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Research Coins: Printed Auction

Triton XXII, Lot: 976. Estimate $2000.
Sold for $10000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

The Triumvirs. Octavian. 28 BC. AR Cistophorus (26.5mm, 11.75 g, 12h). Ephesus mint. IMP • CAESAR • DIVI • F • COS • VI • LIBERTATIS • P • R • VINDEX •, laureate head right / Pax, draped, standing left, holding caduceus with her right hand; behind her, in right field, a snake emerging from cista mystica; all within laurel wreath; PAX in left field. RIC I 476; Sutherland Group I, 18 (O11/R18); CRI 433; RSC 218; RPC I 2203; BMCRE 691-3 = BMCRR East 248-9; BN 908-10. EF, toned, a few light scratches and marks.

This was the first cistophorus minted in Asia in more than a decade and marked the beginning of a huge output of cistophori during the subsequent decade. Here, for the first time, Octavian is depicted as laureate, referring to Apollo and symbolizing his divinity. The obverse legend means “Champion of the Liberty of the Roman People.” The figure of Pax on the reverse tells of the peace that will surely result from Octavian’s triumph over Rome’s enemies.

The significance of Apollo is emphasized by two changes in design from previous cistophori. The cista mystica, or snake basket, a common symbol in the cult of Dionysus that was prominently featured on the obverse of previous cistophori, is drastically reduced in size, and thus, less significant. Similarly, the reverse is no longer encircled by the Dionysiac garland of ivy, but by Apollo’s laurel wreath.