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Numismatica Ars Classica
Auction 125  23-24 Jun 2021
Pre-sale bidding for Day 1
closes in 6 days 14 hr 12 min

Lot 745
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Estimate: 300 000 CHF
Minimum bid: 240 000 CHF

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Caracalla augustus, 198 – 217.
Aureus 202, AV 7.52 g. ANTON P AVG PON – TR P V COS Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust r. Rev. PLAVTILLAE AVGVSTAE Draped bust of Plautilla r. C 1. BMC 395 note. RIC 6 (described as denarius). Calicó 2858.
Extremely rare, only very few specimens known. Two exceptional portraits
of excellent style perfectly struck and centred on a full flan.
Virtually as struck and almost Fdc

Ex Hess-Leu 17, von Schulthess-Rechberg, 270; Leu 87, 2003, Perfectionist, 61; Aureo & Calicó 241, 2014, Imagines Imperatorum, 174; Aureo & Calicó 300, 2017, 131 and Maison Palombo 17, 2018, 93 sales. From the Jameson collection. From the Karnak Hoard (1901).
This issue was struck to celebrate the marriage of Caracalla and Plautilla, the daughter of Septimius' praetorian prefect Plautianus.
The marriage was an act of political expedience rather than love; we are told she despised her husband so much that she would not even dine with him. Plautilla's father Plautianus had for five years been Caracalla's praetorian prefect, and by this marriage he sought to strengthen his ties to the Imperial family. He had prepared his daughter well, sparing no expense along the way. Dio, who attended the wedding, tells us that Plautianus had castrated one hundred Romans of good birth just so his daughter would have a suitable number of eunuchs to school her in the finer arts of life, and that the dowry he offered was fifty times the normal amount for a royal woman. Plautianus' wealth, power and ego grew immensely, and he even held the consulship in 203. This alone would have infuriated Caracalla, but the additional insult was that Geta, the brother who Caracalla hated perhaps even more than Plautianus, was his colleague in that consulship. The prefect had become virtual co-emperor with Septimius Severus, the senior emperor and Caracalla's father. But, as history has shown Caracalla was no shrinking violet, and as his own power and independence grew he became less tolerant of Plautianus and Plautilla. By early 205 he had assembled enough evidence to murder Plautianus and to banish his wife to Lipari, a volcanic island north of Sicily. Plautilla remained there for the better part of a decade until, upon becoming sole Augustus, Caracalla had her murdered.
This gold aureus features stunning portraits of the young Caracalla on the obverse and his wife, Fulvia Plautilla. This issue was almost certainly struck for distribution as a military donative or public largesse on the occasion of their marriage in April AD 202. Unfortunately, while the couple was married in a lavish ceremony in Rome it took place entirely for political reasons. Plautilla's father, C. Fulvius Plautianus, was not only the Praetorian Prefect, but also a first cousin of Caracalla's father, Septimius Severus, and had been a loyal supporter of his rise to power. Despite the cheerful countenances depicted on the coin, Caracalla despised Plautilla from the start and she reportedly made matters worse by her lavish spending habits. Nevertheless, in AD 204 Plautilla appears to have given birth to a son and was honored along with her father-in-law Septimius Severus, mother-in-law Julia Domna, her husband, and brother-in-law Geta (also hated by Caracalla) on the Arch of Septimius Severus erected in the Forum. After this, things quickly began to fall apart.
In January AD 205, Plautilla's father was arrested for plotting against Severus. Whether Plautianus was actually guilty of treason or whether the charge was invented still remains a mystery. Regardless, he was executed and his ancestral lands were confiscated by the Emperor. Taking advantage of these circumstances, Caracalla divorced Plautilla and condemned her to exile along with her brother C. Fulvius Plautius Hortensianus. The two were first sent to live out their lives on Sicily, but later they were transferred to the much smaller and far less populated island of Lipara. At last, in AD 211, shortly after the death of Septimius Severus, the hapless siblings were strangled to death by their jailers, probably on the orders of Caracalla. Thus, in its golden surfaces, this attractive coin simultaneously bears witness to the grandeur and beauty as well as the deep tragedy of the Roman Empire and its masters.
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