Denarius of Marcus Aurelius

Photo: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service CC By SA2.0
Issued by: Marcus Aurelius
Denomination: Denarius
Mint: Rome
Period: Roman
Date found: 17/04/2023
Location: Craven, West Yorkshire


This denarius of Marcus Aurelius is considered a Find of Note of County Importance.

Conqueror of the Germans

The obverse shows the laureate head of Marcus Aurelius with the legend M ANTONINVS AVG GERM TR P XXIX. This can be expanded to Marcus Antoninus Augustus, Germanicus, Tribunicia Potestate Nona Vicesima meaning Marcus [Aurelius] Antoninus emperor (Augustus), conqueror of the Germans, holder of tribunician power for the 29th time.

This coin was issued in AD 176-177 when Marcus Aurelius returned to Rome following his success in the First Marcomannic War against various Germanic tribes. In 177 the treaty with the Germans broke down and Marcus went back to the front, never to return to Rome.


On the reverse of the coin is Liberalitis with abacus in her right hand and cornucopia in left. Liberalitis was the virtue of giving freely (from liber to mean free). The story goes that Liberalitis manifested herself when Trajan distributed cash to the populace in 99 AD and she appeared on coins of several other emperors to commemorate similar distributions.

Marcus Aurelius had a reputation for being generous on these occasions. Like every new emperor since Claudius, he gave a donative of cash to the Praetorian Guard. The difference was that his was twice as much as those of the past.

On his triumphal return to Rome in 176 he was once again very generous as the Roman historian, Lucius Cassius Dio records:

Then upon his return to Rome he made an address to the people; and while he was saying, among other things, that he had been absent many years, they cried out, “eight,” and indicated this also with their hands, in order that they might receive that number of gold pieces​20 for a banquet. He smiled and also said “eight”; and later he distributed to them eight hundred sesterces apiece, a larger amount than they had ever received before