5th CENT AD) ROMAN EMPIRE Tib. & Germ. Gemellus
Design Description: Sestertius w/twin sons of Drusus
Item Description: AE Sestertius AD 22/23, under Tiberius twins of Drusus & Livilla
Full Grade: NGC VF Strike: 5/5 Surface: 2/5
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:

Like his predecessor Augustus, Emperor Tiberius struggled with the question of his own succession. To this end, Tiberius rejoiced in 19 AD when his niece Julia Livilla gave birth to twin sons, Tiberius Julius Caesar Nero Gemellus (known as Tiberius Gemellus) and Tiberius Claudius Caesar Germanicus II Gemellus (known as Germanicus II Gemellus or Germanicus Gemellus). At the time, Livilla was married to the Emperor’s son, Drusus. As Tiberius’ grandsons, the twins were excellent imperial candidates. However, there was an issue. Many Romans, including the Emperor himself, suspected that the pair’s sire was Livilla’s adulterous lover, the Praetorian Prefect Sejanus.

Regardless of any doubts that he might have had, Tiberius advertised his new grandsons on this iconic sestertius struck in 22-23 AD. This sestertius issue was one of several bronzes wherein Tiberius honored his clan members (as another example of a ‘family’ bronze, this collection also includes a dupondius attributed to Drusus and Livilla). As Rome’s largest regular denomination, sestertii provided a dramatic palette for numismatic propaganda. Specifically for this coin, its unknown architect choose an obverse depiction of a pair of crossed cornucopias, surmounted by busts of the imperial gemini.

The cornucopia was a prominent religious symbol in ancient times. According to one Greek myth, the infant Zeus played too roughly with his nurse-goat, Amalthea, detaching one of her horns. The nanny’s shorn horn subsequently served as an unending source of nourishment. To this day, the “horn of plenty” symbolizes related concepts such as abundance, productivity, and fertility.

Not surprisingly, the cornucopia promulgated as a popular numismatic motif. Examples include coinage issued by the Seleucid Kings of Syria and the Ptolemaic dynasts of Egypt. Judaean monarchs likewise featured the cornucopia on their coins, invoking the legendary richness of the ancient Holy Land of milk and honey. Particularly noteworthy are prutot issued by that realm’s most notorious client ruler, namely Herod the Great, portraying a caduceus between two cornucopia. Numerous Roman Republican and Roman Imperatorial coins (e.g., Julius Caesar) also featured cornucopias, and the theme persisted within Imperial Rome until at least early fifth century AD (e.g., coin-weights attributed to Honorius).

Regarding this particular sestertius, its obverse echoes the aforementioned Herodian prutot by pairing the pair of cornucopias with a caduceus (and a winged one, at that). The caduceus was the staff wielded by the divine messenger known to the Greeks as Hermes (Mercury, to the ancient Romans). As such, the caduceus exemplified interconnected concepts such as occupation, commerce, and negotiations – a perfect complement for the cornucopias. With the decree of Rome’s Senate, Emperor Tiberius employed this combined imagery to advertise the fecundity of his son Drusus, then exercising tribunician power for the second time, as indicated by the reverse inscription (S • C, encircled by DRVSVS CAESAR TI AVG F DIVI AVG N PONT TR POT II).

The impact of this sestertius on the average Roman can only be imagined, especially given the contemporaneous opinion that the twins were not sired by Drusus, but rather Livilla’s adulterous lover, Sejanus. In any case, infant Germanicus Gemellus never got the chance to lead Rome into a prosperous future. He died about a year after this sestertius’ debut, and his existence scarcely merits history’s attention.

Coin Details: ROMAN EMPIRE, Tiberius & Germanicus Gemellus, Æ Sestertius (34.5mm, 25.27 g, 1h), Rome mint, Struck under Tiberius, AD 22-23, NGC Grade: VF, Strike: 5/5, Surface: 2/5, Obverse: Crossed cornucopias, each surmounted by bareheaded bust of a boy, vis-à-vis; vertical winged caduceus between, Reverse: Large S • C, DRVSVS CAESAR TI AVG F DIVI AVG N PONT TR POT II, Reference: RIC I 42 (Tiberius); Cohen 1; BMC 95.

To follow or send a message to this user,
please log in