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155, Lot: 281. Estimate $200.
Sold for $460. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Titus. AD 79-81. AR Denarius (17mm, 3.31 g). Rome mint. Struck AD 80. Laureate head right / Elephant standing left. RIC II 22a; RSC 303. VF, a few scratches.

For the Romans, the elephant was representative of many different things. Its African origins made it a logical symbol of Africa. Consequently, the personification of Africa was usually represented wearing an elephant’s skin headdress. Its size, strength, and seemingly impervious hide also made it a natural symbol of power, and it appears in that connection on several Republican denarii, including those of Julius Caesar. Because of its longevity, the elephant was a symbol of eternity. As such, elephants were often employed in processions involving cult statues of deities. The issues of Divus Augustus and Divus Vespasian both show their cult statues being conveyed by such animals. Among the menagerie depicted on the Saeculares issues of Philip I is an elephant, as a hoped-for wish for the continued success of empire. Therefore its presence among some of the earliest issues of the Flavians may express the hope that their dynasty, born as a result of Civil War, would endure long enough to bring a period of peace to the empire.

The elephant depicted here has also a specific and immediate reference. The elephant represents one of the numerous species displayed in the newly constructed Flavian Amphitheater, or Colosseum, built by prisoners of the First Jewish War on the site of the Domus Aurea of Nero. Opened to the public during Titus’ rule in AD 80, and commemorated by Martial in de Spectaculis, the Colosseum was welcomed with great fanfare and games. During the opening ceremonies a great number of animals, including elephants, were both exhibited and slaughtered.