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539289. SOLD $650

Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius. 81 BC. AR Denarius (18.5mm, 3.90 g, 6h). North Italian mint. Diademed head of Pietas right; before, stork right / Elephant walking left; Q • C • M • P • I in exergue. Crawford 374/1; Sydenham 750; Caecilia 43; BMCRR Spain 43-6; Kestner 3199; RBW 1396. Well centered, lightly toned and struck from dies of delicate style. EF. An exceptional example of this issue.

Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius had a long career as a politician and general during the action-packed early first century BC. He earned the title “Pius” for his unwavering support for his father, Metellus Numidicus, after the elder was exiled due to the political maneuverings of Gaius Marius, a bitter enemy of the Metelli. During the Social War, Pius was a solid, if unspectacular, commander and a more successful magistrate administering the newly reconquered lands of Italy. During the Civil War of AD 84-80, he reluctantly backed Sulla against the Marian regime of Cinna and Carbo, ultimately becoming Sulla’s second in command. It was during this period he struck silver denarii of this distinctive design at an unknown mint in Northern Italy, using the newly minted cash to raise armies in support of Sulla. The types refer to his agnomen Pius and his newly won title as Pontifex Maximus (Pietas), and his father’s role as a commander in Africa (elephant); the letters on the reverse most likely stand for Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pontif Imperator. After serving as co-consul with Sulla in 80 BC, his “reward” was a command in Spain against the rebel Quintus Sertorius, who badly outclassed Pius as a general and ran rings around him for several years. Help finally arrived in the form of the young Gnaeus Pompey Magnus, in 77 BC; together, they eventually ran Sertorius to ground and procured his assassination. After being voted a triumph that few thought he deserved, Pius retired to private life. His death in 63 BC opened up the office of Pontifex Maximus, which the young Julius Caesar sought and won. Metellus Pius is a major character in Colleeen McCullough’s First Man of Rome novel series, with the derisive nickname of “piglet.”