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The Emperor Reborn
Hadrian & the Eleusinian Mysteries

322, Lot: 543. Estimate $300.
Sold for $1700. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Hadrian. AD 117-138. AR Cistophorus (28mm, 10.18 g, 7h). Unidentified Mint C in Asia Minor. Restitution issue struck under Hadrian, after AD 128. IMP CAESAR AVGVSTVS, bare head right / HADRIANVS AVG • P P • REN, Hadrian standing slightly left, holding grain ears in right hand. RIC II 532; Metcalf, Cistophori type 92, 350; RSC 1 (Hadrian and Augustus). Near VF, minor roughness, light scratches.

The REN(atus), or “reborn,” portion of the reverse legend serves two purposes. The term was used to describe those initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, who were born again into eternity (“aeternum renatus”), and here we find Hadrian fittingly holding the grain ears of Ceres and Prosperine. There is also a clear intent to link himself with Rome’s first emperor, as aptly described by Harold Mattingly (BMCRE p. clxi): “Hadrian, ever anxious to appear to his subjects as a ‘Nἐoς Σεβαστὀς’, a second Augustus come to earth, finds in their common experience of initiation a suitable expression of that spiritual kinship.”