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Research Coins: Electronic Auction

352, Lot: 428. Estimate $150.
Sold for $95. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Antoninus Pius. AD 138-161. Æ Sestertius (34mm, 30.24 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck AD 147. Laureate head right / Felicitas standing left, holding capricorn and long winged caduceus. RIC III 770; Banti 150. VF, brown patina with touches of green, small patch of roughness on the obverse.

Ex VAuctions 296 (14 February 2013), lot 122.

The standard depiction of Felicitas shows her holding a caduceus and a cornucopia, attributes of the good fortune denoted by her name. This coin, however, clearly shows her holding a capricorn rather than the cornucopia. According to Suetonius, Augustus had been born while the moon was in the sign of Capricorn. Seeing this as a sign of his great destiny, Augustus associated the symbol closely with himself by striking it on coins and incorporating it into numerous works of art, so that it became a standard part of the imperial iconography. In order to legitimize their own claims, his successors periodically employed the capricorn imagery.

As Rome approached its nine-hundredth anniversary as a city, it was also celebrating over a century-and-a-half of imperial rule. Since the peace and prosperity of Antoninus Pius' rule was the direct result of Augustus' establishment of the Principate, it was quite logical to replace the cornucopia of Felicitas with a capricorn, as this coin shows, since good fortune ultimately came from the emperor.