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Numismatica Ars Classica > Auction 54Auction date: 24 March 2010
Lot number: 361

Lot description:

The Roman Empire

Vespasian, 69 – 79

Sestertius, 71, Æ 28.39 g. IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG PM TR P COS III Laureate head r., with aegis Rev. S – C Roma seated r. on the seven hills propping head on r. hand and holding sceptre in l.; to l., wolf and twins; to r., river Tiber. C 404. BMC 774 (these dies). RIC 108 (these dies). CBN 523.
Extremely rare, only one reverse die known of this important issue. Dark brown-green
patina expertly smoothed with loss of Roma’s helmet-crest from former area of
corrosion on reverse, otherwise about extremely fine
Ex Leu 50, 1990, 291, NAC 7, 1994, 706 and Vinchon 22 May 1995, 289 sales. From the Luc Girard collection,
Rome could hardly be better represented than by this remarkable type of Vespasian, which shows the eponymous Dea Roma seated rather at ease amongst the seven hills of Rome, her sword sheathed, with the river-god Tiberis at her feet, and at her side the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus.
This Roma renascens ('Rome reborn') type, is consciously antiquarian, and can be seen as a reflection of Rome's emergence from the violent civil war that raged from 68 to 69, the first such test of Rome in a century. As the victor in the contest and the restorer of stability to the empire, Vespasian could justly claim the privilege of using this type.
The design was used only for sestertii of the first and second issues of the Rome mint in 71. Its most unusual feature is the representation of the seven hills of Rome. The city was called Septicollis because seven hills were enclosed within the Servian Wall, representing the extent of the original city; only later would outlying areas, including the Vatican Hill, be enclosed within the larger circuit wall built by Aurelian. Represented on this coin are the Palatinus, Quirinalis, Aventinus, Coelius, Viminalius, Esquilinus, and Tarpeius (Capitolinus) hills.
According to popular mythology recorded by Livy, which the Romans took as national history, Rome was founded at the spot where the twins had been left to drown as infants, and subsequently were raised. When they began to build the city, Remus wished it to be named Remuria, and Romulus preferred Roma, and they quarrelled over who should rule the new city.
In one version of the tale they left the decision to the tutelary gods of the countryside. The signs of the augury were interpreted differently by supporters of each; blind with ambition, fraternal combat ensued in which Remus was killed. An alternative tradition suggests that Romulus killed Remus in an act of vengeance for his having mocked his brother by jumping over the half-built walls of the new settlement. Since Livy says in the first tradition that the disputed auspices were observed by Romulus from the Palatine and by Remus from the Aventine, we might presume those two hills are the ones beside the she-wolf and Romulus and Remus.
It can be seen as a precursor to aurei and denarii that Vespasian issued six or seven years later in the names of Titus and Domitian; the latter depicted the she-wolf and twins, usually above a boat, and the former showed Roma seated upon shields, accompanied by two birds and the she-wolf suckling the twins (a design that formerly appeared on anonymous Republican denarii of c. 115/4 B.C.).

Estimate: 8000 CHF