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Lot 126

Rome. Severus Alexander, 222-235 AD. Gold Aureus (6.31 g), Rome mint, struck 223 AD. Laureate and draped bust of Severus right. Reverse: View of the coliseum (the Flavian Amphitheater): the building has four stories, the first three are arcades with each containing a statue, and the top being of solid masonry with windows and supports for the wooden masts that held the great awnings which protected the spectators from Rome's fierce sun; at the left, a shrine with statue within; at right, a section of a building's column and pediment (perhaps the temple of Jupiter Victor); P M TR P II COS P P. BMCRE -- (but see p. 54 and pp. 128-129, 156-158); cf. C. 247 (silver); cf. Foss. 7 var. (bronze); cf. RIC 33 (silver); Calicó 3095; Sear II 7825 (= Calicó 3095); Vagi 1976. Finely centered and superbly struck, with all the minute details of the building clear and sharp. Of the highest rarity, this the second of two known specimens, and perhaps the finer. NGC graded About Uncirculated.

The name Coliseum, for the Amphitheatrum Flavium as it was originally designated, began to be used around 1000 AD. Begun by Vespasian, inaugurated by Titus in 80 AD, and actually completed during the reign of Domitian, the amphitheater was one of the most remarkable Roman structures to survive to this day. Designed to seat 50,000 spectators, it had around eighty entrances to speed the attending crowds through -- whether they were departing or arriving. Its construction is surprisingly "modern" in its utilization of different combinations of types of construction and materials: concrete for the foundations, travertine marble for the piers and arcades, tufa (a soft and easily worked volcanic rock) as infill between piers and walls of the lower two levels, and finally brick-faced concrete being used for the upper levels as well as for most of the vaults.

In 217 AD, early in the reign of Macrinus, the building was struck by lightning and badly damaged. (This was seen as a very ill omen for the tenure of the new emperor, who had replaced the recently assassinated Caracalla, and whose death he was intimately involved in.) By 218 the Severan dynasty was once more on the throne, in the guise of Elagabalus, and repairs to the Coliseum were begun. Work continued under Severus Alexander so that by 223 AD the building was sufficiently restored to be used once more be used (work on the structure would continue for well over another decade, to be finished during the reign of Gordian III, who celebrated its completion with a small issue of medallions).

In honor of the Coliseum's reopening, Severus Alexander struck a very small issue of commemorative coins: a number of sestertii and asses are known today, a denarius was recorded by Cohen but is now lost, and of course the two aurei, of which this coin is perhaps the finer.
Estimated Value $150,000 - 175,000.
The first example: Biaggi 1323 (=Kent/Hirmer 424 = Steinberg 649 = Hunt III 88 = Bank Leu 79, no. 318 = Hess-Leu 24, no. 333; same dies). These exceptionally important coins came from a small hoard of aurei found in the early 1960s. This other example, ex Hess-Leu 24, now resides in a private Swiss collection (Calicó 3095). Illustrated in Money of the World, coin 51.

Realized $920,000

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