Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 95   |   6 October 2016
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Lot 299





Estimate: 45'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 36'000 CHF Price realized: 95'000 CHF
The Roman Empire
Commodus augustus, 177 – 192
Aureus 186-189, AV 7.22 g. M COMM ANT P – FEL AVG BRIT Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust r. Rev. FORTVNAE·MANENTI Fortuna seated l., holding horse by bridle with r. hand and cornucopiae in l.; in exergue, C V P P. C –. BMC –, cf. 231 (denarius). RIC –, cf. 191 (denarius). Calicó –.
Apparently unique and unrecorded. A very interesting and fascinating issue struck in
high relief on a very broad flan. A simply perfect Fdc
Ex Numismatica Genevensis sale 4, 2006, 188.

This unique aureus of Commodus, the reverse previously only known from rare denarii (see RIC 191a; MIR 18, 751), features the unusual type of Fortuna Manens on the reverse. Fortuna was the Roman goddess of luck or chance, and appears to have originally come to Rome from either Antium or Praeneste. As the personification of changing circumstances, Fortuna could bring either good or bad luck according to her whim, and evincing such fickleness it was only natural that the empire’s inhabitants were particularly careful not to offend her. Thus she was adored everywhere, and in every town could be found statues and altars honoring her various manifestations.

The title Manens in Latin means ”enduring” or ”abiding.” Here it reflects Fortuna as the deliverer of permanent good fortune. Her appearance at this time, during Commodus’ fifth consulate and probably more precisely dating to the year A.D. 189, may refer to the downfall of Commodus’s favorite, the freedman Marcus Aurelius Cleander. Under Commodus, who cared little for the day-to-day administration of the vast empire, Cleander had concentrated much power for himself, and in addition he was notoriously greedy. He shamelessly sold every conceivable public office, sharing some of the proceeds with his sovereign but pocketing substantial wealth himself. His rapaciousness became so burdensome that even the grain supply was adversely affected. Of course, with around a million mouths to feed the reliable delivery of food shipments from Rome’s breadbaskets was absolutely essential, but Cleander’s meddling had caused near collapse of the system. This, in turn, lead to widespread civil unrest, and it was only with Cleander’s brutal murder at the hands of the mob that civil war averted.

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