As depicting the head of Nero and the Ara Pacis (66 CE)



66 CE

Brass (Æ)



Name of Ruler: 


Obverse (Image and Inscription): 

Image: Bare head of Nero looking right, globe at point of bust


Reverse (Image and Inscription): 

Image: Frontal view of the Ara Pacis

Inscription: ARA PACIS - S-C


This as minted in 66 CE at Lugdunum depicts on the obverse the head of Nero. The reverse depicts the Ara Pacis, or Ara Pacis Augustae, an altar dedicated to Pax, the Roman goddess of Peace. It was commissioned by the Roman Senate in 13 BCE to honor Augustus, and it was consecrated in 9 BCE. The altar, together with the Horologium Solare Augusti and the Mausoleum Augusti, formed a complex erected near the Campus Martius. Although the Ara Pacis is not recorded in the ancient sources, it appears on coins of Nero, as in this case, and of Domitian. The structure depicted on the coins is, however, schematic.
Why did Nero decide to depict the Ara Pacis on the obverse of the coin? The most obvious answer is that by celebrating the achievements of Augustus, Nero could also associate himself with the first emperor. Yet the question is more complicated. A possible key is that offered by Anton von Domaszewski in an article published in 1903. The German scholar suggested that the last family on the Southern Wall of the Ara Pacis is that of the father of the emperor Nero, born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. This identification remains widespread today. However, according to Gaius Stern, as Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus was born later, after the monument's completion, the figures depicted ought not to be considered as members of the gens Domitia. While Ronald Syme accepted Domaszewki's suggestion that the figures depicted are members of the gens Domitia, however, he identifies the boy as another unknown member of the family. John Pollini argued that as Suetonius specifically mentions the fact that Nero's father went "to the East on the staff of the young Gaius Caesar" (Suetonius, Nero VI.5.1), it is possible to identify this family group as members of the gens Domitia. Thus it is possible that Nero chose to depict the Ara Pacis because there was a visible bond between the Augustan monument and Nero's family, and therefore it was an occasion for Nero to claim a further connection between himself and Augustus.  
(RIC I, n°528)

Bibliographical references: 
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As depicting the head of Nero and the Ara Pacis (66 CE)
Author(s) of this publication: Samuele Rocca
Publishing date: Sun, 12/18/2016 - 21:53
Visited: Sat, 03/17/2018 - 23:10

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