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.



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Short Version:


Claudius was never supposed to become the emperor, and probably never dreamed of it. He was a child that his own mother would hardly have anything to do with. Apparently he had seizures and a considerable limp. His parents did send him for an excellent education and he proved to be mentally up to the challenge of mastering that. He still retained a self image that could use some tuning up. He got the tuning, and more. Fortune favored him. All the men ahead of him in the queue for the throne died or were killed. When Commodus met his well deserved end, the praetorian guard, who for the past few emperors had decided to go in to business for themselves. They milked the emperors for all they could, and if they ran short of funds, they arranged for the current emperor to meet a brutal end. Then they would have a new emperor to extract certain 'required' donations from. On the day of the death of Commodus, the guard were busily ransacking the palace, carrying off everything valuable that was also portable. They were thorough and even checked behind curtains. When looking for booty behind one particular curtain, they found something even more valuable than the gold and jewels that they were seeking. Crouched down, deep behind the curtain, curled up in a fetal position was Tiberius Claudius Drusus, soon to be Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus and eventually,Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. In plain english: The man next in line for the throne.

Claudius was interviewed by the praetorians and was offered the opportunity to live for a small donativum. Fortunately for Claudius, he was from a family of considerable means. He said yes to the terms offered, when very few people in Rome could have: Claudius would continue to live IF by tomorrow he supplied enough money to pay each of the approximately 8,000 members of the guard, funds amounting to 5 years salary, each. At that time, the praetorian guards probably earned 1,500 denarii per year, so Claudius would have to come up with the astounding sum of 60 million denarii to buy his life and his throne. Praetorians normally had a service commitment of 16 years, so, it's not hard to imagine that they retired in to some of the nicest villas in the neighborhood. The praetorian guard were happy with the deal they had made and Claudius was surprised and delighted to begin a reign that proved to be much more successful than 'good ol' Mom' would have ever expected. The money for the donativum? Who knows where that came from but historians have not recorded that he had any trouble coming up with it...or any regrets for that matter.


Version 2


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.


Before he became emperor, Claudius surprised his family (who had low expectations of him), by proving himself a competent scholar. During his pre-emperor years, Claudius authored dozens of volumes on the history of Rome, Carthage and even the Roman language--all this in an era where paper didn't exist, papyrus was expensive and the typewriter and computer would not be invented until almost two millennia later. Sadly, his great academic achievements met the same fate as most writings of the time. They disappeared into time.


They were not lost in the burning of the original library of Alexander, as it had already been destroyed a couple of decades before Claudius was born. However, the works of Claudius may have resided in a newer and smaller library of Alexandria that had been built to replace the original. If the writings of Claudius were stored there, they ultimately would have met the same fate that fell upon the great writings housed in the original library. Sadly, the newer library also was destroyed at the hands of a Roman emperor. Julius Caesar had been dead for centuries and could not have been blamed for the destruction of the newer library. Aurelian, however, in his overzealous effort to defeat Queen Zenobia, destroyed most of the section of Alexandria in which the library is believed to have resided and has historically been labeled as the destroyer of the new library, along with its contents, which were the remaining ancient historical records that had been partially reassembled after their destruction in the first burning of the library.


Claudius, as emperor, accomplished a great deal of building and completed many 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 Agrippina's family, the Julian family. At the time of her marriage to Claudius, Agrippina was having several affairs, one within the emperor’s household.


Agrippina is known to have exiled numerous political enemies, forced suicide on others, and generally orchestrated the demise of anyone that she perceived to be an obstacle to her grand schemes. Over the first 3 years of their 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. Everyone at the palace sensed that Agrippina was going to do something drastic to effect her plans for Nero. Stress was at a maximum during Claudius' last few days. His freedman, Narcissus felt it necessary to burn all of Claudius' personal notes and correspondence, even before Claudius died, leaving a huge void in history. He felt certain that Agrippina was about to conduct a coup or harm the emperor.


Narcissus' intuition was correct as Claudius died at dinner the next day, probably from a mushroom supplied by Agrippina, who had purchased it from her personal poisoner, Locusta. Narcissus was murdered the next 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.


Nero was bad news from the very beginning of his reign. It is said that he sexually abused Britannicus, among others. He could find no good in his mother. Within his first year of power, Nero visited Locusta, his mother's supplier of poisons and obtained a toxic substance that was so powerful that when Britannicus 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.


With the threat of Britannicus out of the way, Nero began sending his mother to perform work at the village of her birth, which was also her home away from Rome. Not surprisingly, Nero's forced expulsion of his mother soon, somehow, resulted in her death. There are various historical accounts regarding how her death was engineered, but no account carries more credence than others regarding the nature of her death. They all differ and seem speculative, but all share the theme that Nero was responsible.

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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