ROMAN REPUBLIC. L. Hostilius Saserna. Denarius 48 BC, Rome. Obv. Head of gallic captive right. Rev. L HOSTILIVS. Biga driven to right. RRC 448/2a; Syd. 952; BMC 3994. AR. 3.97 g. XF-AU
Ex. Chaponnière & Firmenich SA auction 9, 22 october 2017, lot 62.
This Republican denarius is certainly one of the most sought after, while its interpretation remains controversial. Caesar's lieutenant during the Gallic Wars, L. Hostilius Saserna fulfilled the function of Triumvir monetalis, before the African Wars. The coins minted in his name therefore date from 49 to 46 BC. J.-C.
The iconography of this denarius is surprising. On the obverse, the head is not that of a frightened captive, so common in Roman numismatics, but that of a fine-featured Gallic warrior, his hair blowing in the wind. On the reverse, a charioteer drives a biga while a warrior standing on the chariot, is about to throw a javelin at the enemy. Undoubtedly, this Gaul is represented as powerful and dangerous; irreducible.
For centuries, numismatists and historians have wondered about the meaning of the reverse in particular. Could it be Vercingetorix in person? In 52 BC. J.-C., Caesar defeats and captures the famous Gallic leader whom he brings back to Rome, whom he keeps prisoner for six years, and whom he strangles on the occasion of his triumph. Chronologically, the presence of Vercingetorix in Rome therefore coincides with the minting of this denarius. Saserna, of the respected gens Hostilia, may have met Vercingetorix during his captivity.