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Research Coins: Printed Auction


Fanning the Flames

Triton XXII, Lot: 913. Estimate $1500.
Sold for $1900. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Moneyer issues of Imperatorial Rome. L. Papius Celsus. 45 BC. AR Denarius (17.5mm, 3.79 g, 5h). Rome mint. Head of Juno Sospita right, wearing goat skin headdress tied at neck / She-wolf standing right, placing stick on fire; on right, eagle standing left, fanning the flames; CELSVS • III • VIR above, L • PAPIVS in exergue. Crawford 472/1; CRI 82; Sydenham 964; Papia 2; BMCRR Rome 4018-22; RBW. Choice EF, lightly toned with underlying luster. Exceptional reverse strike for this normally poorly made issue.

From the Alan J. Harlan Collection. Ex Numismatica Ars Classica 51 (5 March 2009), lot 85; Numismatica Ars Classica 33 (5 April 2006), lot 348.

The curious scene depicted on the reverse of this type refers to a foundation myth for the city of Lanuvium, parent city of Rome. According to a legend related by Dionysius of Halicaranassus in Roman Antiquities, the hero Aeneas saw a fire burning in a nearby forest and went to investigate. As he drew closer he saw the fire was being fed by a she-wolf, who was dropping sticks into the blaze, while an eagle standing nearby fanned it with his wings. A fox kept intruding, trying to snuff out the fire by wetting his tail in a nearby stream and beating the flames down with it, but was driven off by the eagle and wolf. The fox was interpreted as Carthage, trying to snuff out Rome before its flame could burn brightly, while the eagle and she-wolf are symbols of the Roman army and people respectively.