Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 111   |   24 September 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 158

Estimate: 30'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 24'000 CHF Price realized: 27'000 CHF
Gaius, 37 – 41. Quinarius, Lugdunum 37-38, AV 3.83 g. C CAESAR AVG GERMANICS Bare head r. Rev. P M TR – POT Victory seated r. on globe, holding wreath in both hands. C –. BMC –. RIC –. CBN –. King –.
An apparently unrecorded variety of an exceedingly rare denomination (only eleven
specimens listed by King of which only four are in private hands). Several
edge marks, possible traces of mounting, otherwise very fine
Ex Gemini sale IX, 2012, 260. From the Collection of a Retired Banker.
Gaius Caesar, the great-grandson of Augustus, gained the popular nickname, Caligula (“Little Boots”) as a child following his father, the beloved commander, Germanicus, on campaign. On March 16, A.D. 37, the ailing Tiberius died. It was widely suspected at the time that Caligula had hastened the death of the emperor by suffocating him with a pillow. Although Tiberius had named his own grandson, Gemellus, as heir, his will was nullified on grounds of insanity, and Caligula succeeded to the principate. This gold coin of Caligula is especially desirable as it is an apparently unrecorded variety of the extremely rare quinarius denomination that was struck early in his reign. The reverse type of Victory on a globe with the indication of the emperor’s tribunician power consciously copies a type used for earlier quinarii of Augustus, thereby casting Caligula as a worthy Julio-Claudian successor. Caligula’s ancestry is further emphasized in the obverse legend, which spells out the names of Caesar and Germanicus in full. The types and inscriptions make clear that Caligula, who traced his decent from powerful men beloved by the people, was not to be confused with the hated Tiberius. As it turned out, his seriously flawed character was more than enough to engender extreme dislike for him amongst Rome’s elite, who officially damned his memory after his death. Caligula is generally praised by the ancient sources for the first months of his reign, which exhibited great generosity and attempts to undo the damage done by Tiberius’ oppressive regime. But then, something terrible happened. In October of A.D. 37, Caligula fell seriously ill (possibly due to poisoning) and came close to death. When he recovered, his character had changed for the worse. He seems to have developed a paranoia that members of his family were actively plotting against him or secretly desired to supplant him. Caligula executed Gemellus as well as his own father-in-law, and condemned his sisters, Livilla and Agrippina the Younger, to exile. Only his uncle Claudius was spared because it amused the emperor to mock him for his infirmities. A financial crisis ensued in A.D. 38 due to the emperor’s lavish spending—silver and gold coins like the present quinarius were disbursed as political payments and to support Caligula’s lifestyle until there was little left in the imperial treasury. This led the emperor to raise taxes, demand public loans, and to seize estates in order to raise money. The emperor also annexed the client-kingdom of Mauritania out of a fear that its king, who was also Caligula’s cousin, might become a threat. A projected invasion of Britannia halted at the English Channel, where the emperor reportedly challenged Neptune and collected seashells as the spoils of victory. He subsequently celebrated a ridiculous triumph for victories claimed over the Germanic tribesmen in which Gauls were made to march wearing blond wigs to simulate defeated Germans. Caligula’s already questionable behaviour began to hedge towards madness in A.D. 40, when he took to making public appearances in the guise of various gods and had the heads of deities replaced with his own on statues in Rome. He furthermore ordered the erection of statues of himself represented as Sol, the sun god. This policy was offensive in Rome, where emperors were normally worshipped only after their deaths, but came close to sparking revolt in Judaea, where Caligula attempted to install a colossal statue of himself in the Jerusalem Temple. Realising the violent opposition that this would unleash, the governor of Syria wisely delayed implementing the emperor’s orders. While imminent disaster was avoided in Judaea, Caligula’s claims to divinity provoked a crisis at Rome when he announced that he planned to leave the city and take up residence in Alexandria, where it was long customary for rulers to be treated as living gods. Despite his megalomania, the loss of the emperor to Alexandria was an unpalatable prospect for both the Senate and the Praetorian Guard as it would mean a drastic reduction in their power and influence. In order to prevent the establishment of Alexandria as the new seat of imperial power a plot was set in motion to assassinate Caligula. A cabal led by Cassius Chaerea, a Praetorian officer, accosted the emperor and stabbed him to death in the underground passage of the imperial palaces on January 22, A.D. 41. It was noted that like his great namesake, the dictator Gaius Julius Caesar, Caligula had been stabbed 30 times by a group of conspirators led by a Cassius. Also, as in the case of Caesar, the murder of Caligula did not restore the Republic. Instead, Claudius was proclaimed the new emperor.

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