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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Roman Coins| ▸ |The Twelve Caesars| ▸ |Vitellius||View Options:  |  |  |   

Vitellius, 2 January - 20 December 69 A.D.

Aulus Vitellius was declared emperor by his troops in 69 A.D. After defeating the forces of Otho, he took control of Rome but then spent more time at the banquet table then in governance. General Vespasian was then declared emperor in Alexandria, and the legions stationed along the Danube frontier marched against Vitellius. His forces were defeated, the emperor slain and his body dragged through the streets of Rome and dumped in the Tiber.


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Lucius Vitellius, depicted on the reverse of this coin, was father of the emperor Vitellius, a Roman senator, three times consul, and governor of Syria from 35 to 39 A.D. In 36 A.D. Lucius Vitellius fired Pontius Pilate, the infamous prefect of Judaea. A Samaritan, claiming to be Moses reincarnate, gathered an armed following. Pilate dispersed the crowd by killing some and taking many prisoners. After he executed the ringleaders, the Samaritans appealed to Vitellius, complaining that Pilate's response was excessive. Vitellius, agreed, sent Pilate back to Italy and appointed Marcellus. In support of Claudius and Agrippina, Vitellius invented arguments why the old rule that an uncle and his niece should not marry did not apply to the emperor. The new empress returned the favor. When Vitellius was accused of high treason by the senator Junius Lupus, she made sure that Claudius exiled the accuser. Vitellius died unexpectedly from a paralytic stroke and received a statue on the speaker's platform on the Roman Forum, with the inscription "Of unwavering loyalty to the emperor." His unwavering loyalty was later criticized by Tacitus:

"The man, I am aware, had a bad name at Rome, and many a foul story was told of him. But in the government of provinces he acted with the virtue of ancient times. He returned and then, through fear of Caligula and intimacy with Claudius, degenerated into a servility so base that he is regarded by an after-generation as the type of the most degrading adulation. The beginning of his career was forgotten in its end, and an old age of infamy effaced the virtues of youth." [Tacitus, Annals, 6.32; tr. A.J. Church and W.J. Brodribb]
SH65988. Gold aureus, RIC I 94, BMCRE I 23, BnF III 54, Calicó 565, Cohen I 54 var. (branch in right hand), F, weight 7.029 g, maximum diameter 18.8 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, Apr - 20 Dec 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERM IMP AVG TR P, laureate head right; reverse L VITELLIVS COS III CENSOR, Lucius Vitellius (emperor's father) togate, seated left on curule chair, extending right, in left eagle-tipped scepter, feet on stool; very rare (RIC R2); SOLD


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High relief portrait and nice style. Some of the best Roman engravers worked at the Rome Mint from the late reign of Nero to the early reign of Vespasian. Apparently their ranks were thinned by the Civil Wars of 69 A.D., because the bronze coinage of Vespasian is, by comparison, pedestrian in style.
SH37568. Orichalcum dupondius, SRCV I 2213, RIC I 162, Cohen I 15, BMCRE I 65, BnF III 116, gVF, weight 13.643 g, maximum diameter 28.7 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERMA IMP AVG P M TR P, laureate and draped bust right; reverse CONCORDIA AVGVSTI (to the harmony of the Emperor), Concordia seated left holding patera and cornucopia, lit garlanded altar before, S C in exergue; scarce; SOLD


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SH08073. Gold aureus, RIC I 104, BMCRE I 30, F, weight 6.94 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERM IMP AVG TR P, laureate head right; reverse LIBERTAS RESTITVTA, Libertas standing facing, head right holding pileus and long rod; some nicks and finder scrapes; "S" and "C" shaped banker's marks in fields; very rare (R3); SOLD


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One of the finest Vitellius denarii we have ever seen!
SH30329. Silver denarius, RIC I 67, RSC II 36, BMCRE I 2, BnF III 33, Vagi 869, EF, fabulous high-relief portrait, mint luster, slightly soft strike, weight 3.542 g, maximum diameter 18.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, Apr - 20 Dec 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERMANICVS IMP, bare head right; reverse FIDES EXERCITVVM (the loyalty of the armies), clasped hands ; scarce; SOLD


