Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 100   |   29 May 2017 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 611

Estimate: 50'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 40'000 CHF Price realized: 95'000 CHF
Diocletian, 284 – 305. Aureus, Treviri 302, AV 5.21 g. DIOCLE – TIANVS AVG Laureate head r. Rev. IOVI CONS – ERVATORI Laureate bust of Jupiter r.; beneath bust, TR. C –. RIC 54 (this coin mentioned). Beaurains 250 (this coin). Lukanc 14. Depeyrot 7A/3. Calicó 4513 (this obverse die).
Two portraits of absolutely enchanting beauty and a superb reddish tone.
Absolutely unobtrusive areas of weakness, otherwise Fdc

Ex Ars Classica XVII, 1934, Sir. A.J. Evans 1816; J. Schulman 243, 1966, R.J. Graham 2198 and Leu 87, 2003, Perfectionist, 99 sales. From the Arras hoard.
This beautiful gold aureus pairs the portrait of Diocletian with the image of Jupiter, the supreme god of the Roman pantheon and a deity with which the emperor closely associated himself beginning around AD 287. At this time he began to style himself as Jovius and his co-emperor, the Caesar Maximianus, as Herculius to reflect their roles in administering the empire. Diocletian would be like Jupiter, giving orders and making plans, while Maximianus would be his heroic agent, like Hercules.
This explicit association emphasized the divine qualities of the emperor and undercut the ability of the army to manipulate the imperial power. It is easy to proclaim a new general as emperor if an emperor is merely an illustrious head of state, but more difficult if the emperor is truly viewed as the earthly agent of the gods. Through the sanctification of their authority, Diocletian and Maximianus elevated themselves beyond the reach of most potential military usurpers and ushered in a new age of imperial ideology. This was destined to come into major conflict with and to inform the development of Christianity in the late third century.
The style of this coin serves to illustrate that the reign of Diocletian was a real watershed moment, not only in the political and religious spheres, but also in art. In this aureus we are on the cusp of the change from old to new. The obverse portrait of the emperor reflects the beginning of the flat, simplified style that evolved into the more abstract Tetrarchic style as the reign of Diocletian and Maximianus progressed. The reverse, however, still attempts to treat the head of Jupiter in a more classical vein.

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