Nero and the Solar Eclipse of 59 AD


When Nero came to power in AD 54, there were no recent solar eclipse events over the Empire. The above coin has a portrait of a 16 year old Nero which was minted in Acmonea, Phrygia, ( modern west central Turkey) in AD 55. Note the "happy youth" appearance. The reverse has Zeus seated pouring a libation on an owl. Nero loved Greek culture and the owl is likely symbolic for Greater Greece which included western modern day Turkey. The solar crescent on the reverse is associated with the deity of Zeus and probably not to a specific solar eclipse event.

Nero became more despotic as he aged. He was the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and his ancestors were recognized as "gods." The solar eclipse of AD 59 may have accelerated his decline into believing he was a deity.

The next coin from Acmonea AD 62, shows Nero, age 24, in a different light. His appearance is stern. He now has a solar crescent on the obverse by his portrait. He claims an astrologic symbol justifying his reign, directly or indirectly thru mint authorities. A caduceus is also on the obverse symbolizing his authority over trade. AD 62 is recognized as when Nero became overtly murderous and cruel, killing rivals and people who made fun of him. Nero continued to placate Greek culture and tried to flee to the Eastern provinces before Galba reached Rome in AD 68. Nero committed suicide before he could be publicly executed by the Senate.

Photo 1, Marti Classical Numismatics

Photo 2, Pavlos S. Pavlou, Numismatist


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