The Ultimate Augustus Portrait Coin

  Signis Receptis Denarius, Ex-CNG

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This is an exceptional, high-relief Augustus portrait on an historically significant coin.  Portraits of this quality are uncommon.

Augustus  27 BC - 14 AD
AR Denarius  (3.62 gm)  EF
19 BC,  Nimes Mint
Bare head left
Shield inscribed CL V:  Legionary eagle and standard
RIC I 86b:  BMCRE 420:  RSC 267

Acquired from Classical Numismatic Group, April 2001.

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This denarius was minted to commemorate the return of Roman standards captured by the Parthians at Carrhae.  In 53 BC, Marcus Licinius Crassus, Roman governor of Syria, led 6,000 troops into battle against the Parthians at Carrhae, near modern day Haran, Turkey. He suffered a devastating defeat, and more than 90% of his soldiers were killed.  Crassus and the Roman standards were captured, and Crassus was subsequently executed.  In 20 BC Augustus scored a political windfall by negotiating the return of the standards.


As described by Cassius Dio, Roman History (LIV.8):

"Meanwhile Phraates, fearing that Augustus would lead an expedition against him because he had not yet performed any of his engagements, sent back to him the standards and all the captives, with the exception of a few who in shame had destroyed themselves or, eluding detection, remained in the country. Augustus received them as if he had conquered the Parthian in a war; for he took great pride in the achievement, declaring that he had recovered without a struggle what had formerly been lost in battle. Indeed, in honour of this success he commanded that sacrifices be decreed and likewise a temple to Mars Ultor on the Capitol, in imitation of that of Jupiter Feretrius, in which to dedicate the standards; and he himself carried out both decrees. Moreover he rode into the city on horseback and was honoured with a triumphal arch."

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