Probus, 276 – 282. Aureus, Lugdunum Summer 281, AV 6.27 g. IMP C M AVR PROBVS AVG Laureate and cuirassed bust l. Rev. VICTO – RIA PROBI AVG Victory advancing r., holding wreath and palm branch; to r., trophy at base of which two seated captives. C 799 (misdescribed). RIC 11. Bastien, Lyon 302c (this coin). Calicó 4221 (these dies).
Estimate: 35'000 CHF
Starting price: 28'000 CHF
Price realized: 40'000 CHF
Extremely rare, only four specimens known and one of two in private hands. A superb
portrait and a very interesting reverse type. Virtually as struck and almost Fdc
Sold by Bank Leu, Zürich, auction 13, 29-30 April 1975, lot 487.
Claude Vaudecrane (1915-2002) Collection, sold by Leu Numismatik, Zürich, auction 93 (A Perfectionist), 10 May 2005, lot 108.
The victory celebrated by the reverse type of this aureus is thought to be that of Probus over the joint usurpers Proculus and Bonosus in AD 281. Their imperial reign only began the year before when the ambitious military tribune, Proculus, was invited to claim the imperial purple by the people of Lugdunum during a civic revolt against Probus. He was joined in his usurpation by Bonosus who had been in command of the Rhine fleet when it was burned by the Alemanni. Fearing punishment for this disaster, Bonosus avoided trouble simply by elevating himself to the status of emperor. If only all problems could be solved so easily.
When Probus returned from his war against the Sasanian Persian Empire, he marched against the two pretenders. Probus defeated the forces of Bonosus, who immediately hanged himself to avoid capture. Proculus could not withstand the advance of the avenging emperor either and sought aid from the Germanic Franks. He was gravely disappointed when instead of receiving military assistance he was betrayed into the hands of Probus. Proculus was no doubt disappointed even further when Probus ordered his execution. Much to Probus’ credit, however, he did not seize Proculus’ considerable personal fortune, nor did he exact any vengeance upon the families of Proculus or Bonosus. The sins of the fathers were paid for and there was no need to visit punishment on their sons as well.
Considering the historical context for the issue, it is hard to escape the possibility that the captives seated beneath the trophy might have been intended to represent the defeated usurpers themselves (although Bonosus was not actually captured alive). On the other hand, the captives might just stand for generic rebel soldiers who had fought for the usurpers against Probus.