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Aulus Gabinius, Legate to Pompey

CNG 111, Lot: 510. Estimate $300.
Sold for $400. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

SELEUCIS and PIERIA, Antioch. Aulus Gabinius. Proconsul, 57-55 BC. AR Tetradrachm (27mm, 15.34 g, 12h). In the name and types of Philip I Philadelphus. Diademed head right / Zeus Nicephorus enthroned left; [thunderbolt above], monogram of Gabinius to lower inner left, monogram below throne; all within laurel wreath. Prieur 1; McAlee 1; RPC I 4124; HGC 9, 1356. EF, toned, some encrustation on reverse.

By the time Aulus Gabinius became tribune of the plebs in 67 BC, Cilician pirates had overrun the eastern Mediterranean as the major dynasties that had ruled over the territory since the death of Alexander the Great fell into decline. Although Rome saw steep inflation and even faced famine as a result, the Senate was reluctant to assign any one commander to deal with the issue as the senators feared this would grant too much power to a single individual. With unrest against the Senate reaching a tipping point, the tribune Aulus Gabinius was able to push through his Lex Gabinia de piratis persequendis, which authorized Pompey to wage war on the pirates, effectively placing the commander in control of the East.

Gabinius subsequently served as legate to Pompey and was integral in mediating in affairs in Mesopotamia and Judaea. He became pronconsul of Syria in 57 BC, during which time he reorganized Judaea and rebuilt a number of cities, while quashing revolts led by Aristobolus and Alexander Jannaeus and reinstating Hyrcanus II as high priest. In 55 BC, Pompey instructed Gabinius to lead his troops to Egypt to restore Ptolemy XII, an ally of the Romans, after the king was expelled and replaced by his sister Berenice. This move would prove fateful, as he left Syria for Egypt by order of Pompey but without the consent of the Senate. As a result, he was charged with treason, but was acquitted. The Senate did, however, find him guilty of extortion for his acceptance of 10,000 talents from Ptolemy as payment for restoring him to the Egyptian throne. Gabinius’ was sent into exile, but was recalled by Julius Caesar in 49 BC. He died of illness in circa 47 BC at Salona (modern Solin, Croatia, a short distance from Split).