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Ancient: Roman Provincial - Alexandria

Empress Sabina 133 - 134 CE AR tetradrachm

Year18 (c133-134 CE)             tetradrachm

Roman Provincial

Alexandria, Egypt

Empress Sabina

obv: laureate draped and cuirassed bust right;

rev: diademed & draped bust of Sabina right;   L-IH (regnal year) in fields


AR 12.96g 24mm Edge: plain

Köln 1093, Dattari 1255, Emmett 886,

Alexandria Milne 1389

Vibia Sabina was born circa 80 CE to Lucius Vibius Sabinus and Salonius Matidia. When her father died in 84 CE she was sent to live with her maternal grandmother in the household of Trajan and his wife, Plotina. Upon the recommendation of Plotina she was married to Hadrian in 100 CE. Hadrian was identified by Gibbon as one of the “Five Good Emperors”, actively promoting public infrastructure, defensible borders, and unification of all peoples within the empire.

He is also referred to as the “Wandering Emperor” because he was frequently away from Rome traveling the Empire to inspect troops and initiate or observe establishment of  infrastructure. His wife accompanied him on many such journeys. Perhaps because the couple did not produce any heirs rumors of an unhappy marriage appear in many sources.

There are indications of extramarital affairs, such as Hadrian’s attentions toward a young man named Antinous circa 128 to 130 when he drowned and similar speculation surrounding Sabina and Julia Balbila, a female member of her entourage whose poetry referred to the lovely form of the Empress Sabina. However, these account for only a few years whereas the couple spent over 36 years together. New research by Corey Brennan provides a more nuanced view of their marriage and life together.

The extensive travel provided the opportunity for Sabina to be seen by and interact with citizens throughout the empire which no doubt contributed her being beloved by the people of Rome and earning many honors. Central among these was the title of Augusta in 128CE, which she held until she passed away in 137 CE.

Hadrian named Antoninus Pius (another of the Five Good Emperors) as his successor. One cannot help but wonder if the goodwill and honors earned by Sabina paved the way for Faustina, wife of Antoninus Pius, to become the most revered Augusta in Roman history.

The L-IH in the field around Sabina is the date of issue. “L” is an abbreviation for year and IH were the Greek characters used to identify regnal year 18 of Hadrian’s reign which overlapped the years 133 and 134 CE.

The high relief, fine style, and champagne patina make this an exceptional coin. Rare and very challenging to find this nice.

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Ancient Roman Egypt AR Empress Sabina obverse
Ancient Roman Egypt Coin of Empress Sabina reverse