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did rome's most indulgent emporer give it its least?


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vitellius spent most of his short reign eating everything he could get a hold of, including livers of pike, the brains of pheasants and peacocks, the tongues of flamingoes and the milt of lampreys in the famous dish "the shield of minerva"

here are a couple of ancient sources on him

"being besides a man of an appetite that was not only boundless, but also regardless of time or decency, he could never refrain, even when he sacrificing or making a journey, from snatching bits of meat and cakes amid the altars, almost from the very fire, and devouring them on the spot; and in the cookshops along the road, viands smoking hot or even those left over from the day before and partly consumed"  - suetonius

"he was insatiate in gorging himself, and was constantly vomiting up what he ate, being nourished by the mere passage of the food" - cassius dio

dio goes on to claim he expended 900,000,000 sesterces on dinners during his reign.


marcus aurelius, famously stoic, always seemed to struggle with the luxury he had access to from being born into a wealthy family. in his early years he was known to wear simple clothing and sleep on the ground and later while emperor he chose to sell off imperial finery to raise needed funds instead of raising taxes. a surviving letter from fronto has his former teacher begging him to take advantage of his leisure time knowing he will spend his vacation working.

so whats the connection? image00463.jpg.9f53300d253e255341a06959368438c3.jpg


Vitellius 69 AD. AR Denarius, Rome mint. Obv. A VITELLIVS GERMA[N IMP] TR P. Laureate head right. Rev. LIBERI IMP G[ERMAN]. Busts of Vitellius'son Vitellius Germanicus and daughter Vitellia. RIC I (2nd ed.) 101. AR. 3.17 g. 19.00 mm.

we know rupilia faustina was marcus aurelius' grandmother and that her father was the consul libo rupilius frugi. frugi was married to salonia matidia, the niece of the emperor trajan, but that marriage is too late for salonia to be faustina's mother.

"in 70, the new emperor vespasian took vitellia under his wing, provided her with a dowry, a house and an unnamed husband. some historians such as settipani and strachan have proposed that he was libo rupilius frugi and that she was the mother of his daughter rupilia faustina, thus explaining the use of the nomen galeria among female members of the nerva-antonine dynasty." - wikipedia

i personally don't have the expertise to know how likely this is but i found the possibility so fascinating that i had to get the coin with marcus' potential great great grandpa and great grandma

interestingly in one of fronto's letters to marcus he says - "After Augustus a few relics only, withered already and decaying, were left over for the notorious Tiberius. But his successors without a break to Vespasian were all of such a kind as to make us no less ashamed of their speaking than disgusted with their characters and sorry for their acts." - kinda rude to insult a man's great great grandpappy!

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Next up in the series "Coin-minting Gluttons Wot Died From It" I present  Dionysios the Elder. He reportedly  died from  over-eating and over-drinking in celebration when his play The Ransom of Hector  won a prize at the Athens Lenaia  festival.

Litra, around 405/395 BC BC; 0.78g Arethusa head l. behind dolphin//octopus.



UntitledT RHDER.jpg

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