2nd Century Rome (21st Caesar): Pertinax silver Denarius, 193AD, NGC AU* in Fine Style



Pertinax. 193 AD. Denarius, NGC AU* in Fine Style. Struck at the Rome mint. The obverse features Pertinax’s laureated head facing right with the legend IMP CAES P HELV – PERTIN AVG. The reverse features Aequitas standing and facing left, holding scales and cornucopia accompanied by the legend AEQVIT AVG – TR P COS II.  This coin is quite rare, especially in this condition. It’s very attractive with a powerful portrait, one might say exquisite. Ex. Künker 243, 21 November 2013, lot 4929.

Pertinax (Publius Helvius Pertinax Augustus, 1 August 126–28 March 193) was Roman Emperor for only three months in 193. The son of a freed slave, Pertinax first worked as a teacher before becoming an officer in the army. He distinguished himself in the Parthian war. The result was a number of promotions, and after posts in Britain and along the Danube, he served as procurator in Dacia.

It was during the reign of Marcus Aurelius that he was a victim of court intrigue and suffered a career setback. However shortly thereafter he was recalled to assist Claudius Rompeianus in the Marcomannic Wars. In 175 Pertinax was honored with a suffect consulship, and, until 185, he was the governor of the provinces of Upper and Lower Moesia, Dacia, Syria, and then governor of Britain. The 180s saw Pertinax have an important role in the Roman Senate until praetorian prefect Sextus Tigidius Perennis forced him out of public life. Three years later he was recalled to Britain, where the Roman army was in mutiny. He attempted to quash the unruly soldiers there. However, one legion mutinied, attacked his bodyguard, and left Pertinax for dead. After recovering, he punished the mutineers harshly, which further contributed to his ever growing reputation as a strict disciplinarian. Forced to resign in 187, the reason given was that the legions had become hostile due to his harsh leadership.

Pertinax is believed to have been involved in the conspiracy that led to the assassination of Commodus on 31 December 192. After Commodus was killed, Pertinax, serving as urban prefect at that time, was rushed to the Praetorian Camp where he was proclaimed emperor the next morning. His 86-day reign was not an easy one. The Praetorian Guard expected a generous donativum when he took power. And when that did not happen, they agitated until he came up with the money by selling off Commodus’s possessions, including the concubines and youths he kept for sexual pleasure. Pertinax reformed Roman currency dramatically. He increased the silver purity of the denarius from 74 percent to 87 percent, increasing the silver weight from 2.22 grams to 2.75 grams. This reform did not survive when he died. By attempting to bring about stricter discipline among the pampered Praetorian, Pertinax brought about his own demise. A few hundred members of the Praetorian Guard rushed the gates and confronted the emperor, probably because they received only half the promised pay. Pertinax attempted to reason with them, but was struck dead by one of the soldiers.