Titus caesar, 69 – 79. Aureus 77-78, AV 7.34 g. T CAESAR IMP – VESPASIANVS Laureate head r. Rev. Roma seated r. on shields, l. foot over helmet, holding spear in l. hand; on either side, a bird; before her, she-wolf with twins and in exergue, COS VI. C 64. BMC Vespasian 223. RIC Vespasian 954. CBN Vespasian 199. Kent-Hirmer pl. 66, 230. Calicó 738.
Estimate: 25'000 CHF
Starting price: 20'000 CHF
Price realized: 32'000 CHF
An exquisite portrait of fine style and a wonderful reddish tone.
Virtually as struck and almost Fdc
Sir Edward Herbert Bunbury (1811-1895) Collection, sold by Sotheby's, Wilkinson & Hodge, London, 10 June 1895, lot 578 (not illustrated).
H. Osborne O’Hagan, Esq. (1853-1930) Collection, sold by Sotheby's, Wilkinson & Hodge, London, 13-22 June 1908, lot 202.
Sold by Sotheby’s, Zürich, auction 28 November 1986 (A Deceased Nobleman, formed before the Great War), lot 32.
Ladislaus von Hoffmann (1927-2014) Collection, sold by Sotheby’s, London, auction 5 July 1995, lot 108.
Sold by Spink & Son, London, auction 1012, 2 December 2010, lot 1317.
For someone who died at the relatively early age of 41, Titus accomplished a great amount in a short period. Even from a young age, when he counted Britannicus, the ill-fated son of Claudius, among his best friends, Titus was recognized as having potential. Suetonius (Titus 2) tells us that ”…when one day Claudius’ freedman Narcissus called in a physiognomist to examine Britannicus’ features and prophesy his future, he was told most emphatically that Britannicus would never succeed his father, whereas Titus (who happened to be present) would achieve that distinction”. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was the siege of Jerusalem in the First Jewish Revolt, a remarkable task of engineering genius and perseverance that he orchestrated personally. Upon returning to Rome his contributions to the empire were not quite so spectacular, but were even more valuable. For nearly a decade before he became emperor in 79, Titus was the backbone of his father’s administration. When he became emperor his popularity rose, and though he was privileged to dedicate the Colosseum, he also had to deal with the terrible consequences from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
During the years 77 and 78 the Flavians introduced a host of new reverse types to their precious metal coinage, most of which were based upon types from the Republican and Augustan age. This type is a remarkably faithful reproduction of the reverse from an anonymous Repbulican denarius struck circa 115/4 B.C. The type is steeped in the Roman legendary tradition: Roma is shown seated on a pile of shields observing the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus as birds fly at either side. Literary tradition has it that nourishment was brought to the twins by a woodpecker (picus), and these birds undoubtedly represent them even if they are not that actual type of bird (for in various media similar scenes substitute other birds, such as eagles and ravens).