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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Accurate Depiction of a Victimarius Scene

CNG 91, Lot: 673. Estimate $4000.
Sold for $3750. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

JUDAEA, Herodians. Agrippa I, with Claudius. 37-43 CE. Æ (27mm, 17.11 g, 1h). Caesarea Maritima mint. Dated RY 7 or 8 of Agrippa (42/3 CE or 43/4 CE). Laureate head of Claudius right; c/m: head left with oval incuse / Two figures (Claudius and Agrippa?) standing facing one another, each holding patera, within distyle temple; between, torso of figure holding uncertain object above victimarius kneeling left, restraining offering; [date] in pediment. A. Burnett, “The coinage of King Agrippa I of Judaea and a new coin of King Herod of Chalcis,” Mélanges Bastien 10; Meshorer 121b or 125a; Hendin 1245 or 1249a; RPC I 4983 or 4984; for c/m: Howgego 156. Near VF, dark green patina, earthen deposits, numerous cleaning marks. Rare.

Agrippa had a close relationship with both Gaius (Caligula) and Claudius, in part helping to secure the rule of the latter in the uncertain days following his unexpected rise to the purple by counseling the understandably shaken Claudius and entreating the Senate to support him. Indeed, his relationship with Claudius was sufficiently close that Josephus (Ant. xix. 5.1) records that among the new emperor’s first acts was the publication of an edict guaranteeing Agrippa’s kingdom (with the title “great king”) and granting the territory of Chalcis to Agrippa’s elder brother Herod.

Burnett believed the scene on the reverse represented the consecration of this treaty in Rome, a treaty which is specifically mentioned by Josephus (He also made a league with this Agrippa, confirmed by oaths, in the middle of the Forum in the city of Rome. [Jospehus, Ant. xix.5.1]). Although Suetonius (Suetonius, Claud. 25.5) also places the rites of the treaty (or fetial ceremony), which included the sacrifice of a pig, in the Roman Forum, Burnett argued that they instead took place at the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. Following Burnett’s interesting argument, this rare Judaean bronze not only represents a religious ceremony before the holiest temple of Rome, but accurately depicts a victimarius (sacrificial assistant) about to kill a pig.