Denarius of Caligula Honoring his Father Germanicus

Caligula, third emperor of Rome and the first Roman emperor to be assassinated, was the great-grandson of both primary adversaries in the Battle of Actium: Marc Antony and Octavian/Augustus. With this lineage and his upbringing in the army camps of his father, it must have come as a great shock to the Roman people when he did little in the way of serious military endeavors. Perhaps he would have considered more military campaigns later in life, but as history shows, the Praetorian Guard conspired with the Senate (two powerful groups the emperor spurned) to have Caligula assassinated four years into his reign. In addition to the military legacy of his great-grandfathers, his own father, Germanicus, was also a prominent general. Caligula honors a number of his familial relations throughout his coinage series, including this important issue honoring his father.

Germanicus led conquests into Germany and eventually recaptured lost Legionary Eagles and avenged previous defeats. This military success earned him the love and honor of the Roman people, and led him to take increasingly more prestigious provincial governmental roles. His rising popularity endangered his life, and he was most likely poisoned as part of a plot by the emperor Tiberius. Germanicus’ military success, virtuous character and his sudden and shocking death at a young age led to many references as Rome’s Alexander the Great. Unfortunately Germanicus’ son the emperor Caligula would not reach these levels of military success or adoration, but Caligula would honor the success his father had.

In our January official auction of the New York International Numismatic Convention we offer a coin that displays one of the many familial relations Caligula chose to honor. This Denarius honoring Germanicus features on the obverse the right facing head of Caligula adorned with a laurel crown, with his name, titles and powers in the legend around. The reverse features the bare headed right facing head of Germanicus, with his name followed by an abbreviated P indicating the Latin Pater (father) and Caligula’s full name around. Caligula’s coinage attempted to remind the populace of his connection to the previous generations of strong Roman military leaders, yet the Senate and his guards only saw a sadistic, tyrannical young man.

Look for this and other ancient and world numismatic rarities in our upcoming January New York International Numismatic Convention auction. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this December at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries office in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Events Calendar link at To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. While our Stack’s Bowers Galleries January New York International Numismatic Convention auction is no longer open for consignments, we are currently taking consignments of ancient and world coins for our August 2015 ANA World’s Fair of Money Showcase Auction and our April 2015 Hong Kong Showcase Auction of Asian Coins and Currency. If you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.

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