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Lot 4125

Augustus, 27 BC-AD 14. Silver Denarius (3.70g) uncertain Eastern mint, ca. 12 BC. CAESAR. Youthful head of Augustus right within an oak wreath. Reverse: Candelabrum ornamented with a ram's head, surmounted by crescent, all within floral wreath entwined with two bucrania and two paterae. RIC 540; Cohen 2; RSC 2 (Caius Caesar). Deep iridescent toning over a few old hairlines. Struck with a fine, high relief portrait. Rare. Nearly Extremely Fine.

This enigmatic issue has often been assigned to 17 BC and seen as a commemorative of the Ludi Saeculares, while the portrait was long believed to be that of Caius Caesar. Noted Augustus scholar and collector Richard Prideaux has argued cogently for a different view. The youthful portrait here can only be that of Augustus as signaled by the oak wreath, his personal signature. The overall symbolism, meanwhile is not only religious but funereal, and the only logical event of magnitude that would call for such an issue was the sudden death of Agrippa in 12 BC from a fatal illness suffered from the rigors of the Pannonian campaign.

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and his family had been made official heirs of the empire only scant months before. His demise deeply saddened Rome and especially affected the legions who revered Agrippa. Prideaux has proposed that this issue, and its gold counterpart, was struck in Pannonia to pay the now leaderless and possibly restive legions. A local engraver would have produced the dies. Unfamiliar with producing the face of Augustus, he used a generic profile but identified it as Augustus by using the oak wreath. Thus also reminding the legions of their emperor's corona civica while paying tribute to their beloved departed commander.
Estimated Value $4,000 - 6,000.
The Hunter Collection.

Realized $5,060

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