A Rare Famous Roman Coin - The Colosseum Aureus

A rare and famous coin. The Colosseum aureus, minted by Severus Alexander.

Recently, collectors from all over the world had the chance to admire one of Antiquity’s most spectacular and rare coins.

The Colosseum Aureus

This coin, sold at the “Auction 46 - The Millennia Collection”, organized by Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles on 26 may 2008, is considered to be one of the most rarest coins of the Roman Empire.

The coin, an aureus, is only the second of this kind known in the world. The standard catalogue for the Roman coins, ancient Roman Imperial Coinage (RIC), in volume IV, part 2, mentions a similar piece, nr. 33, but made from silver as a denarius and not from gold. The first coin of this type, made from gold, was identified and sold several times at different auctions, and is now part of a Swiss private collection. This second piece seems to be found in a hoard of aurei discovered in the 1960’s.

The grading is AUNC, better then the first coin and a dream for an ancient coin.

It belongs to a rare commemorative series issued by the emperor Severus Alexander (222-235) at the beginning of the reign.

Ob : IMP C M AVR SEV-ALEXANDER AVG (Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander Augustus). Laureate and draped bust to the right.

Rv: P M TR P II COS PP (Pontifex Maximus Tribunicia Potestatis Bis (II) Consul Pater Patriae). Colosseum with 4 stages, made from arcades. At the left, a shrine with statue. At the right, a column, maybe an entrance of the temple of Jupiter Victor.

The coin has a weight of 6.31 g of gold. According to the titles and the epithets of the Emperor, this coin dates from the year 223 AD. It was struck in Rome. The art portrait and the design of the building are executed by a very talented artist, with great artistic skills.

Also, the coin is minted very well, with high details and care for appearance (usually, the ancient coins are not perfectly centered).

The Colosseum, a symbol of Rome, now and then, was constructed during the reign of Vespasian (69-79) and inaugurated by his son, Titus (79-81). It was built on a place named Domus Aurea or “the house of gold”, a former palace of the emperor Nero (54-68). Because this place was associated by the population with the crimes of Nero, Vespasian decided to destroy the palace and create here a ? It was designed to be the place for sportive competitions although this word had a different meaning in Ancient Rome (gladiators’ fights, fights between gladiators and beasts like lions or bears, naval fights - naumahia - of course all ended with the death of the partipants). It had a capacity of around 50000-70000 people and it is considered the biggest amphitheater of the ancient world and a model for today stadiums. In 217 it suffered some damage because of a storm and it was rebuilt soon after. It continued to hold games, including the Millenium of Rome, held during the reign of Phillipus (244-249), until the fifth century.

As strange as it may seem, the name Colosseum was a colloquial form. The official name was Amphytheatrum Flavii (the amphitheater of the Flavian family - Vespasian and Titus). It was called the Colosseum after a gigantic statue in front of it, erected by Nero. The statue was gigantic for that time, about 37 m high and made from bronze. The statue was not destroyed after the death of Nero but every emperor started to modify the face of the statue, giving it their features. The name of this kind of statues was Colossus and in time people said that they meet near the Colossus and this is how the Colosseum got its name.

People that can afford this aureus but want a colosseum coin still have a hope… Gordian minted a sestertius, very similar to this one and also Titus, the emperor who inaugurated this building, minted a coin with this masterpiece of ancient architecture.

Vasilita Stefan

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