Image: Bare-headed bust of Commodus looking right
Inscription: COMMODO CAES AVG FIL GERM SARM
Image: Spes walking left, holding flower and lifting skirt
Inscription: SPES PVBLICA SC
RIC III, Marcus Aurelius, no. 1544, p. 336.
This as, minted between 175 and 176 CE, depicts on the obverse the head of Commodus and on the reverse Spes, the goddess of hope. The inscription on the obverse refers to Commodus, then the heir to the imperial throne, as Commodus, Caesar, Augusti filius, or son of Augustus, Germanicus and Sarmathicus. The inscription on the reverse refers to the goddess of hope as Spes Publica, emphasizing the fact that in Commodus, all the hopes of the Roman empire were catalyzed. The inscription refers to Commodus as Caesar. From the Flavian period onwards, this was the title given to the heir to the throne. On the other hand, the reigning emperor, Marcus Aurelius, is referred to as Augustus. Lucius Aurelius Commodus, born in 161 CE, was the son of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger. In 172 CE, Commodus followed his father during the First Marcomannic War. Besides, in 175 CE, Commodus was selected to be a member of the College of Pontiffs. In 176 CE, when this coin was minted, Commodus had been associated by his father to the celebration of the triumph on the Germans and Sarmatian tribes, defeated during the First Marcomannic War. By the end of the war, the army had acclaimed him as emperor, in fact consecrating him as the chosen heir. However, it was only a year later, that is in 177 CE, that Commodus was formally associated with the throne, receiving the title of Augustus as well as the tribunician power.
Spes, the goddess of hope, dressed in a tunic and draped in a stola, which she is lifting up, is depicted holding a flower. Spes, whose Greek counterpart was Elpis, was an ancient Roman goddess. A temple to Spes Vetus, possibly erected in the fifth century BCE, stood near the Praenestine Gate. Another temple to Spes had been vowed during the First Punic War. Spes was closely associated with other goddesses such as Concordia, the goddess of concord and harmony, and Victoria, the goddess of victory. As Spes Augusta, the goddess of hope was worshipped as the goddess who, in close association with the emperor, was empowered to guarantee a satisfactory future. Here, however, Spes appears as Spes Publica. Possibly she is referred to as the hope of the state, in fact of the whole Roman empire, as she is closely associated with the young heir to the throne.