Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 97   |   12 December 2016
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Lot 97





Estimate: 150'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 120'000 CHF Price realized: 165'000 CHF
The Roman Empire
Otho, 69. Aureus, Roma 15 January-8 March 69, AV 7.34 g.
Description: IMP M OTHO CAESAR AVG TR P Bare head r. Rev. SECVRI – TAS P R Securitas standing l., holding wreath and sceptre. References: C 16
BMC 13
RIC 7
CBN 7
Calicó 531 Condition:Very rare. A magnificent portrait of fine style struck in high relief, good extremely fine Provenance: Ratto sale May 1912, Grande Numismatico Straniero, 1419
NAC sale 67, Huntington, 2012, 128.
Hispanic Society of America (Huntington collection) inventory number 8049 Note: In the emperor Otho, as in his successor Vitellius, one can find little to admire. As a youth Otho was a lush, and he only achieved the high office through bribery and treachery. Indeed, there had been many ‘firsts’ of late: Claudius achieved his office through open support of the praetorian, Galba was the first non-Julio-Claudian emperor and the first one hailed outside of Rome, and now Otho was the first to openly attain his office through the murder of his predecessor (even if we believe Caligula suffocated Tiberius, or that Nero had a hand in Claudius’ death, these were achieved behind closed doors). Otho had been governor of Lusitania (Portugal) when the Spanish governor Galba was hailed Imperator, so it was natural that Otho – long since tired of his cultural isolation – would join Galba on his trek to Rome. Therefore Otho had two great hopes: to exact revenge on Nero (who sent him to Lusitania to keep him far from his former companion Poppaea) and to be adopted as son and successor of the 70-year-old Galba. When neither of these goals came to fruition, Otho went heavily into debt in order to bribe the praetorian guardsmen to murder Galba, under whom they were suffering. After Galba had been brutally murdered in public view, the terrified senate hailed Otho emperor. Few in Rome would have wanted to be emperor since the German governor Vitellius was leading his army toward Italy at a rapid pace. Otho’s reign was as brief, chaotic and desperate as it was degrading. It culminated in a battle in the north of Italy at which as many as 40,000 Roman soldiers died. Having lost the battle to Vitellius’ army, and no doubt disheartened at the carnage, Otho committed suicide some two days later.

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