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Aelius Caesar – 136-138AD

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Aelius Caesar

Aelius Caesar Bust Louvre

As Caesar, 136 – 138 AD

In 136 AD, Hadrian was in failing health and chose that moment to select his successor. Hadrian chose Lucius Ceionius Commodus, and upon his adoption, his name was changed to Lucius Aelius Caesar. Aelius was the son of a powerful senatorial family who came to the attention of Hadrian. Aelius served as consul in 136 AD and was officially adopted by Hadrian as his heir in 137 AD.

2 aelius d

Aelius’ appearance on the coinage of Rome with the title of “Caesar” was certainly a clear indication that Hadrian intended him to be his heir. Aelius was reportedly strikingly handsome, which may have been one reason Hadrian selected him as his heir. However, Aelius was also quite popular in Rome.

1 aelius

Aelius had also been appointed Governor of Pannonia. At the time of his adoption, Hadrian ordered the execution of his brother-in-law Julius Ursus Servianus and his grandson to prevent them from making any future claims to the throne. He then arranged for Aelius’ daughter Fabia to be married to a young favorite of his named Marcus Aurelius when he was about 16 years old. Hadrian then spent a huge sum of money at the time of Aelius’ adoption as an accession donative to the Praetorian Guard to ensure their loyalty and smooth transition of power. While the actual amount of the payment is unknown, given that Marcus Aurelius’ donative was 5,000 denarii, it would appear that Hadrian must have paid an amount somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 denarii per man.

Unfortunately, Aelius died of tuberculosis before Hadrian on January 1st, 138 AD. Hadrian is said to have complained about paying such a large donative for nothing, leaving him in a difficult position concerning an heir. Hadrian was therefore forced to choose a new heir, Antoninus Pius, an elderly senator with no son of his own. At the same time, Antoninus adopted Hadrian’s favorite Marcus Aurelius and the son of Aelius Caesar – Lucius Verus. Aelius was buried in Hadrian’s mausoleum, known today as the Castle Saint Angelo in Rome.

According to the early historian Vero, the title of Caesar was first bestowed upon Aelius at the time of his adoption by Hadrian. However, the historian Aurelius Victor suggests that Hadrian was the first to receive the title of Caesar upon his adoption by Trajan. The numismatic evidence is clear in that gold coinage showing Hadrian as Caesar with Trajan does exist, thus suggesting that Hadrian was the most likely the first to receive this title.

Monetary System

Aelius AV Aureus

Mints: Rome

Obverse Legends:



Aelius Caesar Denominations Aureus Denarius head left denarius sestertius dupondius as

AU Aureus (6.54 grams)
AU Quninarius
AR Denarius (3.54 grams)
AR Quinarius
AE Sestertius
AE Dupondius

The RARE Head Left

Aelius AV Aureus Denarius hd Left

AU Aueus
AR Denarius


Aelius AE Tetradrachm Egypt

BL Tetradrachm (Egypt)

The Monetary History of the World
© Martin A. Armstrong