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Research Coins: Feature Auction

 
650932
Sale: Triton VII, Lot: 932. Estimate $20000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 12 January 2004. 
Sold For $39000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

HADRIAN. 117-138 AD. AV Aureus (7.34 gm). Dated 874 AUC (April 21, 121 AD). IMP CAES HADRIANVS AVG COS III, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind / ANN DCCCLXXIIII NAT VRB P CIR CON, Genius of the Circus reclining left, head right, holding wheel and holding meta set on base at the end of the circus spina. RIC II 144; Strack 56b; BMCRE 333; Calicó 1201; Cohen 162. EF. Extremely rare, and one of only two Roman coin types dated by the founding of the city. (For the other type, see lot 1018 below) [See color enlargement on plate 17] ($20,000)

Ex Leu 7 (9 May 1973), lot 372.

In 121 AD Hadrian was busy making preparations for his first tour of the Roman Empire. Before his departure he left his mark by honoring the memory of Rome. This wonderful coin alludes to the chariot-races instituted by him, evidenced by the reverse legend, P[rimum] CIR[censes] CON[stituit] in celebration of the 874th year of the foundation of Rome (ad urbe condita) by Romulus and Remus. A long established tradition placed the birthday of Rome on the eleventh day before the Kalends (first day) of May, in coincidence with the festival of the Parilia, now under the new name Nat[alis] Urb[is]. This corresponds to April 21 in the Julian calendar. Parilia was a spring festival in honour of Pales, god (or goddess) of shepherds and herds, and was obviously related to the solar agricultural calendar.

There was no such consensus, however, about the year in which the foundation took place. Various ancient authors gave dates ranging from 813 to 728 BC, while the more reliable clustered around 750 BC (see discussion in Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities I, 74-75). For a long time the Polybian date of 751/0 BC served as a norm for Cicero, Livy and Diodorus; Atticus in his Liber annalis moved the founding back to 753 BC (Cicero, Brutus 18, 72). This date was taken up and popularized by the scholar Varro, who stated that Rome had been founded on April 21, 753 BC, between 8 and 9 am. (Antiquitates Rerum Humanorum, XVIII.64). In later times that date became the conventional foundation date, because of Varro’s great authority in all fields of knowledge.