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Triton XXIII – Session Three – Roman Imperial Coinage Part II through World Coinage Part I

Lot nuber 775

Commodus. AD 177-192. Bimetallic Medallion (40mm, 69.15 g, 12h). Rome mint. Struck AD 191-192.


Triton XXIII – Session Three – Roman Imperial Coinage Part II through World Coinage Part I
Lot: 775.
 Estimated: $ 20 000

Roman Imperial, Bronze

Sold For $ 20 000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

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Commodus. AD 177-192. Bimetallic Medallion (40mm, 69.15 g, 12h). Rome mint. Struck AD 191-192. L • AELIVS • AVRELIVS • COMMO DVS AVG PIVS FELIX, jugate heads of Commodus, radiate, and Amazon (Marcia or Roma), wearing crested helmet with visor, necklace, and pelta on chest / P M TR P XVII • IM P VIII C OS VII P • P, on left, Hercules, naked, right hand behind back, holding club draped with lion’s skin set on stone; on right, Commodus, wearing sacerdotal dress, standing left, sacrificing with patera in right hand over lighted and garlanded altar and holding volumen in left. Gnecchi II, 116, pl. 85, 9 (same obv. die); Grueber 33, pl. XXXIV; Froehner p. 143; MIR 18, 1158-2/50; Cohen 2; Banti 4 (Commodus and Marcia); cf. Firenze 64. Green-brown patina, lightly chipped around edge. Near EF. Very rare.

This remarkable obverse has been the cause of debate. The pelta, a distinctively Amazonian shield, has long led some to identify the female figure as Marcia, Commodus’ concubine and trusted companion whom, we are told, the emperor loved to see dressed as an Amazon (SHA, Com. 12.1). The idea that Marcia – who was involved in the assassination of Commodus – should appear on a medallion of the emperor struck the year of his death has incredible historical and emotional appeal, and prominent 20th century scholars like Harold Mattingly and Jocelyn Toynbee accepted the identification. Others have discounted this fantastic claim, questioning the likelihood of a mistress with no official role or titles making an appearance on medallions.

Dressel has argued that the pelta could be an attribute of Commodus rather than the female figure. “Amazonius” was one of the many titles the crazed emperor bestowed on himself late in his reign (when Commodus renamed the months of the year, March became “Amazonius”). A similar obverse type also from AD 192 has jugate busts of Commodus and a female figure wearing a helmet and cuirass, normally identified as Minerva. It is possible that the current obverse depicts Roma, as there is some evidence that Roma and Minerva were favored deities of the emperor.

The final winners of all Triton XXIII lots will be determined at the live public sale that will be held on 14-15 January 2020. Triton XXIII – Session Three – Roman Imperial Coinage Part II through World Coinage Part II will be held Wednesday morning, 15 January 2020 beginning at 9:00 AM ET.

Winning bids are subject to a 20% buyer's fee for bids placed on this website and in person at the public auction, 22.50% for all others.