Numerian, 283 – 284
Medallion circa 283-284, Æ 23.09 g. IMP C M AVR NVMERIANVS AVG Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust r. Rev. MONETA AVGG The three Monetae standing facing, the outer two with heads l., holding scales and cornucopiae; at their feet, heaps of coins. C 31. Pink 19.5 (this coin). Gnecchi II, 8 and pl. 123, 7 (this coin illustrated). Extremely rare and in an exceptional state of preservation, undoubtedly the finest bronze medallion of Numerian in existence. A magnificent portrait of fine style perfectly struck and centred on a very large flan. Large areas of the original silvering still intact. Virtually as struck and almost Fdc Ex Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge 19 November 1902, Bizot, 341; Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge 13 June 1906, Astronomer, 655; Hirsch XXX, 1911, Percy Barron, 1237; Schulman 5 March 1923, Evans and Vierordt, 2497; Leu-NFA 16 October 1984, Garrett, 908; Leu 48, 1989, 410; Sotheby’s 5 July 1995, 164; NAC 10, 1997, 683 and NAC 18, 2000, 695 sales. After the murder of Probus in September AD 282, Carus was proclaimed Augustus by the army and appointed his sons Carinus and Numerian as Caesars. To strengthen his position, Carus also arranged for the marriage of Numerian to a daughter of the Praetorian Prefect, L. Flavius Aper. After this, in AD 283, Carus, Numerian and Aper together embarked on a major campaign against the Sasanian Persian Empire while Carinus governed the western Empire. At first, the Persian war was a great success that resulted in the conquest of Mesopotamia and the sack of the Sasanian capital at Ctesiphon. To celebrate, Carus and Numerian jointly assumed the title of Persicus Maximus. Then, in the late summer of AD 283, Carus suddenly died. He was said to have been struck by lightning during a thunderstorm, but it was widely suspected that he had been murdered by Aper, who immediately proclaimed Numerian as Augustus. Unable to continue the war, Numerian made peace with the Persians and began the long march back to Rome. As if the beginning of Numerian’s reign as Augustus was not suspicious enough, the events of the homeward march in AD 284 were downright bizarre. While passing through Emesa in Syria, Aper suddenly announced that Numerian was suffering from an inflammation of the eyes and would henceforth be carried in a closed litter. The soldiers began to suspect that something much worse was wrong with Numerian than an eye infection when after traveling for days a terrible odor began to issue from the litter. Finally tearing aside the curtains when they reached Bithynia, they discovered the horribly decomposing body of the Emperor. The important cavalry commander Valerius Diocles immediately accused Aper (the obvious choice) of murdering Numerian and exacted justice by striking down the Praetorian Prefect with his sword. With no one on hand to challenge him, Diocles was acclaimed Augustus by the army under the name of Diocletian. It has been suggested that bronze medallions depicting Moneta alone or the three Monetae were distributed as imperial largesse on the occasion of the Roman New Year. Traditionally, Moneta was an epithet of Juno, the Roman goddess whose temple on the Capitoline Hill of Rome housed the city’s mint, but over time this name was given to the personification of the mint and its coinage. Usually Moneta appears alone on Roman coins of the late third century AD, but on the present medallion she appears in triplicate, repeating a popular medallion reverse type of Probus. The multiplication of Moneta here serves to simultaneously compare her to the Three Graces and to look back to the old custom of the Roman Republic in which the mint was operated by three magistrates known as the Tresviri Aere Argento Auro Flando Feriundo (”Three Men for Striking and Casting Bronze, Silver, and Gold [Coin]”).