CNG Bidding Platform


Products and Services

Research Coins: Feature Auction


Caligula as Pontifex Maximus

CNG 111, Lot: 661. Estimate $2000.
Sold for $4000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Gaius (Caligula). AD 37-41. Æ Sestertius (34mm, 26.70 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck AD 37-38. C · CAESAR · AVG · GERMANICVS · P · M · TR · POT, Pietas seated left, holding patera and resting arm on small draped figure standing facing on basis, PIETAS in exergue / DIVO AVG S C, Gaius standing left, holding patera over garlanded altar; victimarius holding bull for sacrifice and attendant holding a patera standing on either side; garlanded hexastyle temple of Divus Augustus in background; pediment decorated with sacrificial scene; quadriga and Victories as acroteria; statues of Romulus and Aeneas along roof line. RIC I 36. Good VF, dark green patina, some minor roughness.

Ex Numismatica Genevensis SA I (27 November 2000), lot 142; Triton III (30 November 1999), lot 994.

Despite being among the worst of all Roman emperors, Caligula issued coinage that was both innovative and attractive. On the reverse of this sestertius, issued early in his reign (AD 37-38), he is shown in his role as Pontifex Maximus, performing a sacrifice before the temple of his deified maternal grandfather, Divus Augustus. The architectural details visible on this rendering are quite instructive, from the fluted Ionic columns of the portico, to the sacrificial scene on the architrave frieze mirroring the foreground scene, to the row of statues along the roof line. Caligula properly wears his toga drawn up over his head and holds the curved knife he will use to sacrifice the bull being brought to the altar behind him. The propaganda message is double-barreled: Gaius is as pious and dutiful as his forebears, one of whom now resides among the immortals.