On the 20th of may 2009, the company “Classical Numismatic Group” organized the “Mail Bid Sale 81” with different kinds of coins, especially ancient ones.
One of the most spectacular coins sold was a very rare aureus minted by Sextus Pompey, son of Pompey the Great.
This is one of the rarest coins of the end of the Republic, as shown by the final price $72,500 , a bid under the estimated $75,000 .
The coin’s description:
AU, å , 8.17 gr.
Bare head of Sextus Pompey to right. Legend MAG PIVS-IMP ITER (Magnus Pius Imperator Iter). All in oak wreath.
Confronted bare heads of Cnaeus Pompey the Great and his son. On sides, a lituus and a tripod . The legend PRAEF/ CLAS.ET.ORAE/MARIT.EX.S.C
M. Crawford Roman Republican Coinage , nr. 511/1
Minted in Sicily, around 42 BC.
This coin has a particular interesting history. After the war between Caesar and Pompey the Great, finished with Caesar’s victory at Phillipi in Macedonia in 49 BC, the sons of the latter continued the fight. After long wars, with different episodes, one more dramatic then the other, one of Pompey’s sons, Sextus, was able to build a fleet and conquer one of the Roman provinces, Sicily. When Caesar was alive, he was considered to be a pirate and the Roman state fought him. Yet his power was considerable in the region, so he was able to mint some coins, usually in silver.
After Caesar’s death, because of the political fights in Rome, he was considered an ally by the Senate and an enemy by Caesar’s son, Octavian Augustus.
In 44 and 43 BC, the Senate appointed him praefectus of Sicily, a function that can be assimilated with that of an admiral. On this occasion, he minted some coins like this one, with his head and his father’s head. Because Pompey the Great didn’t mint any coins with his portrait, this piece is a fine example of how he looked like.
Sextus Pompeius was able to hold the power until 36 BC when he was finally defeated by Octavian and killed.
In front, the coin shows Sextus’s bust. The oak wreath (corona civica in Latin) and the title IMP ITER (ruler for the second time) are titles given by the Senate after his victory in 43 BC over the rebel general Salvidienus. The Corona Civica or civil crown was a form of medal, given to a soldier if he had saved the life of a comrade in battle.
On the back, the coin shows Pompey the Great and his son, Cnaeus, Sextus’s brother. Behind the bust of Pompey, a lituus, a sacred instrument, similar to a spoon, used in religious ceremonies. It was used only by the high ranking priest, as Pompey was.
Behind Cnaeus, the tripod, or tree legs, is a specific instrument used by the quindecimviri sacris faciundis or “the 15 men (appointed) to make sacred sacrifices”, one of the high ranking religious functions in ancient Rome, in their sacrificing activity.
The legend on this side means: Praefectus Classis et Orae Maritimae ex Senatum Consulto - Admiral of the fleet and the shores (of Sicily), by Senate decision.
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