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Dupondius Livilla - Pietas


TIBERIUS, for Livilla, wife of Drusus. Æ Dupondius. Rome, circa 22/23 AD. Obv. PIETAS Veiled and diademed bust of Livilla r. Rev. DRVSVS CAESAR TI AVGVSTI F TR POT ITER around S C. Cohen 1 This dupondius belongs to a series of nine aera issued by Tiberius in 22/23 in his name, and that of his son and heir Drusus. The series is meant to introduce a new dynastic arrangement and to celebrate some of Tiberius’ proudest achievements. It has three dupondii – including this Pietas type – each of which bears a portrait of a woman that traditionally has been described as Livia or merely as the personification named in the accompanying inscription. The bust on this coin does not seem to be Livia or Pietas, but Drusus’ wife Livilla. It was first described as such in the 1880 Numismatic Chronicle by A. Colson. Since his new identification was not published in time for Cohen to consider it for the second edition of his eight-volume catalogue on Roman coins, Colson’s epiphany had little effect on researchers who compiled the standard works of the twentieth century. The confusion on the identification of the portrait may be attributed to the great influence of Cohen’s catalogue, in which he attributed to Livia all three portraits on the dupondii in the dated aes of 22/23. In reality, only one of them – the SALVS AVGVSTA dupondius – portrays Livia. Of the remaining two, the Pietas bust represents Livilla, and Justitia is the personification herself, as the type reflects the justice Tiberius achieved in court against Piso, who was said to have murdered Tiberius’ first heir Germanicus. There is much evidence to support the identification of the Pietas bust as Livilla, which has been gathered for a forthcoming monograph. Foremost is the fact that the coin is the centerpiece of the only three imperial coins issued in the name of Drusus during his lifetime: an as bearing his portrait, this dupondius with the portrait of his wife Livilla, and a sestertius showing cornucopias topped with the heads of their twin boys Tiberius Gemellus and Germanicus Gemellus. The three coins represent a ‘family set’ of coinage organized in descending denominational order, which celebrates the relatives that Tiberius intended to succeed himself and his mother Livia. Though Tiberius must have issued these coins with great satisfaction, his joy vanished when Drusus died soon thereafter. Nearly a decade would pass before Tiberius learned his son had been poisoned by Livilla, who was in league with the prefect Sejanus, to target not only Drusus, but Tiberius himself.[NAC] This type is sometimes considered as representing Pietas itself, but the diadem on the portrait excludes this interpretation. Provenance NAC 51, 5 March 2009, lot 836.

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I agree; a beautiful example of this type. I would be interested in how many users of this website may believe this portrait actually represents Livilla, the wife of Drusus, rather than Livia, the wife of Augustus, as some experts have suggested... or perhaps this was meant to be truly Pietas, rather than a member of the imperial family. For myself, I like to believe it may be Livilla (albeit in the guise of Pietas), as the reverse inscription links this so clearly to her husband.
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