Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 105   |   9 May 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 86

Estimate: 8'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 6'400 CHF Price realized: 11'000 CHF
Tacitus, 275 – 276. Aureus, Serdica 276, AV 4.55 g. IMP C M CL TACITVS AVG Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust r. Rev. ROMAE – AET – ERNAE Roma seated l., holding Victory in r. hand and sceptre in l.; beside seat, shield. In exergue, S C. C 116. RIC 209. Estiot 100a. CBN pl. 96, 459. Calicó 4096 (this coin). Biaggi 1601 (this coin).
Lovely reddish tone, about extremely fine / extremely fine

This coin published:

Sylviane Estiot, 'L’Or romain entre crise et restitution (270-276 apr. J.-C.). II. Tacite et Florien', in Journal des Savants 2 (1999), pp. 335-427, no. 104c.


Sir John Evans (1823-1908) Collection, sold by Rollin & Feuardent, Paris, 26-27 May 1909, lot 267.

Henry Platt Hall (1863-1949) Collection, sold by Glendining’s & Co, London, 16-21 November 1950, lot 1957, to Santamaria.

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

”BdB” collection sold by Numismatica Ars Classica, Zürich, auction 49, 21 October 2008, lot 395.

The origins and career of the Roman emperor Tacitus are uncertain owing to the disputed accounts of several ancient authors, notably the author(s) of the Historia Augusta as well as the historians Eutropius and Aurelius Victor, both of whom left works detailing the reign of Tacitus. While it was claimed that Tacitus came from a wealthy family from Interamna in Italy and was a descendant of the great second century A.D. author, Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus, this is probably nothing more than an invented tale caused by a simple confusion of names and an inference of a noble lineage. The likely truth of the matter is that he was probably just another in the long succession of Danubian soldier-emperors that led Rome during the latter half of the 3rd century. Even Tacitus' reported venerable age is disputed; he was probably only in his 50s when he ascended the throne, not in his mid-70s as was claimed in the histories. In any case, after his assumption of power, he named his half-brother Florianus as his Praetorian Prefect, paid some deference to the Senate, had Aurelian deified and his murderers persecuted, then set off for the East with his half-brother to confront the serious threat posed by the Herulian and Gothic tribes who at the time were invading Asia Minor from the Caucasus. In Asia, Tacitus inflicted a resounding defeat on the raiding Goths. Afterwards he took the title Gothicus Maximus and also celebrated the victory on his coinage. While he intended to return to the West in order to repulse barbarian incursions along the Rhine, he was never able to do so as he died at Tyana in Cappadocia soon thereafter. The circumstances surrounding his death are uncertain, and once again reports vary. One mentions that the emperor had fallen ill and died a natural death, and if true it is surprising for no other reason that it was uncommon amongst third century emperors, most having been assassinated. The other possibility is that he was killed by mutinying troops from Syria. In any case, his half-brother, Florianus, declared himself emperor without awaiting the proclamation of the troops or confirmation by the Senate, but he too was killed shortly thereafter while engaging the forces of the general Probus who had been hailed emperor by legions of Syria and Egypt. In general, Tacitus' continued the monetary policies of his predecessor, Aurelian. His coins typically offer an optimistic message of a patriotic nature, and the type of "Eternal Rome" (ROMAE AETERNAE) is especially prevalent. His aurei come in two series: heavy examples weighing about 6.5 grams and averaging around 50 to the pound, and light examples weighing about 4.6 grams and averaging either 70 or 72 to the pound. The portraits of the emperor on the lighter issues are always laureate, but those of the heavier issues come both laureate and radiate, perhaps indicating that they functioned as biniones or "doubles.

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