Coins (21 February 2018)

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Date of Auction: 21st February 2018

Sold for £8,000

Estimate: £7,000 - £9,000

Carausius, Denarius, London, c. 289-90, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right, imp caravsivs pi avg, rev. virtvs saec c, radiate lion left with thunderbolt in mouth, rsr in exergue, 3.66g (Shiel –; RSC –; cf. RIC 591; Sear –). Of fine style and workmanship, extremely fine and extremely rare, an exceptional specimen £7,000-9,000


Although in direct revolt against the Emperor Diocletian in Rome, Carausius went to extraordinary lengths to legitimise the foundation of his break-away empire in Britain and portray it as a new Golden Age. Just as Augustus had done in 17BC, he represented his new power as the fulfilment of a prophecy and the longed-for re-establishment of peace. The Secular Games were celebrated as part of this cyclical rebirth at intervals of 100 or 110 years from Augustus’ date or from the foundation of the city of Rome in 753BC. Thus Claudius celebrated them in 47, Domitian in 88, Septimius Severus in 204 and Philip II in 248. The defeat of Maximian’s fleet around 289 strengthened Carausius’ position in Britain and could be seen as heralding a new age of tranquility and an appropriate moment to celebrate the Secular Games. The striking of an antoninianus (RIC 393) of similar design to those issued by previous emperors dates Carausius’ Games to his fourth Consulship, 289-90. The design of a lion with a thunderbolt in its mouth may refer to a passage in the Thirteenth Sybilline Oracle “Then shall a dread and fearful lion come, sent from the sun, and bearing forth much flame” [see Graham Barker: ‘The Coinage of Carausius: Developing the Golden Age Ideology through the Saecular Games’, NC 2015, pp.161-170]