Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 105   |   9 May 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 23

Estimate: 50'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 40'000 CHF Price realized: 85'000 CHF
Domitian caesar, 69 – 81. Aureus 77-78, AV 7.35 g. CAESAR AVG F – DOMITIANVS Laureate head r. Rev. COS V She-wolf l., with twins; in exergue, boat. C 50. BMC Vespasian 237. RIC Vespasian 960. CBN Vespasian 210. Calicó 820. Biaggi 398 (this coin).
A magnificent and incredibly detailed portrait of superb style and
an enchanting reddish tone. Virtually as struck and Fdc


From the Boscoreale hoard of 1895.

Leo Biaggi de Blasys (1906-1979) Collection, acquired privately in 1978 by Bank Leu and MarioRatto.

Sold by Numismatica Ars Classica, Zürich, auction 78, 26 May 2014, lot 903.

The Italian peninsula had been occupied long before the hills of Rome were home to a large population during the Iron Age. Numerous people had lived in the region throughout the Bronze Age, as perhaps best defined by the 'Apennine culture' that flourished from around 1800 to 1200 B.C. It is now believed that by 900 B.C. distinct cultural identities had been established throughout Italy, and that the first large settlements in Latium had arisen sometime in the 9th century B.C. Extensive urbanization followed in the 7th and 6th Centuries.

Though modern scholars have expressed an interest in both factual and mythological explanations of Rome's origins, the ancient Romans indulged only in the latter. Archaeology was a science not yet born, and in Roman eyes the history of their state began with the mythological circumstances of its foundation in 753 B.C.

Even so, the Romans recognised that the hills of Rome had been settled long before 753 B.C., starting with a certain Evander, an Arcadian who had established a city on the Palatine Hill prior even to the Trojan War. Most mythological traditions suggest there was a gap between that earliest settlement and what would become the city of Rome. The founder of the city, Romulus, belonged to a royal family that traced its origins to the Trojan War hero Aeneas and had long ruled the mythical city of Alba Longa in the Alban Hills.

Though Romulus and his twin brother Remus were of noble blood, their birth was no cause for celebration as their mother, Rhea Silvia, was a Vestal Virgin. Much was at stake with their birth since Rhea Silvia's father, King Numitor, earlier had been deposed by his brother Amilius, and the new-born twins raised the spectre of political rivalry. Amilius ordered the twins drowned, but they survived and washed ashore on the bank of the Tiber at the Palatine Hill. Upon landing they were suckled by a she-wolf and taken into the care of shepherds.

Only by the time they were young men and had taken up a life of brigandry did the twins learn of their noble heritage. After this revelation they led an assault on Alba Longa in which they deposed Amilius and restored their grandfather Numitor to the throne. The brothers then led a group of colonists to the site of their landing as infants, at the Palatine Hill, and with much toil founded a city that one day would be home to more than a million people.

Their achievement, however, was marked with tragedy when Romulus killed Remus, leaving Romulus as the eponymous founder of the city and its first king. When building the city Remus wanted to name it Remuria and Romulus preferred Roma, which led to a quarrel. In one version of the tale they left the decision to the tutelary gods of the countryside. The signs of the augury were interpreted differently by supporters of each brother and a combat ensued in which Remus was killed. An alternative tradition suggests the murder was an act of vengeance after Remus mocked Romulus by leaping over the half-built walls of their new settlement.

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