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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

Sale: Nomos 2, Lot: 193. Estimate CHF1200. 
Closing Date: Monday, 17 May 2010. 
Sold For CHF3700. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Commodus. AD 177-192. Denarius (Silver, 2.88 g 6), Rome, very late 191-192. L AEL AVREL COMM AVG P FEL Head of Commodus to right, wearing the lion skin headdress of Hercules. Rev. HERCVLI ROMANO AVG Bow, club and quiver loaded with arrows. BMC 343. Cohen 195. RIC 253. An astonishingly well-preserved and sharply struck coin, rare thus. Struck on a slightly tight flan, otherwise, good extremely fine.

As is well known, Commodus, the son of the philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius, became increasingly deranged as his reign moved on, and this coin is palpable evidence for the form of madness that led to his assassination soon after it was issued. By the late 180s he had identified himself with Hercules and sought to emulate him by killing both animals and humans in the arena. His passion for gladiatorial combats was so great that contemporaries suggested his actual father was a gladiator who Faustina II had taken as a lover. The fact that he advertised his beliefs on the coinage must have been one of the reasons why the conspiracy against him was formed. The silver coinage of Commodus is notorious for its generally poor condition: many were lightly struck and seldom anywhere near as attractive of those of his immediate predecessors. This piece is exceptional and particularly well struck.