Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 101   |   24 October 2017 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 78

Estimate: 4'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 3'200 CHF Price realized: 10'000 CHF
Octavian as Augustus, 27 BC – 14 AD. M. Sanquinius. Contorniate dupondius circa 17 BC, Æ 16.34 g. AVGVSTVS / TRIBVNIC / POTEST within oak wreath. Rev. M SANQVINIVS Q F III VIR AAAFF around S C. C 521. BMC 193. RIC 342. CBN 287. E
Extremely rare. Brown-green patina somewhat smoothed,
otherwise good very fine
Ex Gorny & Mosch sale 117, 2002, 454.
The oak wreath depicted on the obverse of this dupondius is the corona civica—the traditional Roman Republican reward for a soldier who saved the life of a fellow citizen in battle. This particular corona civica, however, was bestowed upon Augustus by the Senate in 27 B.C. in recognition of his role in ending the cycle of civil wars that fractured the Republic over the course of the first century B.C. Somewhat ironically, he had provided this signal service to Rome by destroying his former colleague, Mark Antony, and by establishing himself with the powers of a king while pretending that the Republic still lived. Still, the political settlement of 27 B.C. that created Augustus as the head of the Roman state and granted him the corona civica did do much to bring peace to the Roman world. Thanks to Augustus and his cautious vision for Rome and the Empire, the Roman people were spared another round of civil wars until the Julio-Claudian dynasty came to an end with the suicide of Nero in A.D. 68, precipitating the tumultuous ”Year of the Four Emperors” (A.D. 69).
Part of Augustus’ ability to lead the state came from the tribunician power (tribunicia potestas) granted to him by the Senate in 27 B.C. and which is indicated here by the legend within the corona civica. Tribunician power gave Augustus the full rights of a tribune of the plebs, which permitted him to directly propose or veto legislation and elections and, importantly, made his person inviolable. The tribunician power combined with his proconsular authority in the provinces gave Augustus almost total control of the state.
The entirely inscriptional reverse reflects Augustus’ desire to maintain the illusion that his power did not make Republican institutions meaningless. The central SC legend meaning senatus consulto (”by order of the Senate”) was meant to illustrate the traditional authority of the Senate over the money of the state. The legend around the outside names M. Sanquinius as one of the tresviri aere argento auro flando feriundo ("three men for casting [and] striking bronze, silver [and] gold”) often simply described as the tresviri monetales (”three men for coining”), the junior magistrates responsible for producing coinage in the Roman Republic. This magistracy was traditionally the first post of the Republican cursus honorum leading to the ultimate goal—a consulship. The institution of the tresviri monetales was initially retained by Augustus, but their influence on types and ability to sign coinage quickly died out. Little is known about Sanquinius beyond his senatorial rank, but he is thought to have been the father of Q. Sanquinius Maximus who served as a consul under Tiberius in A.D. 39 and as legate in Germania Inferior.
The exceptionally large flan used for this dupondius gives the piece a special gravitas, an almost medallic quality lacking in other examples of this rare type. There are other very large and carefully crafted bronze issues from this era, equally rare, that although of normal types suggest a specific ceremonial or commemorative nature, and can be seen in hindsight as precursors to Roman Imperial medallions proper.

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