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Research Coins: Feature Auction

 
10600632

Portrait of Varus
General at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

CNG 106, Lot: 632. Estimate $1000.
Sold for $8500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

BYZACIUM, Achulla. Augustus, with Caius and Lucius Caesars. 27 BC-AD 14. Æ (30mm, 11.85 g, 11h). Publius Quinctilius Varus, proconsul. Struck 8-7 BC. Bare head of Augustus left, flanked by smaller bare heads of Caius right and Lucius left / P QVINCT T LI VAR[I ACHV]LLA , bare head of Varus right. M. Amandry, “Notes de numismatique africaine, VI.8 Achulla,” RN XXXIV (1992), I.A (D1/R2); MAA 59; RPC I 798. Fine, rough green and red-brown surfaces, encrusted obverse. Extremely rare, only two in CoinArchives.


Up until his final battle, Publius Quinctilius Varus was one of the most celebrated of Augustus’ generals. He had been consul in 13 BC (along with the future emperor Tiberius), governor of Africa in 8-7 BC, governor of Syria from 7-4 BC (where he had sent two legions into Judaea to quell local unrest after the territory was converted to a Roman province), and governor of Germania from AD 6 until his death in AD 9. In that year, 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 unwilling to submit to Roman forces. 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 is said to have torn 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 two specimens in CoinArchives are in comparable condition to the present coin. They are: Gorny & Mosch 244 (6 March 2017), lot 417 (hammer €4400); and Künker 257 (10 October 2014), lot 8876 (hammer €6000).