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Lucius Vitellius, depicted on the reverse of this coin, was father of the emperor Vitellius, a Roman senator, three times consul, and governor of Syria from 35 to 39 A.D. In 36 A.D. Lucius Vitellius fired Pontius Pilate, the infamous prefect of Judaea. A Samaritan, claiming to be Moses reincarnate, gathered an armed following. Pilate dispersed the crowd by killing some and taking many prisoners. After he executed the ringleaders, the Samaritans appealed to Vitellius, complaining that Pilate's response was excessive. Vitellius, agreed, sent Pilate back to Italy and appointed Marcellus. In support of Claudius and Agrippina, Vitellius invented arguments why the old rule that an uncle and his niece should not marry did not apply to the emperor. The new empress returned the favor. When Vitellius was accused of high treason by the senator Junius Lupus, she made sure that Claudius exiled the accuser. Vitellius died unexpectedly from a paralytic stroke and received a statue on the speaker's platform on the Roman Forum, with the inscription "Of unwavering loyalty to the emperor." His unwavering loyalty was later criticized by Tacitus:

"The man, I am aware, had a bad name at Rome, and many a foul story was told of him. But in the government of provinces he acted with the virtue of ancient times. He returned and then, through fear of Caligula and intimacy with Claudius, degenerated into a servility so base that he is regarded by an after-generation as the type of the most degrading adulation. The beginning of his career was forgotten in its end, and an old age of infamy effaced the virtues of youth." [Tacitus, Annals, 6.32; tr. A.J. Church and W.J. Brodribb]
SH72990. Silver denarius, RIC I 77 (R), RSC II Lucius Vitellius 3a, BMCRE I 26 var., BnF III 58 var., Hunter I 14 var., SRCV I 2237 var. (all var., ...IMP AVG TR P, Jul - Dec), gF, nice portraits, nice metal and surfaces, weight 3.076 g, maximum diameter 19.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. late Apr - Jul 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERMAN IMP TR P, laureate head of Vitellius right; reverse L VITELLIVS COS III CENSOR, laureate and draped bust of Lucius Vitellius (the emperor's father) right, eagle-tipped scepter to right; from the Jyrki Muona Collection, ex Ritter (2010); missing from the British Museum, Bibliothèque nationale de France, and the Hunter Coin Cabinet at Glasgow!; very rare; SOLD


Vitellius, 2 January - 20 December 69 A.D., Ex John Quincy Adams Collection

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Ex John Quincy Adams Collection, 6th President of the United States, and His Descendants, ex Massachusetts Historical Society Collection, ex Stack's Sale, 5-6 March 1971.
SH28063. Silver denarius, RIC I 73, RSC II 20, BMCRE I 7, BnF III 38, gVF, weight 3.167 g, maximum diameter 18.8 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERMAN IMP AVG TR P, laureate head right; reverse CONCORDIA P R (harmony with the people of Rome), Concordia seated left, patera in right hand, cornucopia in left hand; scarce; SOLD


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Exceptional high relief portrait and nice style. Some of the best Roman engravers worked at the Rome Mint from the late reign of Nero to the early reign of Vespasian. Apparently their ranks were thinned by the Civil Wars of 69 AD, because the bronze coinage of Vespasian is, by comparison, pedestrian in style.
SH21140. Orichalcum dupondius, RIC I 171, Cohen I 14, BMCRE I 72, BnF III -, SRCV I -, VF+, weight 9.872 g, maximum diameter 26.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERM IMP AVG P M TR P, laureate head right; reverse CONCORDIA AVGVSTI (to the harmony of the Emperor), Concordia seated left holding patera and cornucopia, lit altar before; ex Leo Benz collection, Lanz Auction 94, 11/22/1999 #303, est. 2000 DM; scarce; SOLD


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Struck in 69 A.D., the Year of the Four Emperors. After Nero's death, four emperors, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian, ruled in a remarkable succession. Vitellius, was never acknowledged as Emperor by the entire Roman world, though at Rome the Senate accepted him and decreed to him the usual Imperial honors. His entry into Rome became the scene of riot and massacre, gladiatorial shows and extravagant feasting. To reward his victorious legionaries, Vitellius disbanded the existing Praetorian Guard and installed his own men instead.
SH28911. Silver denarius, RIC I 66, RSC II 21, BMCRE I 1, BnF III 31, SRCV I 2196, gVF, fine high-relief portrait, weight 3.104 g, maximum diameter 17.4 mm, die axis 195o, Rome mint, May - Jul 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERMAN[ICVS IMP], bare head right; reverse CONCORDIA P R (harmony with the people of Rome), Concordia seated left, patera in right hand, cornucopia in left hand; scarce; SOLD


