Lucius Verus, 161-169. Aureus (Gold, 19 mm, 7.34 g, 1 h), Rome, 164. L•VERVS AVG ARMENIACVS Bare head of Lucius Verus to right. Rev. TR P IIII IMP II COS II - REX ARMEN / DAT Lucius Verus seated to left on curule chair set on square platform; behind him to left and right, two officers; below to left, the Armenian King Sohaemus standing left, raising his right hand to his head to adjust his diadem or tiara and holding an uncertain object in his left. BMC 300. Calicó 2154 (same dies). Cohen 158. Hurter, Münzporträt, 18 (this coin). RIC 512. An exceptionally fine example of this important issue. Lustrous, sharply struck, and with a magnificent portrait and a particularly detailed reverse. Virtually as struck.
Ex Leu 5, 27 October 2019, 395, from the collection of G. Grabert, LHS 97, 10 May 2006, 33, ex Peus 314, 30 October 1985, 428 and probably from the Aventine Hoard of 1893.
Gaius Julius Sohaemus was a nobleman from Emesa who claimed an illustrious lineage back to the Median princess Iotapa, the betrothed of Alexander Helios, who was the eldest son of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII. However, Sohaemus was also a Roman senator, and at some point, even a consul, although the exact dates and succession of the events of his career are somewhat in dispute. Antoninus Pius probably appointed Sohaemus as King of Armenia in 144, but he was expelled in 161 from his throne by an offensive by the Parthian King Vologaeses IV (circa 147-191), who hoped to take advantage of the regime change in Rome following the death of Antoninus. However, it soon became obvious that Rome would not let this aggression go unpunished. After an initial defeat of the Roman governor of Cappadocia, Marcus Sedatius Severianus, Marcus Aurelius ordered his co-ruler, Lucius Verus, to lead a counter-offensive against the Parthians. The junior Augustus set up his command center in Antiochia, from where his general Marcus Statius Priscus invaded Armenia in 163 and restored Sohaemus to the Armenian throne, an event celebrated by the emission of this wonderful aureus.
The Roman advance did not stop there, as the brilliant general, Avidius Cassius, moved into Mesopotamia in 165, where he captured the Parthian capital of Ktesiphon, before pushing into Media in 166. When the Romans eventually withdrew, they brought with them what would later be called the Antonine Plague, a dreadful disease that greatly harmed the empire over the next fifteen years. The fate of Sohaemus, on the other hand, is again somewhat in dispute, as there are reports of him being expelled from Armenia once again, perhaps during the Roman retreat of 166. However, the next King of Armenia whose name we know of was Vologaeses II, who assumed the throne in 186. This large gap in time has led to speculations that Sohaemus, though undoubtedly by this point quite old, may still have been in power.