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Numismatica Ars Classica > Auction 97Auction date: 12 December 2016
Lot number: 83

Lot description:

The Roman Empire
Nero caesar, 50 – 54. Cistophorus, Pergamum circa 51, AR 11.26 g.

Description: NERONI CLAVD CAES DRVSO GERM Bareheaded and draped bust l. Rev. COS DES / PRINC / IVVENT inscribed on round shield within laurel wreath.

References: C 82
BMC Claudius 236
RIC Claudius 121
CBN Claudius 307
RPC 2225
Condition:Very rare and in exceptional condition for the issue. A very interesting and unusual portraitstruck on a surprisingly good metal. Light iridescent tone, a minor trace of die shift on obverse, otherwise good extremely fine
Provenance: Künker sale 270, 2015, 8606

Note: This splendid tetradrachm of Nero was struck at Pergamum in 51 soon after the young man had been formally adopted by the emperor Claudius after his marriage to Nero's mother, Agrippina the Younger. The strike is immaculate, with both sides perfectly centered, and the engraving magnificently reflects the finest style of pre-Neronian coin engraving under the Julio-Claudian emperors. This recalls the almost ceremonial nature of the type, the occasion of which was Nero's being designated in March A.D. 51 the Prince of Youth (princeps iuventutis), an equestrian role in which he presided over the Trojan Games where youths from Rome's most noble patrician families competed against one another in horse races in the circus. The shield carrying Nero's title is bounded by a wreath of laurel – a Roman symbol of victory related to the god Apollo whose pursuit of the nymph Daphne caused her to change into a laurel tree, according to the amorous vignette related in Ovid's Metamorphoses – and is tied at the bottom and set with a small medallion at the top. The original laurel wreath that Nero likely wore on the occasion of the Trojan Games was probably made of gold, and the joining medallion depicted on this coin may indicate that the wreath shown here was meant to represent the actual wreath that Nero wore.
Although Sutherland followed Mattingly in placing the imperial mint striking this issue at the old Attalid capital of Pergamum located in northwestern Asia Minor, the authors of RPC make a compelling argument based on stylistic comparisons with Ephesian bronzes that it was probably located at Ephesus, the seat of the provincial governor of Asia. The issue is quite rare, and follows the much larger cistophori issues of Claudius before his marriage to Agrippina II, probably struck in the early 40s. RPC records just ten specimens of this later type, and while a casual search will easily turn up more than ten examples in existence, the coin offered here is certainly amongst the finest if not the best preserved specimen available to today's collector.

Estimate: 15000 CHF