BEAUTY MAY BE EPHEMERAL, BUT THANKS TO THE ANCIENT DIE ENGRAVERS, UGLY CAN BE FOREVER ...

Don't get me wrong ... I love all of the coins below, and they hold honored places in my collection. But they do demonstrate that "attractive" was not a prerequisite to become a supreme ruler of a big empire, and also that emperors and kings were sometimes much too lax in lopping off the heads of certain die engravers ...

Fourth Runner-Up

Alas, poor Claudius. With all his physical problems, he did not fare well with the die engravers. This copper as is actually one of the MORE attractive portraits I've seen of him. Some really should have led to the execution of the engraver. Click HERE to see what I mean.

Third and Second Runner-Up -- A Mother/Son TIE!

Elagabalus and his mom were not well liked. This may account for the scarcity of sympathetic portraits of either of them. These scans don't fully do justice to the bug-eyed portraits on these two denarii of the mother/son team whose corpses would soon be dragged through the streets of Rome (to the cheers of the throng) and dumped in the Tiber like common criminals.

First Runner-Up

Gallienus was a well-meaning fellow who came to power in very bad times. After the Persians made his father into a living footstool, no one ever seemed to take him seriously -- including the die engravers. I have seen only one portrait of him that attempted to portray him in a sympathetic light. This silver antoninianus is clearly NOT it!

AND THE WINNER IS ...

Heading east to Parthia, we find Mithradates II, possibly the single ugliest fellow ever to lead a major world power -- and I'm counting Winston Churchill and Charles DeGaulle. I've seen a few portraits that tried to play down his schnozz, but the portrait on this silver drachm is pretty typical.


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