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The travel series coins of Hadrian

NapNap Posts: 1,712 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited December 21, 2023 2:38PM in World & Ancient Coins Forum

The Roman emperor Hadrian produced a celebrated series of travel coins commemorating his travels to the various provinces of the Roman Empire. This series is much beloved by collectors, and is very popular to collect. These coins come in gold, silver, and bronze. These were all believed to have been made in Rome, I am not including provincial issues which served a different purpose, to be used as local currency in their locale. These "travel series" coins were meant to spread the propaganda of the emperor's travels.

Generally the set is understood to include 4 distinct types:
1) Location name alone
2) Adventi Augustus (arrival of the emperor)
3) Restitutori (restorer of the province, essentially building statues and cancelling debts)
4) Exercitus (military exercises, essentially dress review of the frontier legionary camps)

I believe there are 28 different locations in the series. A 29th location is seen on coins of Aelius, Hadrian's caesar (who predeceased him).

There are several ways to collect the series. Probably the most popular is to stick with the silver provincial types. Of these, there are 8 of the first type (location name alone): Aegyptos, Africa, Alexandria, Asia, Germania, Hispania, Italia, and Nile River. A 9th location is available in silver- the Restitutori type of Gallia. All of the rest are only in bronze, in denominations of the sestertius, dupondius, and as. A number of types are also available in gold; these are very desirable pieces.

Rarity is sometimes hard to quantify. Certain locations are extremely rare, and, for example, I have never seen an example of Dalmatia. Cilicia, Nicomedia, and Noricum also seem to be extremely hard to find. Apart from these, the rarer provinces seem to be Arabia, Bithynia, Britannia, Macedonia, Moesia, Phrygia, Raetia, Sicilia, Syria, and Thracia. The rest are relatively common.

Hadrian's journeys took him throughout the empire on three trips. The first was from 117-118, and was his journey from Antioch to Rome, via Asia Minor, the Balkans, and the Danube front, after he learned he was emperor. The second was a trip across the Western Empire, to far flung places such as Pannonia, Britannia, and Hispania, and then by boat to Asia Minor and Greece. The last trip took him to Sicily, North Africa, Greece, Asia Minor, Palestine, and Egypt.

Coins were issued in the later part of his reign, commemorating his visits to many of these places.

A collection of every one of these locations would be quite an undertaking, given the rarities involved, and unfortunately many of these are almost unknown in higher grades. I have not seen a complete collection, but I have seen some very comprehensive sets, usually as part of larger accumulations of Hadrian's coinage varieties.

I am making some headway with my own set, and will present my progress here, in a roughly chronologic order: Hope to continue to update this as holes are (slowly) filled in.

Journey 1 (117-118)

Hadrian starts in Antioch. This coin does not say Antioch, but depicts the city god Tyche and the river god Orontes


Hadrian Tyche as

Hadrian left Antioch and traveled north into Cilicia


Hadrian arrival in Cilicia sestertius

Hadrian goes next to Cappadocia in Asia Minor, with its major city Tyana.


Hadrian Cappadocia dupondius or as

From here Hadrian heads into Galatia (no coins), and then Bythinia


Hadrian restorer of Bithynia sestertius

Next Hadrian went into the city of Nicomedia

[no example of Nicomedia yet]

He continued on into Byzantium (now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople..) (no coins)

And then through Thracia

[no example of Thracia yet]

He went up into Moesia


Hadrian arrival in Moesia sestertius

And next into Dacia


Hadrian Dacia sestertius

He continued along the Danube frontier, briefly crossing through part of Dalmatia

[no example of Dalmatia yet]

Next it was up into Pannonia (coins only in the name of Aelius, Hadrian's caesar)

[no example of Pannonia yet]

And finally down into Italia


Hadrian Italia denarius

Hadrian arrived in Rome in 118.


Hadrian arrival in Rome denarius

Journey 2 (121-125)

The next trip started in 121. This time, Hadrian went northwest.

He went first to Gallia


Hadrian restorer of Gallia denarius

Next it was up to the Rhine frontier and Germania


Hadrian Germania denarius

Next, east into Raetia


Hadrian military exercises of Raetia sestertius

Then, back to the Danube frontier and to Noricum

[no example of Noricum yet]

And back into Pannonia. From there, he backtracked into Germania and Gallia and took a boat across the channel into Britannia


Hadrian Britannia As

He went to the north of the island and made plans for the wall in northern England that would eventually bear his name.

He went back through Gallia and south to Hispania


Hadrian Hispania denarius

From Hispania, he took a boat, supposedly all the way to the other side of the Mediterranean and Antioch. From there, it was back into Asia Minor, inspecting the border with Parthia, and up to the Black Sea coast. Then back across Bithynia, to Nicomedia, and then south through the province of Asia


Hadrian Asia denarius

From Ephesus in Asia, he went across the Aegean to Achaea


Hadrian restorer of Achaea dupondius

Then up to Macedonia


Hadrian arrival in Macedonnia as

Back on the boat and to Sicilia


Hadrian arrival in Sicilia sestertius

And finally back to Rome.

Journey 3 (128-134)

His last journey again took him around the Mediterranean, and largely to the east.

