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Numismatica Ars Classica > Auction 125Auction date: 23 June 2021
Lot number: 754

Lot description:

Gordian III augustus, 238 – 244.
Medallion 244, Æ 47.82 g. IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FELIX AVG Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust r. Rev. MVNIFICENTIA GORDIANI AVG Colosseum: within, bull on l. fighting elephant on r.; in l. field, Fortuna standing facing behind the Meta Sudans, holding rudder and in r. field, statue within small temple or shrine. C 16. Gnecchi II 23 and pl. 104, 6. Mazzini 166 (this coin). Banti 54.
Extremely rare. An issue of tremendous importance and fascination issued to celebrate
the renovation of the Colosseum. Struck on a very broad flan and with a
brown-reddish tone. Good very fine

Ex Münzhandlung 1, 1934, 1945; Hess-Leu 36, 1968, 525; M&M 66, 1984, 798; NFA XXXII, 1993, 339 and CNG 102, 2016, 1075 sales. From the Mazzini collection.
In early AD 238, the infamous Year of the Six Emperors, the highly respected but octogenarian Gordian I and his son Gordian II led a revolt in North Africa against the unpopular military emperor Maximinus Thrax. While they were recognised in Rome by the Senate, the two Gordiani were slain after a reign of only 20 days. Nevertheless, still desirous of capitalising on their respectable backgrounds and popularity, the Senate named Gordian III, the thirteen-year-old grandson of Gordian I as Augustus alongside the senators Pupienus and Balbinus. As elder statesmen, the latter were to protect the interests of the Senate while Gordian III served as a figurehead, but Pupienus and Balbinus were deeply unpopular and on 29 July AD 238, the Praetorian Guard murdered them and made Gordian III sole Augustus. The inexperienced Gordian III was strongly influenced by Timesitheus, the Praetorian Prefect, who arranged the marriage of the young emperor to his own daughter and convinced him that the time was right to attack the Sasanian Persian Empire and its new ruler, Shapur I. In AD 243, Gordian III and Timesitheus began the campaign in Mesopotamia, where they won a victory at Rhaesena and forced the Persians to withdraw across the Euphrates River. Problems began after this. Over the winter of AD 243-244, Timesitheus died under mysterious circumstances and Gordian III was convinced by C. Julius Priscus, who had served as Praetorian Prefect with Timesitheus, to name Priscus' brother, M. Julius Philippus, as a replacement. The war resumed in early AD 244 under the new management and promptly turned the gains of the previous year into disaster. According to the Persians, the Romans were defeated in battle near Misiche (Fallujah), but Roman sources indicate that the campaign was brought to a halt by Gordian III who died under very uncertain circumstances. Philippus, announced that the Emperor had fallen ill and died from a fever, but it was widely suspected that he had had a hand in the death of Gordian III. Nevertheless, he was immediately proclaimed Augustus by the army and reigned as Philip I "the Arab." This magnificent medallion was struck in AD 244, no doubt before the beginning of the disastrous new campaigning season and while the victories of the previous year were still able to be capitalised upon. The cuirassed obverse portrait type presents the young Gordian III as a new Alexander the Great poised to inflict defeat on the Persians yet again. The reverse type features a remarkably detailed representation of the Colosseum with a wild animal fight. Combined with the reverse legend referring to the "Generosity of Gordian Augustus," the type almost certainly refers to games celebrated either in the context of the Persian victories of the preceding year or of the New Year festivities that mistakenly looked forward to new successes in the East.

Estimate: 25000 CHF