Nero, Sestertius

The reverse of this sestertius shows Nero on horseback with a spear. He is accompanied by another soldier on horseback carrying a vexillum. There is SC (Senatus Consultum) across the field and in the exergue, DECURSIO which is the name of a Roman military exercise.

There is some debate as to the reason behind the DECURSIO coinage. Nero being shown involved with military manoeuvres is at odds with the fact that he was the first emperor not to have personally lead an army in the field. He never participated in campaigns because he said that the people of Rome loved him too much.

One suggestion is that the other figure is from the Praetorian guard. Such imagery is difficult to reconcile with Nero’s programme of advertising peace by presenting himself as Apollo.

A more plausible idea is that these are depictions of a theatrical display, in particular a mock battle, described by Virgil in Aeneid V, termed the Lusus Troiae, Troy Games. Nero participated in these as a boy and had a keen interest in Trojan history.

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