Claudius AE Assarion/Artemis with a torch in each hand

Ancient Coins - Claudius AE Assarion/Artemis with a torch in each hand
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THESSALY, Koinon of Thessaly. temp. Claudius. AD 41-54. Æ Assarion (17mm, 4.26 g, 2h). Antigonos, strategos. ΘΕΣΣ ΑΛΩΝ, draped bust (Livia/Apollo?) right / ΣΤ ΡΑΤΗΓOY ΑИΤΙΓ[ΟИΟΥ], Artemis Ennodia advancing right, holding torch in each hand; monogram to right. Burrer Em. 1, 97 (A24/R82); BCD Thessaly I –; BCD Thessaly II 928 (same obv. die); RPC I 1438. VF, dark green patina.


Unusual Thessalonian Assarion honoring an unusual emperor. Born with physical disabilities (which were probably due to cerebral palsy) and rejected by many, including his own mother, who called him "a monstrosity of a human being.” Emperorship didn't come until fairly late in life when all the other men of his line were gone. He surprised most Romans by becoming a successful emperor, with a penchant for sitting in on most of the trials and legal hearings that took place in the capitol. He had bad luck with wives---all four of them, but the disabled emperor certainly proved himself a man's man by defeating the natives of Britain, with the help of a few generals, war elephants and 40,000 troops. He was proclaimed Britannicus, a title he didn't use, but a name he gave his son.

He was enthusiastically hailed by the Roman population, all 6 million of them (an increase of a million since Augustus' census) as the first Roman emperor to subjugate barbarians from across the seas. Surprising his family, he become a scholar by the time he became emperor, writing dozens of volumes on the history of Rome, Carthage and even the Roman language. Unfortunately, all these have been lost. He also accomplished a great deal of building and road projects, for which his subjects were grateful.

Not so grateful was his niece and last wife, Agrippina (the younger). He had married her, not just because of her feminine wiles, but to put to rest a family feud between the Claudian family and the Julian family. At the time she was having several affairs, one within the emperor’s household. There were many “in the know” that Agrippina had exiled, forced suicide or otherwise caused their demise. Over the next 3 years of the marriage, Agrippina became even more of a handful, especially in Claudius' last months. She was determined to see her son Nero ascend the throne before Claudius' son Britannicus could come of age.

Stress at the palace was at a maximum during Claudius' last few days. His freedman, Narcissus felt it necessary to burn all of Claudius' personal notes and correspondence, leaving a huge void in history. He felt that Agrippina was about to conduct a coup or harm the emperor. His intuitions were correct as Claudius died at dinner the next day, probably from a mushroom supplied by Agrippina, who had purchased it from her poisoner, Locusta.

Narcissus was murdered the following day. Britannicus and his sisters Octavia and Antonia were locked in their rooms until Agrippina could insure that Nero, not Britannicus, would be elevated to the throne. Even early on, Nero was offensive. It is said that he sexually abused Britannicus and could find no good in his mother. Within the year, Nero visited Locusta, his mother's supplier of poisons and obtained a toxic substance that was so powerful that when Brittanicus took his first sip, he began foaming at the mouth, and dropped to the floor, dead. Nero's actions were probably prompted (other than simply by being Nero) by increasing insecurity due to his mother being so exasperated with him that she was shouting to all that would listen that she regretted killing Claudius and would support Britannicus in assuming Nero's throne. Indeed she had already started making active plans to get Britannicus placed on the throne.

Nero continued to do nothing that she approved of. Within a couple of years Nero banned her from Rome and sent her to a small village. Nero made sure that she was accosted by tormenters on every occasion of a visit to Rome. Soon, he began sending them to do their work at her village and her home. Not surprisingly, within a few months, she died. There is no historical account that carries more credence than others regarding the nature of her death. All have Nero being responsible, but none agree on even the outline of the plot. Perhaps that too was partly Nero’s doing.


Ancient Coins - Claudius AE Assarion/Artemis with a torch in each hand
Ancient Coins - Claudius AE Assarion/Artemis with a torch in each hand
Ancient Coins - Claudius AE Assarion/Artemis with a torch in each hand
Ancient Coins - Claudius AE Assarion/Artemis with a torch in each hand
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