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Research Coins: Feature Auction

 
11100775

An Offering of Gordian III Aurei

CNG 111, Lot: 775. Estimate $5000.
Sold for $5500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Gordian III. AD 238-244. AV Aureus (20mm, 5.04 g, 12h). Rome mint, 2nd officina. 2nd emission, AD 239. IMP CAES M ANT GORDIANVS AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / P M TR P II COS PP, Jupiter standing facing, head left, holding long scepter in right hand, thunderbolt and his mantle in his left, over small figure of Gordian at his feet to left. RIC IV 21; Calicó 3211; Biaggi –; Hunterian –; Jameson –; Mazzini –. Choice EF, lustrous.


Gordian III’s six year reign was an island of relative tranquility in the turbulent mid-third century AD. This and the following seven coins, all with different reverse types, represent a remarkable representative offering of gold aurei from this transitional reign.

He was the grandson of Gordian I Africanus, patriarch of an immensely wealthy and influential family, who in AD 238 was proclaimed emperor in revolt against the cruel Maximinus I Thrax. The regime collapsed almost immediately, and, through an improbable series of events, the 13-year-old Gordian III was eventually saluted as emperor, the only one of AD 238’s six Roman rulers to survive the year. Due to his youth, he was at first dominated by his mother and a board of senators, who had to walk a tightrope to avoid the fate of previous short-lived regimes. In AD 241, Gordian appointed as Praetorian Prefect the capable Timesitheus, whose daughter Tranquillina became his bride. Timesitheus became a beneficent mentor who kept Gordian’s weak government on an even keel. But in the same year, the Sasanian Persians under Shapur I crossed Rome’s desert frontier and threatened Antioch, forcing young Gordian to take up arms. His army engaged Shapur at Rhesaena in Syria and won a signal victory early in AD 243. But the death of Timesitheus that winter brought Roman progress to a grinding halt. Supplies dwindled, and the new prefect, Philip, blamed the shortage on Gordian’s incompetence. The soldiers grew rebellious. Gordian reportedly offered to abdicate in Philip’s favor, but Philip instead simply seized the throne and had Gordian quietly murdered early in AD 244. Sadly, his youth and gentle nature had proven unsuited to the demands of hard times.