Lucius Aurelius Commodus Caesar Augusti Filius
Reign: Marcus Aurelius, under I. Pol(l)ion (strategos for the second time, asiarch and neokoros)
Mint: Pergamum, Mysia
Date: 166/180 AD
Reference: RPC IV.2 3291 (under Antoninus Pius with Lucius Verus)
Reference: SNG Copenhagen 488 corr.
Reference: BMC 297 corr.
Reference: Weisser 1020b corr.
Reference: Gordy & Mosch Auction 263, Lot 3393 (07.03.2019)
RPC Online: https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/4/3291
Rare: Specimens 19 (12 in the core collections)
Provenance: Concordia Numismatik Tumeltsham, Austria (Auction 5, Lot 418)
Special: In the RPC Online database, the coinage is recorded under the reign of Antoninus Pius, with the bust of Lucius Verus – while the other standard references record this type under Commodus.
Obverse: Bare-headed bust of Commodus (youthful) wearing paludamentum, right, seen from centre
Inscription: Λ ΑVΡ ΑΙΛ ΚΟΜΟΔΟϹ
Translation: Lucios Aurelios Ailios Komodos
Translation: Lucius Aurelios Aelius Commodus
Reverse: Asclepius standing, facing, head, left, holding serpent-staff
Inscription: ΕΠΙ ΣΤΡΑΤ ΠΩΛΙ [TO B] ΠΕΡΓΑ
Translation: Epi Strategos Polion [to beta] Pergamum
Translation: Under Strategos Polion [for the second time], City of Pergamum
Comment: Pergamon (Latin Pergamum; today Bergama) was an ancient Greek city near the west coast of Asia Minor in present-day Turkey, about 80 km north of Smyrna (present-day İzmir). During the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, Pergamum was the capital of the Pergamene Empire, which covered large parts of western Asia Minor. Under the art-loving Attalid dynasty, which strove to create a new Athens, the city became one of the most important cultural centres of Hellenism. According to an ancient legend, the parchment named after Pergamon was invented in this city. In fact, Pergamon was a centre of parchment production. The settlement of Pergamon can certainly be proven for the Archaic period, but the findings are few and are mainly based on finds of fragments of Western imported pottery of Eastern Greek and Corinthian provenance, dating from the late 8th century BC. On the other hand, a settlement as early as the Bronze Age cannot really be established, even though Bronze Age stone tools from the area are not lacking. Pergamon is mentioned in literature for the first time in the year 400/399 BC, as the procession of the ten thousand, the so-called Anabasis, ended in Pergamon. Xenophon, who names the city Pergamos, handed over the remnants of the Greek mercenary army here in March 399 BC – according to Diodorus about 5,000 men – to Thibron, who was planning a campaign against Tissaphernes and Pharnabazos. In 362 BC, one Orontes, satrap in Mysia, tried to achieve independence in Pergamon. It was not until Alexander the Great that this area, and with it Pergamon, became independent from Persian domination.
At the time of the Diadochi, Pergamon, like the rest of Mysia, belonged to the domain of Lysimachus. He appointed Philetairos to guard the castle, where a large part of Lysimachus’ war booty, 9,000 talents, was deposited. With this treasure, Philetairos succeeded in becoming independent after the death of Lysimachus in 281 BC and founded his own dynasty with the Attalids. Since the reign of Attalus I, the Attalids had been among the most loyal supporters of Rome among the Hellenistic successor states. Under Attalus I, they sided with Rome against Philip V of Macedonia during the First and Second Macedonian Wars. With their request for help against Philip V, addressed to Rome in 201 BC, the Attalids, together with Rhodes, were one of the triggers of the Second War against Philip. Pergamon was also part of the Roman-Greek coalition in the Roman-Syrian War against the Seleucid Antiochos III, and was granted large parts of the Seleucid’s Asia Minor territory after the Peace of Apameia in 188 BC. Eumenes II also supported Rome in the Third Macedonian-Roman War against Perseus. Rome did not thank its ally. Based on a rumour that Pergamon had negotiated with Perseus during the war, Rome wanted Attalus II to replace Eumenes II as regent, which the latter rejected. As a result, Pergamon lost its privileged status in Rome and was not granted any further territories.
In 88 BC, Mithridates VI chose the city as his headquarters in the First Mithridatic War against Rome. The consequences of this war led to a stagnation in the development and expansion of the city. Pergamon lost all benefits and the status of a free city as an apostate city at the end of the war. Instead, the city was now subject to tribute, had to pay for the accommodation and food of Roman troops and the assets of many inhabitants were confiscated. Members of the Pergamene aristocracy in particular, who maintained excellent relations with Rome, appeared as benefactors of the city with their own wealth, above all Diodoros Pasparos in the 70s BC. Through his diplomatic skills, he succeeded in alleviating many of the new burdens or having them abolished. Numerous inscriptions of honour found in Pergamon bear witness to his work and his outstanding position in Pergamon at that time. Nevertheless, Pergamon remained highly famous and the proverbial delights of Lucullus were imported goods from this very city, which was given a conventus, the seat of a judicial district. Under Augustus, the first imperial cult, a neocoria, was established in Pergamon in the province of Asia. Pliny the Elder considered Pergamon the most important of the cities in the province and the local aristocracy continued to produce outstanding men, in the 1st century AD, for example, the twice consul Aulus Iulius Quadratus. The city’s pseudo-autonomous status was underlined by its own coinage. However, a bust of Roma is often found on the coins, which illustrated the subordination to Roman interests. However, it was not until the reign of Trajan and his successors that Pergamon underwent a comprehensive redesign and transformation, the construction of a Roman “new city” at the foot of the Acropolis, and was the first city in the province to receive a second neocoria from Trajan in 113/114 AD. Hadrian elevated the city to the rank of metropolis in 123 AD, thus distinguishing it from its rivals Ephesus and Smyrna. In the middle of the 2nd century, Pergamon was the largest city in the province next to these two and had about 200,000 inhabitants. Caracalla gave the city a third neocory, but decline was already setting in. Finally, under the soldier-emperors, Pergamon’s economic power waned and it visibly lost its importance and was threatened by invasions from the Goths. In late antiquity, there was a limited economic recovery.