Roma Numismatics Ltd > E-Sale 103Auction date: 24 November 2022
Lot number: 894

Price realized: 1,600 GBP   (Approx. 1,943 USD / 1,866 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
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Lot description:


Julius Caesar AR Denarius. Military mint travelling with Caesar, 49-48 BC. Elephant advancing to right, trampling on serpent; CAESAR in exergue / Emblems of the pontificate: simpulum, aspergillum, securis (surmounted by wolf's head), and apex. Crawford 443/1; CRI 9; BMCRR Gaul 27-30; RSC 49. 3.60g, 19mm, 8h.

Good Very Fine; banker's mark to obv.

From a private UK Collection.

This specimen was minted between 49-48, around a year after Caesar had led his legions across the Rubicon. An elephant is depicted on the obverse, approaching a snake at full tilt, ostensibly on the cusp of trampling it. The reverse features various priestly implements, explicit reminders that Caesar remained the incumbent Pontifex Maximus, the most important role in the ancient Roman religion.

There has been much modern speculation as to the significance of the obverse iconography. Conventionally, the 'contest' between elephant and snake has been understood to refer to Rome's recent conquering of Gaul. More recently, though, alternate theories have arisen, like the suggestion that the duo actually represent Caesar and Pompey themselves. As reported by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, the Romans regarded these two animals as eternal foes, one symbolizing virtuousness, and the other wickedness. By assuming the form of the dominant and noble elephant, and portraying Pompey as the snake, Caesar was thus bolstering his claim to rightful authority and disparaging his adversary simultaneously.

Coins such as this were also generated for practical reasons. All of Caesar's military expeditions were costly ventures, and the Civil War (49-45) was no exception. In order to pay his troops, who had been promised substantial payment for their fidelity and sacrifice, Caesar set about minting millions of these so-called 'elephant denarii'. These coins, therefore, possess huge historical importance – they were minted by Caesar to pay his troops, to fight the Civil War that led to the collapse of the Roman Republic and the establishment of the Roman Empire.

Estimate: 350 GBP