Aureus of Tetricus I

This week we feature from the Robert O. Ebert Collection an Aureus struck by Tetricus I (A.D. 271 – 274) during his fleeting reign as the last Romano-Gallic Emperor. This era of Roman history must unfortunately be deduced from some unreliable sources, but numismatic pieces help illuminate this period. From 260 to 274 there existed an offshoot of the Roman Empire in Gaul, referred to as the Gallic Empire. The Romans could not protect their territory of Gaul from the Germanic tribes so the Gallic-Romans took control and established their own sub-empire. This Romano-Gallic Empire was heavily romanized, as the Gauls had gradually assimilated ever since the early Roman Empire; most of the structures of the true Roman Empire were copied, including the Senate. Tetricus I appears when his relative and predecessor, the morally reprehensible Victorinus is murdered by his soldiers. Tetricus I is then placed as the heir to the Romano-Gallic Empire by his grandmother, the politically shrewd Victoria. Tetricus I inherited a dying empire, one that the true Roman Empire eagerly wished to incorporate. In the spring of 274 the Roman Emperor Aurelian returned to Gaul to conquer the rebellion. In a battle at Chalons-sur-Marne (near Paris) Tetricus I was defeated and the Romano-Gallic Empire ceased to exist. Tetricus I may have sensed his approaching doom, and possibly cut a deal before the battle with Aurelian to surrender and be spared, as he was allowed to return to Rome where he became a governor and lived a long life.

The obverse of this stunningAureus depicts a right facing laureate bust of Tetricus I with a draped shoulder. Surrounding the bust is an inscription which reads: IMP. TETRI-CVS P. F. AVG. These epigraphs mean Imperator Tetricus, which states his right to rule an army and is where our modern word of emperor is derived. The second portion of the inscription is most likely Pius Felix, given that the reverse depicts the Roman god of luck, Felicitas. Pius Felix is interpreted as “divine luck”. The final portion of the obverse inscription: Augustus “the venerable” is the title adopted by the Roman Emperors since the days of Caesar Octavian the first Emperor. As noted, the reverse depicts the Roman god of luck, Felicitas. Felicitas is depicted standing facing left holding a patera in outstretched right hand over an altar, and with a long caduceus in left hand. The mint location is uncertain but most likely near the emperor’s court at Trier. The piece was minted at an unknown date sometime during his rule. The Aureus weighs 2.94 grams and is definitely an eye-catching addition to any numismatic collection. The details of this piece are easily discerned due to the coin’s well struck nature. This Choice Extremely Fine Aureus is very lustrous, an incredible example of late Roman Empire coinage.

Preview this impressive coin and the entire Robert O. Ebert Collection January 11-12, 2013, at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio Official NYINC Auction, held at The Waldorf Astoria, New York. For details please refer to the Auction Schedule/Details link under Current Auctions at To schedule an appointment, please call 800.566.2580.

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