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Gold for the Victors of Thapsus

589964. SOLD $22500

The Caesarians. Julius Caesar. Early 46 BC. AV Aureus (21mm, 8.13 g, 12h). Rome mint; A. Hirtius, praetor. Veiled head of female (Vesta or Pietas?) right; C • CAESAR COS TER around / Emblems of the augurate and pontificate: lituus, capis, and securis; A • HIRTIVS • PR around from lower left. Crawford 466/1; Molinari 148-54 (D12/R215); CRI 56; Sydenham 1018; Bahrfeldt 19; Calicó 37; Biaggi 27-8; BMCRR Rome 4052; Kestner 3634-6; RBW 1634. Light reddish tone, a few faint cleaning marks. Near EF. Struck on a broad flan from dies of pleasing style.

Aulus Hirtius, friend and confidant of Julius Caesar, was praetor in 46 BC, and thus charged with the distribution of the first truly large issue of Roman gold coins to date. The aurei were for distribution to the general’s successful troops after their final victory over the Pompeians in Africa at Thapsus. Each legionary received 5000 denarii (200 aurei), centurions twice that. Since Caesar had at least 40,000 legionnaires at Thapsus, the amount of coin needed was immense. But the amount of booty collected from Caesar’s many campaigns was also colossal, and Hirtius seems to have been able to supply the need. Hirtius later finished the dictator’s memoirs after his assassination and was himself killed at the siege of Mutina in 43 BC.