Auction Catalogue

2 & 3 June 2021

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Coins, Tokens, Historical Medals and Antiquities

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№ 866


3 June 2021

Estimate: £20,000–£26,000

Roman Imperial Coinage, Carausius, Denarius, London (?), imp caravsivs p avg, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right, rev. romae aeternae v, hexastyle temple of Roma with seated cult figure inside, srs in exergue, 3.74g (cf. Shiel 83; cf. RIC 578; cf. RCV 94). Good very fine and well-centred, a few minor areas of porosity; unique and important £20,000-£26,000

Provenance: Found at Dilton Marsh (Wiltshire); PAS FASAM-437278.

The reverse of this coin is decorated with the hexastyle temple of Roma, with a seated cult figure inside. The accompanying legend may provide a clue to the image’s intended model. Of course, legends reading romae aeter[nae] appeared on several 3rd century issues with temple types, particularly those of Probus. This coin, however, is unique in the addition of a v at the end of the legend. The presence of the letter, which is either absent from, or illegible on, the single example of this type in the British Museum, is remarkable and probably relevant to the type. One possible explanation for this v is that it represents the initial letter of a third word, otherwise omitted from the legend due to space constraints on the die, thus leading to a speculative extended reading of romae aeternae v[eneris].

The most obvious point of reference for this unusual legend would be the magnificent temple of Roma and Venus located in Rome. During its construction in the 120s and 130s, Hadrian issued a series of commemorative Aureii and Denarii celebrating the ongoing architectural achievement. One issue featured an image of Roma seated with the legend romae aeternae (RIC 2339-42). A parallel issue was decorated with the seated figure of Venus, accompanied by the legend veneris felicis (RIC 2365-9). The temple’s location along the via sacra between the Flavian Amphitheatre and the Forum, along with its monumental size, made it one of the major landmarks within ancient Rome. While a common sight in the eastern empire, the construction of a temple of Roma within the capital was unusual at the time. Roma was seldom worshipped in her own right. Instead, images of the imperial personification were often found in association with depictions of the emperor, an iconographical formula established and frequently employed by Augustus. J.W. Stamper (2005) has proposed that in constructing a temple dedicated (at least in part) to the worship of Roma, Hadrian was establishing a ‘further link to Augustus and his authority as a member of the Julio-Claudian family’. Within this context it is easy to see why Carausius would employ such an image. It fits perfectly into the wider attempts of Carausian numismatic propaganda to demonstrate Romanitas and particularly a close alignment to the first princeps, Augustus.

The reverse exergue mark is equally interesting. The report of this coin on the Portable Antiquities website suggests that the spelling srs is simply a rare erroneous form of rsr (Redeunt Saturnia Regna). Such sloppiness on behalf of the die sinker would be a little surprising given that great care was given to other aspects of the production of these coins. It is of course possible that the letters srs reference another excerpt from Augustan era literature that has yet to be recognised