Numismatica Ars Classica   |   Auction 73   |   18 November 2013
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Lot: 258   |   Estimate: 90'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 72'000 CHF Price realized: 150'000 CHF
The Collection of Roman Republican Coins of a Student and his Mentor Part II
Quintus Labienus Parthicus. Denarius, mint moving with Labienus in Asia Minor 40 BC, AR 3.83 g. Q LABIENVS – PARTHICVS·IMP Bare head of Labienus r. Rev. Parthian horse r., with bridle and saddle, to which bow-case and quiver are attached. Babelon Atia 3. C 2. Sydenham 1357. C. Hersh, SNR 59, obv. G – rev. –. Sear Imperators 341. Crawford 524/2.
Extremely rare and among the finest specimens known. An absolutely spectacular
portrait, possibly the finest of Labienus, struck in high relief and a wonderful
old cabinet tone, an absolutely unobtrusive area of weakness on obverse,
otherwise good extremely fine Ex Hauck & Aufhäuser sale November 1985, 189. The imperatorial age offered much opportunity to ambitious commanders, as anyone who could lead men in battle was a valued commodity. Loyalty was not always the most valued trait in this environment, for on many occasions defections were not only sensible, but invited, and rewarded. We tend to degrade traitors in the historical tradition, but we often are not privy to the multitude of factors faced by these men, which ranged from subtle personality conflicts to unexpected political developments. It is in this charitable light, perhaps, that we should judge Labienus, one of the vigorous commanders from the age of Antony, Octavian and Sextus Pompey. Originally Brutus and Cassius had sent Labienus to Parthia to seek support from king Orodes II, but he could not achieve his objective before his masters were defeated at Philippi in October, 42 B.C. Labienus was thus in a bind, being unable to return to the West. Rather than facing his punishment, Labienus switched strategies by encouraging Orodes II to invade Syria, with himself sharing the command with the king’s son, Pacorus I. The invasion probably began early in 40 B.C. when Antony was torn between that calamity and an equally urgent situation in the West, where his brother Lucius had been defeated by Octavian in the Perusine War. Antony decided to sail westward to meet Octavian and, in the meantime, many cities and legions defected to Labienus, who presented himself as the last ember of the Republican cause. He and Pacorus initially defeated Antony’s governor Lucius Decidius Saxa, and then they divided their forces: Labienus invaded Asia Minor and Pacorus drove into Palestine and Phoenicia. Alarmed by their success, early in 39 B.C. Antony sent his lieutenant Ventidius to restore order, which he did with great efficiency. He first captured and executed Labienus at the Cilician Gates in 39 B.C. and soon afterward chased Pacorus and his army back across the Euphrates. This famous denarius bears a portrait of the unfortunate Labienus, identified by his name, the title imperator, and the cognomen Parthicus, which he adopted as an expression of his success in gaining Parthian help in what he branded as the defense of the Republic. The reverse bears no inscription, but shows a bridled horse fitted with a saddle and bow-case; there can be little doubt that this represents the cavalry contingent of the invasion force, which was 20,000 strong. In essence it honours the famous Parthian cavalry, and in that regard we may see this as a coin of two cultures, with the obverse devoted to the Romans, the reverse to the Parthians.

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