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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Very Rare Nero Port of Ostia Sestertius

Triton XXII, Lot: 1016. Estimate $7500.
Sold for $9500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Nero. AD 54-68. Æ Sestertius (34mm, 20.24 g, 6h). Lugdunum (Lyon) mint. Struck circa AD 65. NERO CLΛVD CΛESΛR ΛVG GER P M TR P IMP P P, laureate head left, globe at point of neck / S C above, PORT ΛVG inverted in exergue, Port of Ostia: eight ships within the harbor; at the top is a pharus surmounted by a statue of Neptune; below is a reclining figure of Tiber, holding a rudder in right hand and dolphin in left; to left, crescent-shaped pier with portico, terminating with building; to right, crescent-shaped row of breakwaters or slips. RIC I 441; WCN 427; Lyon 118 var. (PORT AVG inverted); BMCRE –; BN –. VF, even green patina. Very rare with a left-facing portrait. Not in Cohen or BMCRE, reported by MacDowall only from a single specimen in the British Museum (acc. no. 1978,0722.2). Including this example, there are only three specimens with the inverted legend listed in CoinArchives.

From the DMS Collection. Ex Gemini I (11 January 2005), lot 319.

While Julius Caesar recognized the value of expanding Rome's port facilities at Ostia, it was Claudius who actually began building in AD 42. As part of the construction, one of Caligula's pleasure galleys was scuttled and filled with cement; above it was constructed a lighthouse surmounted by a statue of Neptune. Although the actual date of completion is not certain, it must have occurred shortly before this sestertius was minted. A further expansion of the facilities was required under Trajan and Hadrian. By the fourth century, however, the port's importance began to diminish as a result of silting. Soon the region became a breeding ground for malaria and was abandoned.