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First Imperial coin of 2023 and an interesting reverse


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January started quite good in terms of new acquisitions. I bought 6 coins - 3 Republicans, 2 Imperials (one still on its way) and a Byzantine miliaresion.
The only imperial denarius arrived today, after another FedEx blooper (they are struggling to become more and more incompetent). But this is irrelevant since I am quite pleased with what I got. 

The denarius I want to present is from an infamous emperor, which we all know, Commodus. Everybody knows his life and eccentricities, certainly not a person to remember for good deeds (although who knows how much is real from his history). What I am most interested in - his coins, that are usually affordable and, some of them at least, interesting in design. 

When I was checking the auction I almost passed this, as I tend to skip denarii with a reverse with somebody just seated or standing, especially if the ruler is present in my collection. But I noticed that this is not the standard reverse. I was pleased with the condition and the price remained decent so I managed to grab it. 


Commodus AD 180-192. Rome. Denarius AR. 19 mm, 2,96 g
AD 186-189. M COMM ANT P FEL AVG BRIT, laureate bust to right / FORTVNAE MANENTI, Fortuna seated to left, holding cornucopiae and rudder with left hand and restraining horse by the bridle with right; C V P P in exergue. RIC III 191a; BMCRE 231; RSC 168a.

Not extremely rare (39 examples quickly found on acsearch, rated S in RIC) but I think this is not a common denarius either. What made this coin interesting for me was, of course, the reverse with Fortuna holding the horse by the bridle. I was not aware of this reverse type; although the horse is a common motif on ancient coins, this depiction is interesting and rare. 

If somebody knows the meaning of this posture, please post it. 

And of course, please post Commodus denarii, coins with horses or whatever you feel is relevant. 

Edited by ambr0zie
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  • ambr0zie changed the title to First Imperial coin of 2023 and an interesting reverse

This reverese shows that Commodus paid his vows to Fortune under the epithet of Manens. Fortuna Manens (enduring or abiding Fortune) was named for the more constant form of luck than Fortuna Mobilis (fickle Fortune). She is depicted here with her usual cornucopiae to symbolize abundance. With her right hand, however, She holds a horse by its bridle. The symbolism of this is unclear; perhaps she was able to "rein in" her capriciousness, or perhaps she is to be equated with Fortuna Equestris. Some have even suggested it is to mark an occasion when Commodus survived a riding accident. You will find this article fascinating.

Fortuna manens is praised by Horace (iii.29), as opposed to Fortuna mobilis.

Edited by Roman Collector
Fixing hyperlinks
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Great start to the New Year, @ambr0zie  Although no Commodus has come my way in 2023 so far, I did get a few of them towards the end of 2022, which your post gives me an excuse to show-n'-tell.  

But first, the OP type in my collection:


Commodus  Denarius (186-189 A.D.) Rome Mint M COMM ANT P FEL AVG BRIT, laureate head right / FORTVNAE MANENTI CVPP below, Fortuna the "Stayer" seated left, holding rudder, cornucopiae and horse's bridle. RIC 191a; Sear 5642; RSC 168a. (3.13 grams / 18 mm) eBay Mar. 2019

This one came in a fancy vinyl folder - it is one of the late "I am Hercules Incarnate" types, but not the one where the obverse shows him in the lionskin (on my bucket list):


Commodus  Denarius (191-192 A.D.) Rome Mint L AEL AVREL [COM]M AVG P FEL, laureate head right / HERCVLI [ROMA]NO AVG Hercules standing left, holding club and lion-skin in left arm, crowning trophy w. right hand. RIC III 254a; BMCRE 346A; Cohen RSC 202. (2.82 grams / 16 mm) eBay Dec. 2022 MAW    $35.00

This one really appealed to me for the "eyes heavenward" portrait, if otherwise a bit nondescript:


Commodus  Denarius (190 A.D.)  Rome Mint M COMM ANT P FEL AVG BRIT P P, laureate head right / P M TR P XV IM[P V]III COS VI, Commodus, togate, seated left, holding branch and sceptre. RIC III 212; BMCRE 281; Cohen RSC 555 bis. (2.60 grams / 18 x 16 mm) eBay Nov. 2022

Finally, here's a sestertius - I find Commodus to be one of my favorite emperors to collect.  I really like his portraits.  


Commodus Æ Sestertius (187-188 A.D.) Rome Mint [M COMMO]DVS ANT P FELIX AVG BRIT, laureate head right / P M TR P XIII IM[P VIII COS V P P], S-C, Salus seated left, feeding from patera in right hand snake coiled round altar RIC III 512; BMCRE 617. (20.68 grams / 27 x 25 mm) eBay Oct. 2022

As for his appearance, here is the Historia Augusta:

"Physically he was very well proportioned. His expression was dull, as is usual in drunkards, and his speech uncultivated. His hair was always dyed and made lustrous by the use of gold dust, and he used to singe his hair and beard because he was afraid of barbers."


That he looks like his philosopher father Marcus Aurelius, and yet...kind of dull, or lugubrious or something.  Roman portraiture is so marvelous.  

Edited by Marsyas Mike
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