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Research Coins: Electronic Auction

432, Lot: 264. Estimate $750.
Sold for $1100. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

The Pompeians. Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio and P. Licinius Crassus Junianus. 47- Spring 46 BC. AR Denarius (18mm, 3.38 g, 3h). Utica mint. Genius of Africa (Sekhmet) standing facing, holding ankh in right hand; [G]T A flanking head; [S]CIPIO • IMP upward to left, Q • METEL • PIVS downward to right / Victory standing left, holding winged caduceus in right hand, small round shield in left; LEG • PRO • PR upward to left, P • CRASSVS • IV[N] downward to right. Crawford 460/4; CRI 43; Sydenham 1050; Caecilia 51; Type as RBW 1604. Near VF, toned, a few banker’s marks. Rare.

From the Andrew McCabe Collection.

The goddess Sekhmet on the obverse of this rare type is the only instance I can recall of an alien – non-Roman and non-Greek – god on a coin of the Roman Republic, and the only appearance of Sekhet or Sekhmet on an ancient coin. This is also the rarest of the Metellus Scipio and Crassus Junior RRC 460 types. In Egyptian religion, Sekhmet was a goddess of war and the destroyer of the enemies of the sun god Ra. Sekhmet was associated both with disease and with healing and medicine. She was the companion of the god Ptah and was worshipped principally at Memphis, and is depicted as a lioness or as a woman with the head of a lioness, on which was placed the solar disk and the uraeus serpent (Britannica). The significance of placing a wholly African god on a Roman coin may have been an appeal to local mercenaries or influential supporters of the Pompeian regime. Sekhmet is a cult figure in a number of gaming and graphic storyline arenas. For example, as a psychopomp goddess (guiding dead souls) worshipped in Wakanda in the Marvel comic series. Her appeal transcends generations and media types in a way few Roman Republican coins can. The figure of Sekhmet is artistically engraved with details well-preserved on this old-toned coin. Of course, the coin also has a backside and the reverse with Victory lands us back in the conventional Roman civil war arena, with a brave son of Crassus and an arrogant and unliked descendant of Scipio sharing moneyer roles. [Andrew McCabe]