Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 95   |   6 October 2016
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Lot 203





Estimate: 2'500 CHF   |   Starting price: 2'000 CHF Price realized: 2'500 CHF
The Roman Empire
Nerva, 96 – 98
As 97, Æ 11.15 g. IMP NERVA CAES AVG – P M TR P COS III P P Laureate head r. Rev. NEPTVNO CIRCENS[ES CO]NSTITVT / S – C Neptune standing facing, holding trident in l. hand; below in field, recumbent figure of sea-god (Oceanus ?). C –. BMC 132 var. (Neptune standing r., but this obverse die). RIC –. CBN –. Rauch sale 89, 2011, 1446 (these dies).
Of the highest rarity, apparently only the second specimen known of this variety and one
of very few of this extremely interesting type. Green patina somewhat tooled and
an insignificant area of corrosion on obverse, otherwise about extremely fine
Ex Gorny & Mosch sale 122, 2003, 2079.

This type with Neptune standing facing seems to be unrecorded, the normal type showing him standing to the right. In 1926 when they published volume II of RIC, Mattingly and Sydenham noted that the specimen housed in the British Museum Collection was a modern forgery, possibly an altered as with reverse FORTVNA AVGVST (see RIC II p. 228, note, without corresponding entry). A decade later, however, Mattingly had changed his mind, for in volume III of BMC he includes the type (with Neptune standing to the right) as his no. 132, and discusses both the coin’s significance and its authenticity in the introduction (BMC II p. l): ”There is one new type of great interest, found on the As of the third issue, and on it alone. Genuine specimens of the coin could not be traced by Eckhel, who naturally condemned it. His condemnation was repeated by Cohen, and it is only quite recently that the genuineness of this type has been established. The specimen referred to in the text, p. 24, no. 132 n., was found in the eighteenth century and was briefly recorded. It was then lost to sight, until quite recently, when it passed into the possession of Sir Arthur Evans. The legend, ‘Neptuno Circens. Constitut. S. C.’ records an otherwise forgotten measure of Nerva, some foundation or establishment in honour of Neptune. The known specimens of the coin probably all read ‘circens’ (or ‘circensi’) not ‘circenses’…, and we have to think, therefore, not of new circus games in honour of the god – a measure out of keeping with Nerva’s known parsimony – but of the setting up of a statue to Neptune of the Circus. This meaning is borne out by the detail of the type, for beside the great standing Neptune is a little figure of the old deity Consus, who is ‘Neptunus Circensis’, half buried in the earth to suggest his underground altar in the Circus.” Subsequently, G. de Loÿe made a thorough study of the type (”Les as de Nerva au type « Neptuno »,” RN6, vol. 26, 1984, pp. 95-103), and concluded that there are only seven known specimens: one from the Tarascon Hoard; one each in the collections of the Ashmolean Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the Staatliche Museum, Berlin; and three in the British Museum. However, all depict Neptune standing to the right as opposed to fully frontal as on our coin.

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