This Coin was one of only 22 made and only seven that are in private collections It was described as ‘truly extraordinary’ by auctioneers The coin was in excellent condition and a ‘beautiful work of art’
This coin sold at auction for £480,000
Augustus AR Denarius. Uncertain mint, 28 BC.
CAESAR DIVI F COS VI, bare head right / AEGYPTO CAPTA in two lines, crocodile to right below. RIC 545;
Bearing the Nile crocodile as the sole element of the reverse design, and with the simple legend conveying a
succinct message, this coin proudly announces Octavian’s annexation of Egypt to the Empire. After the Battle of
Actium Octavian invaded Egypt in August 30 BC and, with the conquest that followed, at once assured his supremacy
by the death of Marc Antony and Cleopatra, and guaranteed his power through the great wealth of Egypt and the grain supply that could be harnessed for Rome. The Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, the last of the great
Hellenistic kingdoms had been reduced to the status of a Roman province.
However, this coin is more than just a propagandistic type proclaiming the achievements of Rome’s de-facto
ruler to the masses, as the subtle imagery makes an important statement about Octavian himself. In contrast to the issues of this type minted in Italy, which bear a lituus on the obverse in reference to Octavian’s membership of the priestly College of Augurs, those struck in the East bear the Zodiac sign of the Capricorn under the bust truncation.
Appropriately for this reverse type, in ancient mythology, the origins of the Capricorn could be found in Egypt.
Represented as a goat with a fish tail, it is often thought to be a representation of Pan escaping an attack by the
monster Typhon for, having jumped into the Nile, the half of Pan’s body which was submerged was transformed into
a fish. The significance of the constellation Capricorn to Augustus is subject to debate, with some ancient sources reporting that it was his birth sign and others relating that he was conceived under the sign – the latter tying in with his official birthday on 23rd-24th September.
Although we now view conception and birth as two separate events, the Romans viewed conception through to birth as a continuous process, which perhaps explains this anomaly. Under the tropical Zodiac, the sun transits Capricorn from late December to late January, marking midwinter and the shortest day of the year. For this reason, it was often considered a hostile sign and indeed it was in January 43 BC that the Senate had granted Octavian Imperium, which many would have seen as a bad omen. However, Octavian clearly chose to interpret his Zodiac sign positively as the Capricorn remains a prominent feature on the coinage even after he has been honored with the title ‘Augustus’, an event which fittingly occurred on 16 January 27 BC.
Value Worth: GVF £8,000 FDC £30,000