Numismatica Ars Classica > Auction 135Auction date: 21 November 2022
Lot number: 278

Price realized: 50,000 CHF   (Approx. 52,554 USD / 50,725 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
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Lot description:


The Roman Empire. Vespasian, 69 – 79.
Aureus 70, AV 7.37 g. IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG Laureate head r. Rev. COS ITER – FORT RED Fortuna standing l., holding cornucopia; in l. field, prow. C 83. BMC –, cf. 353 (Tarraco). RIC 18. CBN 6. Calicó 601b.
Rare and in an exceptional state of preservation. A very interesting and unusual portrait
and a spectacular reddish Boscoreale tone. Virtually as struck and Fdc

The reverse type of this rare gold aureus features Fortuna Redux, the Roman goddess responsible for overseeing safe returns, often from long and perilous journeys. In this case, she appears to celebrate the arrival of the new emperor Vespasian in Rome in October of AD 70. He had been away a long time and much had happened while he was gone. In AD 67, he departed for Judaea after he was given command of the Jewish War and spent much of that year crushing opposition in Galilee. In AD 68 he began the campaign against the Jewish rebels in Samaria and Judaea, but then in the late summer it was discovered that back in Rome, Nero had committed suicide and Galba had claimed the imperial purple. The bloody Year of the Four Emperors that followed saw Galba murdered and quickly succeeded by Otho on 15 January, who was then defeated by Vitellius on 16 April. On 1 July, Vespasian decided that he had the military might to challenge Vitellius and in August the Danubian legions declared their support for him. These forces, which were much closer than Vespasian who was in Syria, marched on Rome. Vitellius was murdered on 20 December and on the following day the Senate recognized Vespasian as emperor. However, it was only after the siege of Jerusalem was well under way and firmly overseen by his son Titus in AD 70, that Vespasian made the long journey back to Rome. The obverse portrait of this coin suggests that it may have been struck for distribution as largesse upon the arrival of the new emperor. The rather idealized features and the general lack of the heavy facial features that typify later portraits of Vespasian seem to indicate that the obverse die of this issue was engraved before official images of the new emperor had been disseminated. At the same time that this issue celebrates the safe return of Vespasian, it may also have been intended to celebrate a safe return for Rome and the empire as a whole after the Year of the Four Emperors blew them both so terribly off course. Vespasian and his Flavian dynasty firmly anchored their propaganda in the fact that they had brought an end to the civil war sparked by the failed Julio-Claudians and restored peace and stability to the empire with the successful conclusion of the Jewish War. As such, the present aureus may be considered one of the earliest expressions of that propaganda. The attractive red toning of this aureus is regularly found on coins from the famous Boscoreale hoard that was uncovered in the Villa della Pisanella near Pompeii in 1895. This treasure was secreted in a vaulted box in a room used for pressing wine shortly before the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 that buried the villa and Pompeii in volcanic ash. The hoard included 109 pieces of silverware, various pieces of gold jewellery and over 1000 Roman aurei. The red toning was imparted to the coins from this hoard through their exposure to the intense heat of Vesuvius' eruption.
Graded Ch AU* Strike 5/5 Surface 4/5, NGC certification number 6556714-006

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Estimate: 40000 CHF