Historically Significant Aureus of Octavian and Julius Caesar

This ancient coin highlight from our official auction New York International Numismatic Convention demonstrates the foundation upon which the Julio-Claudian Dynasty would grow. Julius Caesar, quite possibly the most famous individual from Roman history, and his adopted heir, the first true Roman Emperor Augustus adorn this important succession issue. Octavian struck this coin in the midst of his meteoric rise to power. Just years before, his great-uncle Julius Caesar staged a coup d’état and twisted the Roman Republic into a form of monarchy and empire, and adopted the young Octavian as his heir. After Caesar’s assassination, Octavian would play the Senate, amass Caesar’s legions to himself, and defeat Caesar’s murderers and even his one-time ally Marc Antony to emerge as the first Emperor of Rome. Octavian had this issue minted in 43 B.C. most likely immediately following the Battle of Mutina (modern day Modena). This battle showed that Octavian would be a decisive player in the post-Caesar power struggle.

Out of the potential successors to Julius Caesar, only Octavian could claim to be his adopted and true heir. This stunning gold piece exemplifies Octavian’s familial connection to Julius Caesar. The obverse is a bare headed bust of a young Octavian, with an inscription which reads: ‘C. Caesar’ which is Octavian’s new name after being adopted by Julius Caesar. The reverse shows a laureate right facing bust of Julius Caesar, with an inscription starting with ‘C. Caesar’ as well. The name ‘Octavian’ is what modern historians use; he was cunning and called himself Caesar to stress his connection to Julius Caesar. Octavian’s titles that appear on the obverse also stress his connection to Julius Caesar, COS (consul) matches with Julius Caesar’s title of DICT. PERP. ‘dictator for life’. Both of these titles show the governmental leadership of these two men. Octavian’s other titles in the inscription also bond him to Julius Caesar’s legacy. ‘PONT. AVG.’ shows that Octavian belongs to the colleges of pontifices and augurs (religious groups). Julius Caesar’s title of Pontifex Maximus states his leadership of that group. This is one of the first portraits of Julius Caesar in gold as Julius Caesar issued some silver coins with his portraiture, but no gold. Typically gold coins only depicted deities, although Julius Caesar was deified by Marc Antony shortly after his death. Octavian used these coins as propaganda to his soldiers and anyone else who held these coins. His message was simply that he was the Divine Julius Caesar’s heir and this connection to divinity strengthened his right to rule the Roman people.

Octavian had these coins minted while on the march with his armies; this piece was struck in Northern Italy around 43 B.C. As was typical for traveling mints, the strike is slightly uneven, but still better than most. The coin exhibits full legends and distinct portraitures and is considered very fine. This piece would be a tremendous addition to any collection.

Look for this and other ancient and world numismatic rarities in our upcoming official auction of the January New York International Numismatic Convention. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this December at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located 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 official auction of the August 2015 ANA World’s Fair of Money 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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