He started in Sicilia, and then down to Africa


Hadrian Africa denarius

From Carthage, he went west to Mauretania


Hadrian Mauretania as

He went back to Italia, took a boat to Achaea, and then on to Asia. From Ephesus, he went east, into Phrygia


Hadrian arrival in Phrygia sestertius

He continued on into Cappadocia, back down through Cilicia, through Antioch, and into Syria


Hadrian military exercises of Syria sestertius

He then went south into Judaea


Hadrian arrival to Judaea sestertius

Hadrian was not very culturally sensitive here, and it is thought that his behavior here set the stage for a violent revolt in the coming years. Hadrian traveled on to Arabia


Hadrian restorer of Arabiae sestertius

He continued on to Aegyptus


Hadrian Aegyptus denarius

He went to the major city of Alexandria at least twice


Hadrian Alexandria denarius

He went for a boat trip up the Nile river all the way to Thebes.


Hadrian Nile river denarius

The boat trip was not a happy one, as during the trip Hadrian's favorite, Antinous, drowned

Back in Alexandria, Hadrian headed back to Asia Minor, then Achaea, but his plans to return to Italy were interrupted by the outbreak of a serious revolt in Judaea, the Bar Kokhba revolt. While Rome was ultimately able to quell the rebellion, it was a bloody affair, which led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, and required the concentration of a large portion of the Empire's army, and Hadrian himself. Hadrian finally returned by boat to Rome in 134, and stayed put until his death in 138.

Collecting these coins is fun, challenging, and teaches a good deal about the history and geography of the ancient Mediterranean and European world.

Comments

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    Bob13Bob13 Posts: 1,437 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thanks for a great post! Never heard of this before and it’s very cool. Sort of like the 50 state quarters program.

    My current "Box of 20"

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    ashelandasheland Posts: 22,841 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very interesting!

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    StellaStella Posts: 689 ✭✭✭✭

    Great to see these all together. The Hadrian's travels series is a neat set to put together.

    I am partial to the Hispania denarii because of the little rabbit...

    Coin collector since childhood and New York Numismatist at Heritage Auctions.
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    John ConduittJohn Conduitt Posts: 369 ✭✭✭

    That is a great collection. I imagine these are very difficult to get in such good shape.

    This Hadrian happens to feature Britannia, although I'm not sure it counts as part of the travel series as it's from AD119. There's another similar-but-different version from AD134 (with BRITANNIA written around the top like your others), which fits the itinerary you outlined. Perhaps he spent my coin while he was in Britain ;)

    It's not in good shape - I'm hoping to upgrade it one day, but that would require deep pockets.

    Hadrian As, 119

    Rome. Bronze, 10g. Laureate bust right; IMP CAESAR TRAIANVS HADRIANVS AVG. Britannia seated facing, holding sceptre, large shield to right; PONT MAX T R POT COS III; BRITANNIA in exergue (RIC II.3, 241).

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    NapNap Posts: 1,712 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @JohnConduitt said:
    That is a great collection. I imagine these are very difficult to get in such good shape.

    This Hadrian happens to feature Britannia, although I'm not sure it counts as part of the travel series as it's from AD119. There's another similar-but-different version from AD134 (with BRITANNIA written around the top like your others), which fits the itinerary you outlined. Perhaps he spent my coin while he was in Britain ;)

    It's not in good shape - I'm hoping to upgrade it one day, but that would require deep pockets.

    Hadrian As, 119

    Rome. Bronze, 10g. Laureate bust right; IMP CAESAR TRAIANVS HADRIANVS AVG. Britannia seated facing, holding sceptre, large shield to right; PONT MAX T R POT COS III; BRITANNIA in exergue (RIC II.3, 241).

    Great coin. The Britannia province and “Exercitus” coins are rare and very expensive, so many prefer to collect the type you showed, which has the seated Britannia. I consider this a perfectly acceptable example of the province of Britannia, and would like one like that myself.

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    Namvet69Namvet69 Posts: 8,741 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Even though he didn't send postcards, your series is very interesting. Thanks for the schooling. Peace Roy

    BST: endeavor1967, synchr, kliao, Outhaul, Donttellthewife, U1Chicago, ajaan, mCarney1173, SurfinHi, MWallace, Sandman70gt, mustanggt, Pittstate03, Lazybones, Walkerguy21D, coinandcurrency242 , thebigeng, Collectorcoins, JimTyler, USMarine6, Elkevvo, Coll3ctor, Yorkshireman, CUKevin, ranshdow, CoinHunter4, bennybravo, Centsearcher, braddick, Windycity, ZoidMeister, mirabela, JJM, RichURich, Bullsitter, jmski52, LukeMarshall, coinsarefun, MichaelDixon

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    NapNap Posts: 1,712 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Added Macedonia

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    NapNap Posts: 1,712 ✭✭✭✭✭
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    NapNap Posts: 1,712 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Added Africa and Arabia

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    NapNap Posts: 1,712 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Added Mauretania

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    SimonWSimonW Posts: 684 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is a great write-up and collection! 👏

    I'm BACK!!! Used to be Billet7 on the old forum.

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    NapNap Posts: 1,712 ✭✭✭✭✭
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    HoledandCreativeHoledandCreative Posts: 2,774 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very nice!!

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    horseyridehorseyride Posts: 137 ✭✭✭

    This was a very interesting read, thanks. I have zero interest in ancients in general, but still enjoyed the descriptions and photos. Well done

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    291fifth291fifth Posts: 24,032 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Amazing and interesting collection. Why would anyone collect 1881-S Morgan Dollars when they could collect coins like this?

    All glory is fleeting.
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