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Research Coins: Printed Auction

Sale: Triton IX, Lot: 1524. Estimate $500. 
Closing Date: Monday, 9 January 2006. 
Sold For $1000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

CARACALLA. 198-217 AD. Æ 20mm (4.73 g, 1h). Serdica mint. Struck 215-217 AD. AVT K M AVP CEV ANTWNEINOC, laureate mature, bearded bust right, seen from behind / [C]ERDWN, Eros standing left, removing thorn from raised right paw of lion standing right. Mouchmov, Serdika 222; Mouchmov 4851; BMC -; SNG Copenhagen -; Varbanov 124. EF, green patina. ($500)

One of the more popular of Aesop's tales concerned a lion and shepherd. According to the earliest account, a thorn lodged in the paw of a lion as it was roaming a forest. Wounded and assuming a non-threatening posture, the lion came upon a shepherd who, emboldened, examined the animal, discovered the thorn, and pulled it out. The lion then returned to the forest. Some time later, the shepherd, imprisoned on a false charge, was condemned to be thrown to the lions as punishment. When the lion was released from his cage, he recognized the shepherd as the man who had healed him, and instead of attacking the man, approached and placed his paw upon his lap. The king, hearing this marvellous tale, subsequently ordered the lion to be freed again in the forest, and the shepherd to be pardoned and restored to his friends.

The mature, bearded, imperial portrait places this issue in the period when Caracalla was making his way through the region eastward in 215 AD to fight the Persians. As the lion had long signified kingship and would have been an appropriate imperial allusion, the obvious reference to the Aesopan fable and its moral implication that nobility displays gratitude suggests some hoped-for reward to the city from Caracalla for an earlier and as yet unknown service.