Cast orichalcum Contorniate
|Sale: Triton VI, Lot: 1185. Estimate $2500.
Closing Date: Monday, 13 January 2003.
Sold For $3500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.
(27.37 gm). Late 4th Century AD. APOLLO PITIVS engraved above laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Trajan left / ARBILAS engraved above charioteer holding whip, driving quadriga right; in exergue, AREMATVS. Unpublished, but for obverse type and legend cf. Alföldi 595-6, pl. 166, 2-3; for reverse type, cf. Alföldi 629, pl. 203, 9. VF ($2500)
The term contorniate derives from the Italian contorno (surround) and was applied in the eighteenth century to describe these coin or medal-like objects which are surrounded by a solco di contorno (surrounding furrow). Contorniates were produced in the late 4th through 5th centuries and may have been used as presentation pieces or as counters in a board game such as calculi, or both. A connection with the circus and amphitheatre is obvious for they are generally of a popular historical, imperial or agonistic character, the most common being the busts of Emperors and scenes of chariot racing. It is significant that the emperors who appear most frequently on the obverse are the ones who gave the most enthusiastic patronage to the games: Nero, Trajan, and Caracalla. The legends, in this case engraved in incuse, often give the names of charioteers.