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In July 69, Vitellius learned that the armies of the eastern provinces had proclaimed their commander, Vespasian, as emperor. Vitellius, aware that he would be defeated, negotiated terms of resignation, but the praetorians refused to allow him to carry out the agreement, and forced him to return to the palace. When Vespasian's troops entered Rome he was dragged out of a lodge where he was hiding, taken to the fatal Gemonian stairs, and executed. His body was thrown into the Tiber according to Suetonius; Cassius Dio's account is that Vitellius was beheaded and his head paraded around Rome, and his wife attended to his burial. "Yet I was once your emperor," were his last words. His brother and son were also killed.
SH76127. Silver denarius, RIC I 107 (S), RSC II 72, BMCRE I 34, BnF III 71, Hunter I 17, SRCV I 2200, VF, excellent portrait, toned, tight flan, light marks and scratches, weight 3.292 g, maximum diameter 18.3 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, Jul - 20 Dec 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERM IMP AVG TR P, laureate head right; reverse PONT MAXIM (high priest), Vesta seated right on throne with back, veiled, draped, patera in right hand, long scepter in left hand vertical on left (far) side; scarce; SOLD


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Libertas (Latin for Liberty) was the Roman goddess and embodiment of liberty. The pileus liberatis was a soft felt cap worn by liberated slaves of Troy and Asia Minor. In late Republican Rome, the pileus was symbolically given to slaves upon manumission, granting them not only their personal liberty, but also freedom as citizens with the right to vote (if male). Following the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., Brutus and his co-conspirators used the pileus to signify the end of Caesar's dictatorship and a return to a Republican system of government. The pileus was adopted as a popular symbol of freedom during the French Revolution and was also depicted on some early U.S. coins.
SH87605. Silver denarius, RIC I 105, RSC II 47, BMCRE I 31, BnF III 67, Hunter I 11, SRCV I 2198, VF, toned, centered on a tight flan, light scratches and marks, tiny edge crack, weight 3.100 g, maximum diameter 18.4 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, May - Jul 69 A.D.; obverse A VITELLIVS GERM IMP AVG TR P, laureate head right; reverse LIBERTAS RESTITVTA (Liberty restored), Libertas standing facing, head right, pileus in extended right hand, long rod vertical in left hand; rare; SOLD




  




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OBVERSE| LEGENDS|

AVITELLIVSGERMAIMPAVGPMTRP
AVITELLIVSGERMANICVSIMP
AVITELLIVSGERMANIMPAVGPMTRP
AVITELLIVSGERMANIMPTRP
AVITELLIVSGERMIMPAVGTRP
AVITELLIVSGERIMPAVGPMAXTRP
AVITELLIVSIMPGERMAN
AVITELLIVSIMPGERMANICVS


REFERENCES|

American Numismatic Society (ANS) Collections Database Online - http://numismatics.org/search/search
Banti, A. & L. Simonetti. Corpus Nummorum Romanorum. (Florence, 1972-1979).
Burnett, A., M. Amandry & P.P. Ripollès. Roman Provincial Coinage I: From the death of Caesar to the death of Vitellius (44 BC-AD 69). (London, 1992 and supplement).
Calicó, X. The Roman Avrei, Vol. One: From the Republic to Pertinax, 196 BC - 193 AD. (Barcelona, 2003).
Calicó, E.X. The Roman Avrei, Vol. I: From the Republic to Pertinax, 196 BC - 193 AD. (Barcelona, 2003).
Cayón, J. Los Sestercios del Imperio Romano, Vol. I: De Pompeyo Magno a Matidia (Del 81 a.C. al 117 d.C.). (Madrid, 1984).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire Romain, Vol. 1: Pompey to Domitian. (Paris, 1880).
Giard, J-B. Monnaies de l'Empire romain, III Du soulèvement de 68 après J.-C. a Nerva. Catalogue Bibliothèque nationale de France. (Paris, 1998).
Mattingly, H. & R.A.G. Carson. Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, Vol 1: Augustus to Vitellius. (London, 1923).
Robinson, A. Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet, University of Glasgow, Vol. I. Augustus to Nerva. (Oxford, 1962).
Seaby, H.A. & R. Loosley. Roman Silver Coins, Vol. II: Tiberius to Commodus. (London, 1979).
Sear, D.R. Roman Coins and Their Values, The Millennium Edition, Volume One, The Republic and the Twelve Caesars 280 BC - AD 86. (London, 2000).
Sutherland, C.H.V. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. I, From 39 BC to AD 69. (London, 1984).
Vagi, D. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. (Sidney, 1999).

Catalog current as of Tuesday, November 19, 2019.
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Roman Coins of Vitellius