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Plancus, Founder of Lyon and Basel


The Triumvirs. Mark Antony. Early summer 40 BC. AR Denarius (18mm, 4.04 g, 12h). Military mint traveling with Antony and Plancus in central Greece. M • ANTON • IMP • AVG • III VIR •, lituus and capis / L • PLANCVS • IMP • ITER, sacrifical jug with handle between winged thunderbolt and winged caduceus. Crawford 522/4; CRI 255; Sydenham 1191; RSC 22; RBW 1806. Good VF, lightly toned, minor surface roughness. Struck on a broad flan. Extremely rare.

This issue may have been struck as Antony and Lucius Plancus were moving their forces across Greece toward the coast of Epirus. Plancus was a supporter of Antony until the triumvir’s failed Parthian campaign, at which time he shifted his allegiance to Octavian (Suetonius [Aug. 7] informs us that it was at Plancus’s suggestion that Octavian took the name Augustus).

Remarkably, Plancus’ tomb, built atop Mount Orlando at the seaside town of Gaeta, Italy, has survived. The tomb’s inscription recounts the greatest achievements of his career:

Lucius Munatius Plancus, son of Lucius, grandson of Lucius, great-grandson of Lucius,
consul, censor, twice imperator, septemvir epulonum,
having triumphed over the Raetians,
built the temple of Saturn from the spoils;
parcelled out land in Italy at Beneventum;
and in Gaul, founded the colonies of Lugdunum
(Lyon, France) and Raurica (Basel, Switzerland).

Sear (p. 256) suggests that the tall vessel on the reverse “may relate to his [Plancus’] membership of the priestly college of the Epulones whose function was to supervise certain sacred banquets.”