Roma Numismatics Ltd.   |   Auction XVII   |   28 March 2019 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
Online bidding ends:  28 March 2019 10:00 CET

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Lot 792

Estimate: 50'000 GBP   |   Starting price: 40'000 GBP
Probus AV Aureus. Rome, AD 281/2. IMP PROBVS P F AVG, laureate and cuirassed three-quarter length bust of Probus to left, wearing aegis and holding sceptre with his right hand / VIRTVS AVG, Probus in military dress, seated to left on curule chair, holding sceptre in his left hand and extending his right to receive a globe held in the right hand of Virtus, who stands before him holding a sceptre in his left hand; to right, behind Probus, Victory standing left, holding palm in her left hand and crowning Probus with her right; in the background, a soldier standing facing, holding one standard with a second to his left; wreath in exergue. RIC 146; Biaggi 1633 (this coin); Calicó 4241 (same reverse die); C. 837; Jameson 296a (this coin); Pink p. 47. 6.58g, 21mm, 6h.

Fleur De Coin; irrelevant edge mark. Extremely Rare.

Ex Numismatica Ars Classica AG, Auction 91, 23 May 2016, lot 49;
Ex Götz Grabert Collection, LHS Numismatik AG, Auction 97, 10 May 2006, lot 78;
Ex Dr. Athos D. Moretti Collection (sold anonymously), Numismatic Fine Arts Inc., Auction XXII, 1 June 1989, lot 111;
Ex Giuseppe Mazzini Collection;
Ex Frédéric Robert Jameson Collection, bought by Jacob Hirsch;
Ex Eugen Merzbacher, 15 November 1910, lot 2135, from the collection of either General S.F.H. or the architect Van Muyden.

Difficulties in dating the coinage of Probus have left numismatists with the challenge of relying on stylistic variants in portraiture and iconography to establish a chronology. This undated coin, for example, has been assigned to the later period of Probus’ rule due in part to the wreath mint-mark which appears also on aurei with the legend VICTORIOSO SEMPER, suggesting that they were minted after Probus’ principal victories (see RIC V II, p. 6). Later coins also depict Probus in a highly stylised manner and both obverse and reverse types have a greater emphasis on his military role, often representing the emperor in military attire bearing arms and wearing a helmet. This aureus was probably struck when Probus was in Rome in 281 as part of an extensive emission of coinage in celebration of his triumph over the Germans and Blemmyae (see Historia Augusta 19); the dating is supported by the coinage for this year, one example representing Probus in a quadriga being crowned by Victory (Cohen 465)).

Representing the most important quality for a Roman Emperor and the Empire itself in this period, Virtus is the spirt of manly energy and valour. This intricate reverse type celebrates the virtus of Probus with every aspect of the iconography: the inclusion of both Virtus and Victory and their usual gifts to the emperor of a globe and crown utilises imagery which is otherwise considered sufficient on its own for numismatic use. The further addition of the soldier holding the standard in the background, difficult to fit into the space so that only his head is depicted, can perhaps be interpreted as representative of the Roman army itself. Therefore, the reverse type can be interpreted as Probus surrounded by figures who symbolise firstly his own military might (Virtus), the power of his previous victories (Victory) and the strength of his army (the soldier) – all of which combine to create an image of an indestructible emperor.

Despite this image of his virtus, Probus’ reign was marked by extensive military struggles. A long series of civil wars preceding his rule had created a penchant for general-emperors, elected by the army and thereby required to repay the soldiers for their support. Further, internal divisions had left Rome vulnerable to foreign enemies and Probus was required to fight Germanic tribes which attacked the upper Rhine and Danube regions before even considering finishing Aurelian’s Persian campaign which was still unresolved. Finally, the threat of usurpation was ever present; over the six years Probus was emperor, he successfully put down three revolts but was ultimately assassinated by his own soldiers in AD 282 and replaced by the commander of the Praetorian Guard, Carus.

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