137 AD, Aelius -
Aelius. Caesar, AD 136-138. AR Denarius (18mm, 3.45 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck under Hadrian, AD 137. Bare head right / Concordia seated left on throne, holding patera and resting elbow on cornucopia set on base. RIC II 436 (Hadrian); RSC 1.
Aelius Caesar began life in around AD 104 as Lucius Ceionius Commodus, son of a distinguished senator. Handsome and affable, Lucius entered public service in his 20s and rose steadily through the ladder of public offices until he attracted the attention of the Emperor Hadrian, who by the mid AD 130s was aging rapidly and searching for a suitable heir. Upon attaining the consulship in 136, Aelius was formally adopted by Hadrian and took the name Lucius Aelius Caesar, marking him out as successor to the throne. Historians have long speculated as to why Hadrian chose the seemingly unimpressive Aelius, some even postulating that he was Hadrian's illegitimate son. However, Aelius may well have been far more competent than chroniclers of the time, who tended to be hostile toward Hadrian, allowed. This beautifully engraved denarius depicts Aelius with a luxuriant head of curls and a longer beard than Hadrian’s, setting the style for the Antonine rulers that followed.
Images and data courtesy of CNG.