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Receiving the Emperor

476270. Sold For $27500

Claudius. AD 41-54. AV Aureus (18mm, 7.76 g, 3h). Rome mint. Struck AD 46-47. RIC I 36; von Kaenel Type 23; Calicó 362a; BMCRE 37; BN 52; Biaggi 207. Near EF, underlying luster. Rare and historically important type.


…[Claudius] became emperor in his fiftieth year by a very surprising turn of fortune. When the assassins of Caius (i.e., Caligula) shut out the crowd under the pretense that the emperor wished to be alone, Claudius retired to an apartment called the Hermaeum; and soon afterwards, terrified by the report of Caius being slain, he crept into an adjoining balcony, where he hid himself behind a curtain. A common soldier, who happened to pass that way, spying his feet and desirous to discover who he was, pulled him out; when immediately recognizing him, he threw himself in a great fright at his feet and saluted him by the title of emperor. He then conducted him to his fellow-soldiers, who were all in a great rage and irresolute what they should do. They put him into a litter, and as the slaves of the palace had all fled, took their turns in carrying him on their shoulders and brought him into the camp, sad and trembling; the people who met him pitied him, as if the poor innocent man was being carried to execution. Being received within the ramparts, he spent his night among the sentries on guard, recovered somewhat from his fright, but in no great hopes of the succession. For the consuls, with the senate and civic troops, had taken possession of the Forum and Capitol with the determination to assert the public liberty. When he too was summoned to the Senate House by the tribunes of the commons to give his advice on the situation, he sent word that “he was detained by force and compulsion.” But the next day, the senate being dilatory in their proceedings and worn out by divisions amongst themselves, while the people who surrounded the Senate House shouted that they would have one master, naming Claudius, he allowed the soldiers assembled under arms to swear allegiance to him, promising them fifteen thousand sestertii a man; he being the first of the Caesars who purchased the submission of the soldiers with money.

Suetonius, Claud. 10.1-4.

This type commemorates the “reception of the emperor” (imperator receptus) at the Praetorian Camp and the protection the Praetorian Guard afforded Claudius in the days following the assassination of Caligula. The barracks were located to the northeast of Rome beyond the Servian Wall between the Porta Viminalis and the Porta Collina (part of the structure was later incorporated into the Aurelian Wall and can still be seen today). Issued over a number of years in both gold and silver, this type was no doubt struck to serve as part of the annual military payments the emperor had promised the Guard in return for their role in raising him to the throne.