The Roman Empire
Estimate: 60'000 CHF
Starting price: 48'000 CHF
Price realized: 100'000 CHF
Gaius, 37 – 41
Aureus, Lugdunum 37-38, AV 7.90 g. C CAESAR AVG GERM P M TR POT COS Bare head of Gaius r. Rev. Radiate head of Augustus (or Tiberius) r., between two stars. C 10. BMC 1. RIC 1. CBN 1. Calicó 336.
Extremely rare and in unusually fine condition for the issue. Two superb portraits
well struck and centred on a full flan, minor marks, otherwise extremely fine
Ex Leu 18, 1977, 293 and NAC 38, 2007, 16 sales. A tough coin in great condition. It would be hard to improve upon this piece. Worthy of the finest collection. MSG. The third of the Julio-Claudian emperors, Gaius, was perceived by his contemporaries and indeed by later historians as mentally unhinged. Surviving accounts of his reign by contemporaries are scant – just some anecdotal information in Seneca and Philo – and all of it negative. Our best sources of information about his personality and his reign come from the historians Suetonius and Cassius Dio, both of whom relied on primary sources now lost, and both of whom portray him in a very negative light. Whatever the truth of the matter, Gaius, known by his nickname Caligula to posterity, started his short reign as an enlightened and benevolent ruler. Within just a few short months, however, after having suffered a severe illness, perhaps encephalitis or meningitis, he began showing signs of depravity and megalomania. It is possible that the disease afflicting him left him mentally unbalanced, or it could simply be that he was depraved from the outset. For all of his vices, however, Caligula did pay particular attention to his coinage, and expressed his filial piety on several issues by employing the likenesses of various members his family, both deceased and living. This coin type with the radiate head of Divus Augustus, Caligula’s maternal great-grandfather (or possibly Tiberius, his paternal uncle and father by adoption) on the reverse is particularly interesting. It comes in two varieties, an initial issue without inscription and with two stars in the field (as the present specimen), and a subsequent issue lacking the stars but having the inscription DIVVS AVG PATER PATRIAE identifying the portrait as that of the deified Augustus. The first type without legend may in fact depict Tiberius instead of Augustus, with the stars representing Julius Caesar and Augustus, at this point the only two men who had been deified. This hypothesis becomes all the more enticing when one considers that upon his elevation Caligula requested from the senate that Tiberius be deified, but only dropped the matter after discovering how universally despised the deceased emperor was in Rome.