Tacitus, 275-276. Aureus (Gold, 22 mm, 4.83 g, 11 h), Serdica, November-December 275. IMP C M CL TACITVS P AVG Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Tacitus to right. Rev. SECVRIT PVBLIC Securitas standing front, head to left and legs crossed, holding long scepter in her right hand and leaning left on column. BN 440 = RIC V online 3858.2 (same dies, but holed). Calicó 4114 corr. = Cohen 132 corr. = RIC 118 corr. (reverse legend as PVBLICA and misattributed to Ticinum). Of the highest rarity, the best of only three known examples and one of only two still in existence, as the Cohen piece was melted down after the infamous robbery of 1831. A wonderful coin, lustrous, sharp, and with a very attractive portrait. Good extremely fine.
The short reign of Tacitus would not be noteworthy were it not for the fact that the later senatorial historiography presented him as a figurehead of a 'good senatorial ruler'. Tacitus ascended to the throne at an old age after the downfall of Aurelian in late 275: he was apparently already in his seventies and of senatorial rank, both of which were unusual in a time when the army usually appointed young and energetic generals of humble origin to power. Later senatorial historians painted Tacitus in bright colors, claiming that he was not acclaimed emperor by the army but by a senatorial decree after an interregnum of six months. According to these sources, Tacitus was a pious ruler who respected the dignity of the senate and spent much time publishing the writings of his ancestor Tacitus, the late 1st and early 2nd century historian. All of this is quite obviously fiction: Tacitus was almost certainly, as Zonaras reports, made emperor by the Danubian legions, which in itself indicates that he must have been a well-known general who had earned the respect of the soldiers. In any case, his old age implies that his appointment was seen as an interim arrangement, perhaps because the murder of Aurelian had not been the result of a wider conspiracy and had taken the army by surprise. Tacitus died in the summer of 276 after little more than sixth months of reign, leaving the throne to his brother Florian, who fell victim to the usurpation of Probus in autumn of the same year.