There are few figures in ancient history that provoke a reaction quite like that of the Roman Emperor Caligula (A.D. 37-41), who throughout the ages has become infamous for cruelty and depraved extravagance. This notorious emperor presents a challenge to historians who would seek to learn the true nature of his short reign, as the only surviving historical sources are biased against the man in all respects.
The last ten years of the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14-37) were not happy ones for the ruling Julio-Claudian dynasty or for the Roman people. A growing paranoia began to influence the actions of the elderly emperor, and many people (including members of Caligula’s family) were executed on grounds of suspected treason. It was against this political backdrop that the Roman people were overjoyed to see Caligula succeed his great-uncle Tiberius upon the latter’s death in A.D. 37.
There was hope for a prosperous and peaceful reign during the first months of Caligula’s rule. The 24-year-old emperor was beloved by the Roman people as the son of the greatly admired general Germanicus (d. A.D. 19). He immediately abolished the treason trials of Tiberius and recalled all exiles, all the while giving a tremendous celebration in honor of his ascension.
Caligula soon began to issue coinage in his own name, such as this silver denarius, struck in the first year of his reign. Produced at Lugdunum, this piece features a portrait of the new emperor on the obverse, and that of his deceased father on the reverse. This represented a common trend of Caligula’s coinage – that of honoring deceased (and sometimes living) relatives such as his parents, Augustus, and his brothers and sisters.
C CAESAR AVG GERM P M TR POT Laureate head of Gaius r. Rev. DIVVS AVG PATER PATRIAE Radiate head of Augustus r. C 2. BMC 17. RIC 16. CBN 21. Rare. Two superb portraits struck on a very broad flan and a lovely old cabinet tone, about extremely fine / extremely fine Ex Triton sale VII, 2004, 851.