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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Important Nepos Tremissis

CNG 91, Lot: 977. Estimate $10000.
Sold for $25000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Julius Nepos. First reign, AD 474-475. AV Tremissis (14mm, 1.43 g, 6h). Ravenna mint. D N IVL NEPOS P F AVG, pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right / Cross within wreath; COMOB. RIC X 3252 (interregnal issue at uncertain mint); Lacam –; Depeyrot 40 (this coin referenced). Good VF, small mark in field on obverse. Extremely rare, one of only eight known.

Ex UBS 78 (9 September 2008), lot 2043; Cahn 75 (30 May 1932), lot 1530 (incorrectly labelled 1930 on the pl. 31).

In his second volume on the late Imperial gold, Depeyrot records only eight examples, which he lists in the supplemental volume, L’or du bas-empire (Wetteren: Moneta, 2004). In addition to the present coin, at most two others are in private hands, one having been in the collection of the former state of Rhodesia, and another sold in R. Ratto, 8 February 1928, lot 4998. The remainder are all in museum collections (Glasgow, Paris, Rome, and the Vatican).

After the assassination of Valentinian III, the western Roman empire endured 20 years of chaos under a succession of ephemeral emperors, usurpers and puppet rulers. Nominally the appointee and co-ruler with the emperor at Constantinople, the Roman emperors were in fact at the mercy of the Germans, Goths and Huns who, as magistri militum, or Masters of Soldiers, held the true reins of power. Emperors were deposed at will; Petronius Maximus in 455, Avitus the following year, Majorian in 461, Libius Severus in 465, Anthemius in 472, Olybrius the same year, and Glycerius in 474. Only Majorian and Anthemius had the blessings of the monarch of the east. Glycerius, although a moderately successful ruler, was replaced by Julius Nepos, the nephew of Leo I, and ordained bishop of Salona. Nepos was unable to restore order in Italy, and Leo's death later in 474 left him in an exposed position. The magister militum Orestes elevated his own son Romulus (Augustulus) to the purple, and Nepos fled Ravenna, his last outpost in Italy, and into exile in Dalmatia. The presumptive emperor came to know intense frustration when, in 476, Orestes and Romulus were overthrown by Odoacer, who declared the western kingdom no longer required a separate emperor. Nepos's entreaties for his restoration were ignored, although Zeno expressed his sympathy, and urged Odaocer to allow him to return to Ravenna. In fact, the true last "Roman" emperor lived in exile until 480, when he was murdered, supposedly on the orders of the bishop of Salona, the same Glycerius who had been deposed by Nepos in 474.