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A Civil War Military Denarius

David Atherton

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I love the so called 'military denarii' struck for Vespasian during or in the immediate aftermath of the 69 AD Civil War. They are rare as hen's teeth and seldom come up in trade. Strange portraits, odd legend arrangements, and unique reverse types abound. They open a fascinating window on a time of turmoil and transition.

With a great deal of pleasure, I'm pleased to share my latest acquisition from this rare issue.




AR Denarius, 3.01g
Uncertain mint, 69-71 AD
Obv: IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.
Rev: MARS VLTOR; Mars adv. r., with spear and trophy
RIC 1373 (R3, this coin), BMC -. BNC -. RSC -.
Ex HJB, MBS 224, lot 107. Ex Curtis Clay collection. Ex CNG, MBS 43, 24 September 1997, lot 863.

In late October 69 the Second Battle of Cremona was fought between the legions of Vitellius and Vespasian. It resulted in the utter defeat of the Vitellian side and their slow retreat towards Rome. Not long afterwards the Spanish legions went openly for Vespasian, which up until that point had only been neutrally friendly toward him. Coins were quickly struck for Vespasian in the newly won province. Most of these are attributed to Tarraco and an unknown Spanish mint. Intriguingly, a small military issue was contemporaneously struck at an uncertain mint somewhere in the western empire - Mattingly thought perhaps Aquileia. The issue contains some stylistic affinities with the Spanish series, but more importantly, recent metal analysis by K. Butcher and M. Ponting show the silver content is almost identical to that of the Spanish coins. It is very likely these early military denarii were also struck in Spain in late 69 soon after the province went over to Vespasian. This unique Mars type with an unusual vertical obverse legend displays the typical portrait style of this rare military issue - small portrait with upward gaze in somewhat crude style. These denarii were likely struck in haste during the turmoil of late 69/early 70 as propaganda pieces by the pro-Flavian factions in the region. This specimen is the RIC reference coin, although it is not pictured in the plates.


In hand.


As always, thank you for looking!

Edited by David Atherton
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