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The Triumvirs. Octavian. Spring-early summer 36 BC. AR Denarius (17mm, 3.93 g, 5h). Southern or central Italian mint. Bare head right, wearing slight beard; IMP • CAESAR DIVI • F • III • VIR • ITER • R • P • C around / Temple of Divus Julius: statue of Julius Caesar as augur, holding lituus, within tetrastyle temple set on podium; DIVO IVL on architrave, star within pediment, figures along roof line; lighted altar to left; COS • ITER • ET • TER • DESIG around. . Crawford 540/2; CRI 315; Sydenham 1338; RSC 90 (Augustus); RBW 1829. Lightly toned, a few light marks, obverse slightly off center. VF.

Ex Lampasas Collection; John L. Cowan Collection (Classical Numismatic Group Electronic Auction 469, 3 June 2020), lot 357; Pegasi Auction XXV (8 November 2011), lot 435.

This is the last issue of Octavian to feature him wearing a slight beard. This was somewhat against Roman fashion conventions of the time, which favored clean-shaven men. All three Triumvirs appeared on their first coins sporting stubbly chins, almost certainly representing a “beard of mourning” for the slain dictator Julius Caesar. But by 36 BC the Ides of March was eight years in the past, so Octavian’s chin growth on this coin might represent the“campaign beard” of a general setting off for war. Hostilities were soon to commence against the last Pompeian, Sextus Pompey, so this explanation is plausible. However, it is also likely Octavian kept his whiskers to make him look more mature, and to partly conceal the reality that he was much the junior partner in the Triumvirate in terms of age, if not actual power.