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Lot 49





Estimate: 120'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 100'000 CHF
CHF  
Vitellius (69)

Aureus - Rome (69) Rarissime dans cette qualité - D’un style remarquable.

Exemplaire illustrant D. Bocciarelli, “L’expression de la légitimité du pouvoir de Vitellius d’après la typologie monétaire”, Revue numismatique 2018, forthcoming, fig. 27 Exemplaire de la Vente Rauch 75 des 6 et 7 mai 2005, N°352 et de la vente NAC 46 du 2 avril 2008, N°525

7.32g - Cal. 585 Pratiquement FDC - CHOICE AU *

Vitellius chose to evoke his priesthoods (on which see Suetonius Vit. 5.1) on this coin in order to highlight his ability at reigning; in a similar manner, Vespasian would use the legend AVGVR on denarii. Indeed, in addition to being supreme Pontiff (Pontifex Maximus), that is the chief high priest of the college of the Pontifices, Vitellius belonged to the Quindecimviri Sacris Faciun- dis, who supervised the Sibylline scrolls. The original scrolls were oracular utterances, supposedly acquired from the Cumaean Sibyl by the last king of Rome, Tarquinius, and had been kept beneath the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol, until most of them were destroyed in the temple’s fire of 83 BC. They were replaced in 76 BC with similar sayings, collected from Ilium, Eryth- rae, Samos, Sicily, and Africa, and the new set was kept in the restored temple, until Augustus transferred them in 12 BC to the temple of Apollo Patrous on the Palatine. The Sibylline scriptures were written in Greek hexameters, so the college of curators was assisted by two interpreters whenever the Senate requested their consultation in order to avoid calamities such as comets, earthquakes, showers of stones, and plagues. Because of this, the XVviri Sacris Faciundis could be associated to Neptune, as they guided the Romans, and the dolphin is a symbol of the maritime god. There had previously been coin types, under Augustus and Nero Caesar, which depicted an instrument for each priestly college (simpulum, lituus, tripod and patera): the other two colleges being the Augures, who interpreted the will of the gods through the study of the flight of birds (such as the raven depicted on the reverse of this coin), and the Septimviri Epulonum, who were entrusted with the religious feasts and festivals (and would have used a bronze lebes – a Greek cauldron – such as the tripod seen here). But here, tripod, raven and dolphin are more likely chosen as Apollonian symbols (in whose temple the oracles were preserved). Another interpretation of this coin, but probably too far-fetched, would be that it was one of the last ones being issued by Vitellius, who, by choosing an iconography that evokes the priestly colleges, evoked the destruction by his opponents of the Sibylline scrolls in the burning of the Capitol (a shameful crime and a national disaster according to Tacitus Hist. III 72): after defeating Vitellius’s army at Betriacum (Calvatone in the province of Cremona), Vespasian troops had entered Rome in AD 69, leading to a confusion in which Vespasian’s brother was killed by a mob. The iconographic choice is unexpected, as the college of the Pontifices was the most prestigious of all colleges (and as emperor Vitellius belonged to all four), but he had become a XVvir whilst still a private citizen - at his return from Germania, and he may have wanted to insist on his dignity as such. He may also have simply reorganized the college, after unsatisfactory nominations by Otho, and celebrated this fact.

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