161-180 AD AV aureus Marcus Aurelius, as Augustus NGC MS 5/5 - 4/5
Coin ID: 2079062-003
(21mm, 7.34 gm, 12h) Fine Style. Pyrrhic Parthian Victory. Rome, AD 166-167. M ANTONINVS AVG-ARM PARTH MAX, laureate, cuirassed bust of Marcus Aurelius right, seen from behind / TR P XXI IMP IIII COS III, Victory advancing left, wreath upward in right hand, palm cradled in left arm. RIC III 172. Calicó 1996. Struck from fine style, high-relief dies on shimmering flan. This coin is absolutely gorgeous with the high relief dies and the watery shimmering backdrop. One of the most important and famous coins of Ancient Rome. Its not often you see this rarity in such a high state of condition and being among the finest known. Very RARE.
The 'Victory' celebrated on this aureus, over the Parthians in a long and difficult war AD 161-163, ended up being a Pyrrhic one for the Romans, as the returning Legions brought with them a virulent plague which quickly spread through most of the Roman Empire and devastated its population. The "Antonine Plague," also called the "Plague of Galen" after the famous physician who strove mightily against it, is now thought to have been smallpox or possibly measles. Europeans seemingly had no exposure to the illness before and died in enormous numbers. While not as devastating as the later Plague of Justinian or the Black Death of the 14th century, it seems to have severely depopulated vast regions and helped bring about the economic stagnation and external invasion that eventually brought down the Western Roman Empire.