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Classical Numismatic Group > Auction 123Auction date: 23 May 2023
Lot number: 387

Lot description:

BITHYNIA, Nicaea. Messalina. Augusta, AD 41-48. Æ (36mm, 26.51 g, 7h). C. Cadius Rufus, proconsul. Struck circa AD 47-48. Draped bust left, hair in long plait / Façade of basilica: a two story tetrastyle central bay with two story wings flanking; inscribed entablature above. RG 33 var. (bust right); RPC I 2034. Red-brown patina, smoothed fields, scrapes and roughness, tooled. Near VF. Very rare.

Claudius was unlucky in marriage, but his third wife caused him the most scandal. Valeria Messalina was only 14 or 15 when she married the emperor, who at the time was about 50 years old. Although she bore Claudius two children (Claudia Octavia and Britannicus), she appears to have felt little attraction to her much older husband and was notoriously promiscuous, according to ancient accounts. While the emperor was traveling to Ostia in AD 48, he was informed that Messalina had secretly taken a second husband, a senator named Gaius Silius, who was said to be the handsomest man in Rome. Claudius returned to Rome and swiftly had Silius executed. Messalina was ordered to commit suicide, but could not muster the courage to do so, and a soldier promptly ran her through. A damnatio memoriae was pronounced against her name.

No Imperial issues with the portrait of Messalina were struck. As for the small number of provincial issues that carry her portrait, the largest and most impressive are from Nicaea in Bithynia. The elaborate building depicted on the reverse may represent the city's gymnasium, which stood in the city center. The geographer Strabo mentions the building as being especially magnificent, with a tower at its center from which all four city gates could be seen.

Estimate: 1000 USD