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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 60, Lot: 1498. Estimate $500. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 22 May 2002. 
Sold For $1750. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

QUINCTILIUS VARUS, under Augustus. 27 BC-14 AD. Æ As (9.72 gm). Struck circa 15-10 BC. Lugdunum mint. Laureate head of Augustus right; countermark: monogram VAR within quadrilateral incuse / Front elevation of the Altar of Lugdunum, flanked by Victories on columns. RIC I 230; BMCRE 550; Cohen 240; countermark: BN 1623; Grünwald 69, pl. IV, 13. Coin fine, countermark VF. Rare. ($500)

Publius Quinctilius Varus, whose countermark is on the obverse of this coin, was one of the most celebrated of Augustus' generals. He had been consul in 13 BC (along with the future emperor Tiberius), governor of Syria, where he had sent two legions into Judaea to quell local unrest after the territory was converted to a Roman province, and subsequently governor of Germania. By 9 AD, Augustus had decided to straighten (and thereby shorten) Rome's borders by conquering the vast region of Germania beyond the Rhine. He assigned Varus to develop the region without war, but the mixed Gauls and Germans living there were not prepared to accept Romanization. The Cherusci under their king Arminius, along with other allies, ambushed Varus in the Teutoburg Forest of northwest Germany, and there annihilated the XVII, XVIII and XIX Roman legions in a pitched battle that lasted for three days. Varus, sensing doom, committed suicide, and when Augustus heard of the disaster, he tore his clothes and screamed, "Varus, give me back my legions!" No further attempts were made to subdue the Germans beyond the Rhine until the reign of Domitian, and Varus was blamed for the collapse of imperial policy in Germany.

The reverse of this coin features the celebrated Altar of Lugdunum which had been dedicated by Augustus on August 1st, 10 BC. With the exception of one coin, all known examples of Varus' countermark appear on this coin type, and only on the earliest issues within the type.