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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Earliest Aureus of Clodius Albinus // Only Example in Private Hands

Sale: Triton X, Lot: 655. Estimate $100000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 8 January 2007. 
Sold For $160000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Clodius Albinus. As Caesar, AD 193-195. AV Aureus (7.17 g, 12h). Rome mint. Struck AD 193. D CLODIVS AL-BINVS CAES, bare head right / PROVI-D AVG COS, Providentia standing left, holding wand in right hand over globe to left, leaning on scepter in her left hand. RIC IV 1a (rarity 4); Calicó 2420 corr. (wand not roll; rarity 5, illustrated by line drawing); BMCRE 38 note (citing Cohen, none in the BM); Hunter -; Cohen 57 (citing Vienna specimen). EF, luster in the devices. Extremely rare, possibly the second known.

This reverse type is among the rarest of Clodius Albinus’ aurei, all of which are of course rare. All of the references cite Cohen, who notes the specimen in Vienna, which is apparently the sole example in a public collection. None of this type were located in the following major private collections: Bement, Biaggi, Collignon, Evans, Hall, Heynen, Hunt, Jameson, Mazzini, Trau, Vautier, von Echt, and Consul Weber.

In AD 193, shortly after hearing of the assassination of Pertinax and subsequent elevation of Didius Julianus, Clodius Albinus, who was then governor of Britain, began preparations for seizing the throne himself. At the same time, Septimius Severus, the governor of Upper Pannonia, had been declared emperor by his troops and was preparing to march on Rome. Upon hearing of Albinus' plans, Septimius offered him the rank of Caesar and heir to the throne should Albinus join him. Albinus must have sensed that Septimius had stronger support than himself, and prudently decided to agree. Septimius marched on Rome and entered the city without resistance soon after Julianus was killed on June 1.

After securing the capital, Septimius proceeded to issue a series of coins from Rome, including an issue for his Caesar, Albinus. This initial issue of Albinus, noted by COS in the reverse legend, consisted of the single reverse type of Providentia, and was struck in gold aurei, silver denarii, and bronze sestertii. For this issue, Providentia appears as the 'Providence of the Augustus', and represents Septimius' securing of his dynasty through the nomination of his successor. This short issue was superseded by a second issue beginning in January, AD 194, when Albinus and Septimius jointly served as consul, each for the second time.

The harmony between the two was short-lived. Both had different ambitions, Clodius to become emperor himself, Septimius to establish his family as the ruling house, and the arrangement seemed only necessary for each to prepare to accomplish their own goal. While Septimius was away in the east fighting Pescinnius Niger, he learned of Albinus' machinations against him, and responded by breaking their arrangement and elevating his son, Caracalla, to the rank of Caesar. Albinus responded by declaring himself Augustus, ralling his troops in Britain, and began marching on Rome. His forces were stalled by resistance in Gaul as Septimius moved west. Eventually the two armies, comprising over 100,000 men, met on the fields outside Lugdunum (Lyon) on 19 February AD 197. After making initial gains, Albinus' army was routed, and he committed suicide when he became trapped in a house near the Rhône.