Roman Empire, Commodus - A Unique Aureus

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One of only three examples of this type that have appeared at auction in fifteen years, this coin's rarity is dramatically underestimated by RIC and Calicó. The Biaggi specimen, which was sold in NAC 49 in October 2008 (lot 295) and subsequently resold by Hirsch was only 'Very Fine' in grade, and was the best example that could be found by Calicó for inclusion in that reference work. A further example with a variant bust type was recently offered in a Heritage auction. The cataloguers of that coin also noted the discrepancy between its stated rarity in the references and the number of actual examples present in the market. This example is also a variant of RIC 70/Calicó 2299, as the bust does not display the drapery which is present on the Biaggi/Calicó or BM examples. The obverse die is in fact one used in conjunction with the Jupiter seated type (RIC 69); its use with this reverse die is previously unknown.

The meglomania of Commodus' later years is well attested in the ancient sources, with his worship of Hercules becoming so intense that eventually he came to believe himself an incarnation of the mythological hero. Other reverse types boldly proclaim his aspirations to divinity and attest to Commodus' belief that he was a demi-god and the son of Jupiter - the sponsor, or guardian, of the security and health of the emperor.

Commodus AV Aureus. Rome, AD 183-184. M COMMODVS ANTON AVG PIVS, laureate and cuirassed bust right / P M TR P VIIII IMP VI COS IIII P P, Jupiter standing to left, holding sceptre and thunderbolt; at his feet, an eagle standing to left with head reverted. BMC 116 var.; RIC 70 var.; Calicó 2299 var. 7.19mm, 20mm, 12h.

Near Mint State. Apparently Unique.