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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Legendary Beauty with a Swan-Like Neck

CNG 111, Lot: 737. Estimate $15000.
Sold for $14000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Crispina. Augusta, AD 178-182. AV Aureus (21mm, 7.30 g, 12h). Rome mint. Struck under Commodus, AD 178-182. CRISPINA AVGVSTA, draped bust right, hair braided and waved along browline and pulled into large, elaborate chignon at back of head / VENVS • FELIX, Venus, draped, seated left, holding scepter in left hand and in right hand Cupid, who holds diadem and scepter; below chair, dove standing left. RIC III 287 (Commodus) corr. (Cupid, not Victory); MIR 18, 21-2a; Calicó 2377a corr. (same; same dies as illustration); BMCRE 47-9 (Commodus) corr. (same; same rev. die); Biaggi 1034-6; Jameson 153 (same obv. die); Mazzini 39. Near EF, underlying luster. Struck on a broad flan.

Bruttia Crispina was the daughter of Gaius Bruttius Praesens, an influential Roman nobleman from Lucania. Her marriage to the teenaged Commodus was arranged in AD 178 by his father, Marcus Aurelius, to shore up support among the Roman gentry in the wake of the abortive rebellion of Avidius Cassius. Crispina was a legendary beauty but this probably had little effect on the egocentric Commodus, who took a succession of lovers of both sexes. Her inability to produce an heir led Commodus to tire of her; accordingly, she was charged with adultery and banished to the island of Capri in AD 188, where she was later executed. It is sometimes asserted she died much earlier in the reign, after the conspiracy of Lucilla in AD 182, but this is due to a faulty reading of the main sources for the era, the Historia Augusta and Cassius Dio. Indeed, inscriptions record her as still being empress in the late AD 180s. Her coinage is not as extensive as that of previous empresses, probably due to her husband's indifference. The portraiture, however, depicts a graceful young lady with a long, swan-like neck, as seen here.