AR Denarius. 3.78g, 19mm
MINTED: Lugdunum (Lyon) mint, Group 2, AD 15-18
REF: RIC I 28; Lyon 146; RSC 16b
OBVERSE: TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVSTVS, laureate head right; one ribbon on shoulder.
REVERSE: PONTIF MAXIM, Livia (as Pax) seated right on chair, no footstool, holding spear and olive branch; ornate chair legs, three lines below throne.
Good Very Fine. Outstanding example of the type, lightly toned with hints of iridescence, well-centered and complete on both sides, with a portrait of Tiberius in fine style, and an unusually elegant depiction of the Empress Livia as Pax on the reverse.
The 'Tribute Penny' mentioned in Matthew 22:20-22 of the King James version of the Bible is a coin that Jesus requests to be displayed when he is questioned about the lawfulness of the Jews paying tribute to the Roman emperor. When he asks whose image is on the coin, and the reply is that it is that of Caesar (ie., the emperor), Jesus then responds with the famous quote, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." While there are a number of other possible contenders for the coin in question, this ubiquitous denarius of Tiberius, emperor at the time of Jesus's ministry, is the coin most often held to be the 'Tribute Penny' referred to by Jesus. Because of this, this particular coin type has become of the most highly sought-after and collectible in the entire Roman series.
Under his stepfather, Augustus, Tiberius became one of Rome's most capable generals. Despite his military successes and abilities, he was not Augustus's first or even second choice as a successor. He was, as it happened upon Augustus's death, the only one left. When he donned the purple robes of the emperor in AD 14, Tiberius was already a middle-aged man of 54, dour and taciturn. It wasn't long before tragedy and the pressures of rule turned him disillusioned and paranoid.
In 23, Tiberius's son Drusus died, most probably poisoned by the power-hungry Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus. Sejanus was a close friend of Tiberius, and the emperor had grown to greatly rely on him. In 27, Sejanus even persuaded Tiberius to retire to the island of Capri, leaving the governing of the empire entirely in his hands. For a number of years, Sejanus behaved and ruled as de facto emperor of Rome, until he too fell from grace when secret suggestions reached Tiberius in Capri that Sejanus might be planning his overthrow. Tiberius had Sejanus executed without trial in 31, and the purges and numerous treason trials that followed cemented Tiberius's reputation as a paranoid and unstable tyrant. When he died in 37 at the age of 77, he was not mourned by many in Rome.
TIBERIUS . AD 14-37 . AR Denarius . 'Tribute Penny of the Bible'
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