Roman coins of the “Twelve Caesars”


Coin collectors are a passionate, devoted lot; their patience is characterised by determination and also by an abiding fascination for the many stories behind antique coin collections.


The “Twelve Caesars” – a collection of antique Roman coins – presents a challenge to collectors. Besides dedication, deep pockets are a must to acquire this rare coin collection.


A brief history


The moniker “Twelve Caesars” is inspired by a Roman literary composition, De vita Caesarum by Suetonius, describing the reign of Julius Caesar and 11 successive Roman emperors, a tumultuous period in history that witnessed the fall of the Roman Republic, the outbreak of civil war and the creation of the vast Roman Empire.


The Twelve Caesars


The first six emperors comprise the Julio-Claudian dynasty: Julius Caesar, his nephew Octavian (a.k.a. Augustus Caesar, who established Rome’s military power across Europe) and Tiberius (who ruled during the life of Jesus Christ); also, Caligula, Claudius and Nero, still remembered for their whimsical personalities.


Post the fall of the Julio-Claudian dynasty in A.D.68, four men ascended the throne – Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian. Vespasian founded the Flavian dynasty; his sons Titus and Domitian are the last two of the “Twelve Caesars”.


The collection


The “Twelve Caesars” collection comes in gold, silver, and copper with the gold coin collection being the most difficult and expensive to come by. A gold “Caesar” is denominated as an “aureus”; with its high gold content, this was the most valued currency across the Roman Empire for 400 years. The 12 aurei feature the likeness of the reigning emperor on their obverse; on the reverse is a design bearing some significance.


The first aureus bears the likeness of Augustus Caesar. His slain uncle, Julius Caesar, is profiled on its reverse, as a mark of honour.


The second aureus has on the obverse a surprisingly youthful Augustus Caesar, with a charging bull on its reverse.


The third “Caesar” features Tiberius; his mother Livia, Augustus Caesar’s wife, appears on the reverse.


Mad Caligula is fourth among the “Twelve Caesars”. Here too, a deceased relative is honoured – Agrippina, Caligula’s mother, appears on the coin’s reverse. As Augustus Caesar’s grand-daughter, she played a significant role in ensuring Caligula’s ascendancy to power.


Some coins feature allegorical personalities on their reverse. The aureus of Emperor Claudius is paired with Constantia, symbol of courage and resolution. Virtus, personification of bravery, is cast on Nero’s aureus, while the figure of Pax, who personified Peace, is paired with a bewigged Otho. The Domitian aureus has a cornucopia or horn of plenty on its reverse.


History, power and political intrigue – the “Twelve Caesars” collection is much more than the sum of its parts. Quite irresistible to the coin collector with means!


While you might not be able to find the Twelve Caesars on bidorbuy, we do have a range of rare and collectible coins available.


12 Caesars Gold Coins