The Roman Republic
Sextus Pompeius. Aureus, Sicily 37-36, AV 7.86 g. MAG·PIVS· – IMP·ITER Bearded and bare head of Sextus Pompeius r.; all within oak wreath. Rev. PRAEF Heads of Cn. Pompeius Magnus on l., and Cn. Pompeius Junior on r., facing each other; at sides, lituus and tripod. Below, CLAS·ET·ORAE / MARIT·EX·S·C. C 1. Babelon Pompeia 24. Bahrfeldt 87. Sear Imperators 332. Kent-Hirmer pl. 28, 102 (obverse) and pl. 27, 102 (reverse). Woytek Arma et Nummi p. 559. RBW 1783. Crawford 511/1. Calicó 71.
Very rare and among the finest specimens known. An exceptional specimen of
this important and fascinating issue with three superb portraits of masterly
style. Struck on a very large flan and extremely fine
Trivulzio family collection.
Pietro Antonio Gariazzo (1866-1943) Collection, sold by P&P Santamaria auction 24 January 1938, lot 222. Sold for Lire 5'700.
Athos D. Moretti (1907-1993) Collection, sold anonymously by Numismatic Fine Arts, auction XXII, Beverly Hills, 1 June 1989, lot 17.
John Whitney Walter (b. 1934) Collection, sold by Stack's with Harlan J. Berk, auction, New York, 29 November 1990, lot 3.
Sextus Pompey was the first Roman to use dynastic imagery on coinage. This crucial step was taken in an age when the senate and traditions were losing ground to the cult of personality. The careers of the recent warlords Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Caesar, and Sextus' own father, Pompey Magnus, had benefited disproportionately from the strength of their charisma. In 42 B.C., when aurei of portrait type originally were struck, Antony, Octavian, Lepidus, Brutus, Cassius, and Sextus Pompey all were fighting for supremacy. Thus, this issue sets an enormously important precedent with Sextus honouring his family in so complete a manner. He and his brother Gnaeus earlier had initiated this practice by portraying their deceased father on denarii as early as 45-44 B.C., but here Sextus takes it a step further by portraying himself with his deceased brother and father. The issue amounts to an exhibition of his pedigree, as well as a nostalgic call to arms for all who had thus far served the Pompeian cause. Both Antony and Octavian made use of their coinage to advertise their relationship with the murdered Julius Caesar, a publicity war that was won by Caesar's nephew and heir, Octavian. However, Antony took the practice to a level even beyond Sextus Pompey by representing living relatives on his coinage. Lacking a pedigree that was comparable with Octavian or Sextus Pompey, Antony pursued the next-best option by promoting his active dynasty, for the coins bore portraits of his brother, his son, and perhaps three of his four wives. On this aureus we find the only coin portrait of Sextus Pompey; it is shown within an oak wreath, traditionally an award for those who had saved the life of a Roman citizen, which must relate to the many lives he saved by taking in political refugees who escaped the Caesarean proscriptions. On the reverse the portraits of Pompey Magnus and Gnaeus Pompey are flanked by priestly objects, a lituus and a tripod, which represent the priesthoods to which they had been appointed.