History

Rare Emperor Nero Coin Found in England

Artifact embossed with the image of the hated Emperor Nero and dates to between A.D. 64 and 65.

A rare gold coin from the Roman Empire has been unearthed in England.

Archaeologists found the valuable coin, which is embossed with the image of the hated Emperor Nero and dates to between A.D. 64 and 65, at a site in Northern England. The archaeological site, called Vindolanda, was once a Roman fort near Hadrian's Wall.

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"My first find at Vindolanda nearly 20 years ago was a coin, but because of their scarcity, I didn't think for a moment that I would ever see a gold coin unearthed at the site. It was an absolutely magical moment for the whole team," Justin Blake, the deputy director of excavations at the site, said in a statement. [The 7 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]

The weighty piece of currency, called an aureus, would have equaled more than half of a soldier's yearly salary at the time.

A volunteer, Marcel Albert from France, unearthed the ancient coin in a layer of sediments that dated to the fourth century and that various archaeological teams had thoroughly scoured over several decades. Though the site has yielded thousands of coins over the years, none have been gold.

"I thought it can't be true. It was just sitting there as I scraped back the soil, shining, as if someone had just dropped it," Albert said in the statement.

The fact that the coin is much older than the archaeological layer in which it was found suggests it had been circulating for more than 300 years before it was lost.

Emperor Nero was one of the most controversial figures of the Roman era. He rose to power at the tender age of 16 under his mother's thumb, but went on to murder her and at least one of his wives.

He was also suspected of starting the great fire of Rome and then pinning the blame on Christians. He then executed many of them, burning the religious minority for sources of light in the evenings, setting wild dogs upon them or nailing them to crosses, according to the annals of Roman historian Tacitus.

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In order to build an opulent, golden palace in Rome, Nero scrambled for financing, searching for the lost treasure of Queen Dido of Carthage and even looting treasures from Greek and Roman temples, the annals read.

The emperor then issued more gold coins than previous emperors had done, though the coins were noticeably slimmer than in the past.

Emperor Nero was eventually ousted from power in a rebellion in A.D. 68 and committed suicide before he could be executed.

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A rare aureus, or gold coin embossed with the image of Emperor Nero was unearthed in a Roman-Era site in England

The Most Beautiful Fountain In the World

May 22, 2012 -

Possibly the most famous, and often called the most beautiful, fountain in the world, Rome's Fontana di Trevi celebrates its 250th birthday today. Built under the patronage of three popes -- Clement XII, Benedict XIV and Clement XIII -- the splendid water display was officially unveiled on May 22, 1762 after 30 troubled years of work. Here's a look at the history of this magnificent meeting place of Rome.

Aqua Virgo Although it was completed in the 18th century, the history of the fountain has its roots in antiquity. It begins in 19 BC, when Roman general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (64/63-12 BC) built the Aqua Virgo, an underground 13-mile aqueduct to feed Rome's first public baths. Standing 85 feet high and 65 feet wide at the juncture of three roads, the fountain marks the terminal point of the Aqua Virgo.

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Reliefs Coming from a spring in the Alban hills east of Rome, the pure and cold Aqua Virgo (Virgin Water) was so named because a young girl pointed out the the hidden source to Agrippa's military engineers. The story is depicted in two relief carvings above the fountain. The one on the right shows the young girl pointing out the spring to Agrippa and his engineers; the other, on the left, portrays the architects kneeling in front of Agrippa with the plans for the aqueduct. Busy workers building the aqueduct can be seen in the background.

Two Architects, Ten Sculptors, Dozens of Assistants Before it became a tourist hotspot, Rome's Piazza Trevi housed another fountain, a simple basin designed in 1453 by architect Leon Battista Alberti for Pope Nicholas V. In the mid-17th century Gian Lorenzo Bernini had this fountain destroyed in anticipation of remodeling the piazza and fountain into a grandiose monument. In fact, the work was stalled for nearly a century. Finally, Pope Clement XII sponsored a competition in 1732 for the fountain construction, which was won by architect Nicola Salvi. Construction of the new fountain against the façade of a palace took 30 years, between 1732 and 1762, using two architects (Salvi died when the fountain was half finished) ten sculptors, and dozens of assistants.

Neptune on a Shell A Baroque triumph, the fountain is dominated by a giant figure of the sea god Neptune on a seashell-shaped chariot. This is drawn by two sea horses and two Tritons (half-man, half-fish). One wild, the other tranquil, the horses represent the mood of the sea. Standing in niches, the statues of Abundance to the left, and Salubrity to the right oversee the scene. The water is made to fall over artificial rocks at the fountain travertine base. Emulating nature, the base features grottoes, rocks and carved representations of thirty plant species. This image is of Neptune flanked by the statues of Abundance and Salubrity. His chariot is pulled by two sea horses and Tritons.

La Dolce Vita Thanks to the 1954 movie "Three Coins in the Fountain" with Clifton Webb and Dorothy McGuire, the fountain became one of the must-see sights of Rome. Swedish actress Anita Ekberg helped spread the fountain's fame when she took a famous moonlight dip there with Marcello Mastroianni in Fellini's 1960 film "La Dolce Vita." When Mastroianni died in 1996, the Trevi was hushed and draped in black as a tribute to his memory.

Throwing Coins Each day, thousands of tourists throw coins over their shoulders into the fountain. According to legend, this is the recipe for a prompt return to Rome. To make the wish come true, one must stand with the back to the fountain and throw the coin in over the left shoulder, using the right hand.

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Fishing Coins There are many cases of people who regularly attempt to fish coins out of the fountain. Trevi's most famous raider, Roberto Cercelletta, known as d'Artagnan, collected coins from the fountain for 34 years until he was caught in 2002.

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Cleaning Up The coins which are splashed daily into the Trevi fountain are regularly collected at night or early morning. The cleaning collects several thousand euros and is turned over to the religious organization Caritas to be used to aid the poor.

Blood Red Water The Trevi Fountain's waters turned blood red in 2007, when Graziano Cecchini, believed to be an artist from the Italian Futurist art movement, threw paint into the basin. The fountain suffered no damage, but the man was placed under investigation for allegedly damaging a historical and artistic building.