Roma Numismatics Ltd > Auction XXVAuction date: 22 September 2022
Lot number: 779

Price realized: 17,000 GBP   (Approx. 19,151 USD / 19,509 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
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Lot description:


Julius Caesar AR Denarius. Rome, February-March 44 BC. Cossutius Maridianus, moneyer. Wreathed and veiled head to right; CAESAR before, DICT•IN•PERPETVO behind / Venus standing to left, holding Victory in right hand, and resting arm on shield set on globe; C•MARIDIANVS behind. Crawford 480/15; Alföldi Caesar, pl. CXXXVII, 12; CRI 111a; Sydenham 1068; BMCRR Rome 4186; RSC 10. 3.82g, 17mm, 5h.

Good Extremely Fine; featuring a wonderful old cabinet tone and an impressive portrait of Caesar (only two obv. dies for this type have this fine style). Rare; 480/15 is the rarest of the standing Venus types of this series.

From the Vogelberg Collection (Switzerland), formed c. 1960-1985.

The hereditary affiliation between the Gens Julia and the goddess Venus is arguably better known to have been promoted under the rule of the emperor Augustus, adoptive son of Julius Caesar, rather than Caesar himself, particularly in literary sources. The most overt examples appear in Virgil's Aeneid, who includes explicit references to Augustus' divine ancestry throughout the work. As early as Book 1, Jupiter delivers a speech to Venus in which he highlights the success that her descendants will enjoy in the state Alba Longa, which will be founded by Aeneas' son Ascanius, specifically identifying Julius Caesar when he states that "nascetur pulchra Troianus origine Caesar, imperium oceano, famam qui terminet astris – Iulius, a magno demissum nomen Iulo" (Aeneid 1.286-8). The tendentious decision by Virgil to refer to Ascanius by his other cognomen, Iulus, is a typically Virgilian form of propaganda; in using the name from which the Gens Iulia etymologised their own, Virgil immediately draws the attention of his audience not only to the parallels in character between Julius Caesar and the legendary founder of Alba Longa, but also to the unquestionable legitimacy of Augustus' rule.

While there is certainly more contemporary literature from Augustus' lifetime than Caesar's that draws on the lineage of the family as a method to reinforce legitimacy, there are references in later sources to Caesar's own desire to emphasise his divine connection for the same reason. Suetonius in his Life of Julius Caesar includes a speech given by Caesar as the eulogy for his paternal aunt, in which he specifically refers to his aunt's (and by extension his own) ancestry: "amitae meae Iuliae maternum genus ab regibus ortum, paternum cum diis inmortalinbus coniunctum est. nam ab Anco Marcio sunt Marcii Reges, quo nomine fuit mater; a Venere Iulii, cuius gentis familia est nostra" (The Twelve Caesars, Julius Caesar, 1.6). Suetonius, of course, was writing at the beginning of the 2nd Century AD and, as such, the accuracy with which he conveys speeches supposedly delivered more than 150 years prior should be questioned, if not entirely dismissed. It is, therefore, other evidence which must be looked to for a more concrete basis of Suetonius' reporting and this coin can be viewed as such evidence, illustrating that the association with Venus was indeed exploited during the life of Caesar.

Struck in the last year of his life, when Caesar's dictatorship was well-established and he was continuing to pursue ever more wide-ranging (and controversial) reforms, this coin can be interpreted as a reflection of the confidence he felt in his position. The self-aggrandisement on show is not limited to the depiction of Venus on the reverse of this coin, it is further compounded by the representation of Victory and by the shield upon which Venus is leaning. This iconography is a clear allusion to Caesar's illustrious military career, of which no Roman citizen would have been in any doubt by 44 BC. The reverse imagery of this coin thus encapsulates Caesar's desire to reinforce his credibility as dictator through his achievements on earth as well as his ancestral connection to the gods in the heavens.

Estimate: 10000 GBP