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Denarii of the Civil War


Civil War. AD 68-69. AR Denarius (18mm, 3.55 g, 1h). 'SIGNA P R Group'. Uncertain mint in Gaul or in the Rhine Valley. MARS VLTOR, draped bust of Mars to right, wearing crested helmet and plain necklace / SIGNA / P - R, Aquila to right before lighted altar; signum on either side. RIC I 51; AM 60; RSC 406; Mairat 78.8 (this coin); BMCRE 39; Nicolas, Néron 94 and pl. VIII, 94 PR1 (this coin). Beautifully toned, minor edge nicks. Good VF.

Ex Dipl.-Ing Christian Gollnow Collection; Gordon McLendon Collection (Christie’s New York, 12 June 1993), lot 103; Numismatic Fine Arts XII (23 March 1983), lot 201; Dr. E.P. Nicolas Collection (Kampmann, 9 March 1982), lot 203; A. Page (14 June 1933), lot 799 ('Collection d'un Amateur Parisien').

The civil wars at the end of Nero’s reign began with the revolt of the governor of Gallia Lugdunensis, Gaius Julius Vindex, probably around the beginning of March of AD 68. Vindex offered the leadership of the revolt to Servius Sulpicius Galba, then governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, who was hailed imperator by the Spanish legions at Carthago Nova in April of the same year. The title was cautiously refused, but Galba did declare himself the legatus of the senate and people of Rome. Just a month later, Galba’s confidence would be shaken by the crushing defeat of Vindex near Besançon by the general Lucius Verginius Rufus, governor of Germania Superior. But in another twist of fate, by 9 June, Nero was dead, having taken his own life. Galba began his march to Rome, and his brief reign was underway.

Coinage, of course, was needed during these precarious months of revolt and without an emperor to strike in the name of (save for that in honor of the “model emperor” of Roman history, Augustus) the coinage was struck with messages suiting the political climate. The issues struck under Vindex possess a more aggressive air that underscores the militant nature of his revolt, while Galba’s tend to be more constitutional and optimistic in tone.