In 196, civil war raged again in the Roman Empire. A man or his family had the idea of taking their life savings to safety and buried them in the basement of their home in Augusta Treverorum, now Trier. Apparently that didn't help their owners to save their lives, because they didn't return. Not even the later ancient residents of the house in today's Feldstrasse had any idea that they lived on a fortune. The hoard was only discovered in 1993: the largest treasure trove that has come to light worldwide from the first centuries of the Roman Empire.
His career provides material for a film. When it was found improperly, a veritable gold rush set in in Trier, attracting dozens of treasure hunters. After the gold had been stored in the storeroom of the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier for years, it finally made it into the exhibition in 2013. In 2019, thieves broke into the coin cabinet and tried to break into the display case. She held out, the gangsters fled, one of them is now serving his sentence, the others are still on the run.
It took three years to equip the Trier gold coin hoard with the latest anti-theft devices. It has been on display again in the State Museum since September 10: 2,510 aurei (gold coins) weighing a good 18.5 kilograms and with a fineness of 990/1000 - around a tenth of all gold coins worldwide known from the high imperial period are.
These are just a few superlatives of the find of the century. 29 emperors, empresses and members of the imperial family are depicted on his coins. About 80 issues are only known from specimens from the treasury. Its value at that time would have been enough to support around 132 legionnaires for a year, four to five gold coins corresponded to the annual earnings of a day laborer family.
The oldest aurei date from the late reign of Emperor Nero (ruled 54-68), the final coin can be dated to 196. In that year, the emperor Septimius Severus (reigned 193–211) and the usurper Clodius Albinus laid large parts of Gaul in ruins. Augusta Treverorum was also besieged. After the victory of Septimius, his followers brutally attacked the loser's followers. It is therefore a thesis that a party member of Clodius Albinus, possibly a high magistrate - because the site is located in a complex that may have belonged to a palace of the authorities - wanted to bring the treasure to safety.
However, the gap between 166/67 and the reign of Septimius, from which no coins found their way into the hoard, may not fit in with this. By the way, its last Roman owner was an accurate man. Tissue traces show that the coins were counted in rolls. They were stored in a bronze vessel 25 centimeters high. The total content was deduced from its volume. According to this, up to 132 pieces may have been lost in the course of the salvage.
Because on September 9, 1993, a gold rush atmosphere came over Trier. Archaeological investigations before the start of construction work for an underground car park had already been completed when an excavator hit the bronze vessel with a shovel and dumped its contents onto a truck. No sooner had passers-by discovered the first remaining pieces of gold than the first hobby archaeologists appeared. People are said to have boasted about the robbed finds in inns. Finally, a searcher discovered most of the treasure in a landfill and informed the preservationists. 18 other finders finally delivered pieces.
Since then, analyzes have elicited a great deal of information from the Aurei – and left unanswered questions. The lack of coins from the reign of Emperor Domitian (ruled 81–96) was initially interpreted as a consequence of the damnatio memoriae imposed on him by the Senate after his death. In the meantime, however, a financial policy measure by Domitian has been recognized as the cause. After Nero had reduced the weight of the Aurei because of his excessive spending, Domitian returned to the old standard. When, a few years after his death, the weight and thus the metal value was reduced again, shrewd investors such as the Treasurer from Trier withdrew the valuable old coins from the market.
The analysis of alleged counterfeits has now also led to an amazing result. About 80 coins contain a core covered with a black film. New research shows that underneath is gold that has been plated with gold from other sources. That speaks against counterfeiting. What the numerous graffiti and signs on more than 400 coins mean is still unclear. The gold guards its secrets.
Participation in the presentation of the treasure was supported by the Directorate General for Cultural Heritage Rhineland-Palatinate. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at axelspringer.com/de/Werte/downloads.
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