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Sale 72

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Lot 4171

Caracalla, AD 198-217. AE Sestertius (32.30g) minted at Rome, AD 213. M AVR ANTONINVS PIVS FELIX AVG. Laureate and cuirassed bust right of bearded Caracalla. Reverse: P M TR P XVI IMP II, around; below Circus, COS IIII P P; in exergue, S C. View of a chariot race in the Circus Maximus, showing a long arcade flanked by monumental arches in the foreground, the central spina and obelisk, turning-posts at both ends, and the shrine of Sol in the background. RIC 500c; C. 237; cf. Sear 6929 (obverse legend). An extremely rare obverse variety of this famous reverse type. Pleasing uniform chocolate brown patina. Struck on a medallic flan. Nearly Extremely Fine.

The Circus Maximus, Rome's great chariot-racing arena adjoining the Palatine Hill, dates back to the fourth century BC. The wooden seating surrounding the track was frequently consumed by fire during the Julio-Claudian and Flavian periods, and Trajan undertook a major restoration of the structure early in the second century AD. This was commemorated on the coinage, thus providing the first detailed representation of the building. A similar view appears on aurei and sestertii of Caracalla issued in AD 213 following a further restoration.

The great central obelisk is clearly visible as are various other details of the interior, including several charioteers racing around the track. Brought from Heliopolis in Egypt by Augustus, this obelisk of Rameses II now stands in the middle of Rome's Piazza del Popolo. Constantine the Great undertook the final refurbishment of the building, and the last recorded event in the Circus took place under the Ostrogothic king Totila in AD 550 (cf. Hill, The Monuments of Ancient Rome as Coin Types, pp. 47-8).
Estimated Value $15,000 - 20,000.
The Hunter Collection; Ex Leu-Hess "ESR" Sale, 23 March 1961, lot 265; Trau Auction, Vienna 1935, lot 2277.

Realized $11,500

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