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Research Coins: Printed Auction


The Circus Maximus

Triton XXII, Lot: 1128. Estimate $5000.
Sold for $5000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Caracalla. AD 198-217. Æ Sestertius (32mm, 21.97 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck AD 213. M AVREL ANTONINVS PIVS AVG BRIT, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / P M TR P XVI IMP II above, COS IIII P P/S C in two lines in exergue, view of Circus Maximus from an aerial perspective: the front consists of an arcade of arches and a large arched entryway on right; behind, arch surmounted by quadriga, tall spina, three quadrigae driving left, and spectators in gallery; further in background, temple and long colonnade. RIC IV 500a; Banti 46; BMCRE 251 and pl. 75, 2 (same obv. die). VF, brown patina, minor surface roughness. Rare and important architectural type.

Ex Gemini IX (9 January 2012), lot 507; Classical Numismatic Group 63 (21 May 2003), lot 1439.

This artistic aerial view depicts the Circus as it would be seen from the Palatine Hill. According to Pliny, the Circus was established during the reign of the Tarquinius Priscus, Etruscan king of Rome (circa 616-579 BC), although a permanent structure may not have existed until 329 BC, when the starting gates (carceres) were erected. By the early 2nd century AD, the structure was very close to the form that we see on our coin. In the center of the Circus we find the spina ("spine"), upon which is the obelisk of the Pharaoh Ramesses the Great that Augustus brought to Rome and erected in the Circus (it is located today in Rome's Piazza del Popolo). At each end of the spina is a meta, or conical column situated where the charioteers would make their harrowing turns, while an equestrian statue of Trajan and a shrine of Cybele can be found immediately to the left and right of the obelisk, respectively.

In the foreground and to right are arcades and a prominent arched gate, while on the left we find the semicircular end of the structure, with the attic statuary of a triumphal arch of Titus visible. The temple of Sol and Luna, built into the seating, is visible on the far end of the structure, to the left of the obelisk's peak.