Octavian and Julius Caesar. Aureus (Gold, 19 mm, 8.07 g, 10 h), military mint moving with Octavian in Italy, August 43 BC. C•CAESAR•COS•PONT•AVG• Bare head of Octavian to right. Rev. C•CAESAR•DICT•PERP•PONT•MAX• Laureate head of Julius Caesar to right. Antike Kunst (1967), pl. 52, 478 (this coin). Babelon (Julia) 64. Bahrfeldt 28. Calicó 52. Crawford 490/2. R. Newman: A Dialogue of Power in the Coinage of Antony and Octavian, in: ANS AJN 2 (1990), 43.9. RBW 1714. Sydenham 1321. Very rare. An exceptionally well preserved and perfectly centered example of this tremendously important issue, very well struck on a broad flan and with one of the finest portraits of Julius Caesar in gold in existence. Very light scratches on the obverse, otherwise, good very fine.
From the collections of Regierungsrat Dr. iur. Hans Krähenbühl, W. Niggeler, Bank Leu/Münzen & Medaillen AG, 21-22 October 1966, 1004 and Colonel G. Veith of Vienna, Ars Classica XIII, 27-29 June 1928, 1074.
Traditionally dated to 40 BC, Crawford and Newman have shown that this wonderful aureus was issued considerably earlier, namely in the turbulent year of 43. This was very early in Octavian's career, when he was still very young and his claim to be Caesar's political heir dubious at best. With Cicero's backing, Octavian mustered an army of Caesarian veterans, purportedly to support the Senate's cause against Mark Antony in the Mutinensian War. When both consuls, Aulus Hirtius and Gaius Vibius Pansa Caetronianus, died in the fighting, however, the nineteen-year-old Octavian, who had played a crucial role in the struggle against Antony, demanded the consulship for himself. Even for the fickle Senate of the time, this was too extreme and so his request was twice declined. With his notorious unscrupulousness, Octavian marched against the capital with his veteran legions, seizing it in July or August of 43 and enforcing his appointment to consul suffectus.
These dramatic events marked a turning point in Octavian's career. Having initially fought on the Senate's side, Caesar's grandnephew now turned against it. While his role in the defeat of Mark Antony in the spring of 43 had certainly increased his reputation, his legitimacy was still far from being undisputed. The striking of a coinage with his portrait and that of his adoptive father made it clear to the world that the young and ambitious Octavian saw himself as the rightful heir to the murdered dictator, sending a clear message to the Senate, to Mark Antony, and most importantly, to Caesar's veterans, many of which had been serving on opposite sides in the civil war. The legends, too, closely align Octavian with Julius Caesar, as the great general's titles dictator perpetuus and pontifex maximus are balanced by his adopted son's newly gained consulship, as well as by his priestly titles, pontifex and augur, a rare combination that he also owed to Caesar. The issue breathed Julius Caesar's legacy, and thus reinforced Octavian's legitimacy amongst his most valuable supporters, the veteran legionaries.
Following the capture of Rome, Octavian would soon reconcile with Antony and form the Second Triumvirate, the third member of which being Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. This agreement between the three powerful men resulted in a de facto military dictatorship and the ultimate defeat of Caesar's murderers Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus in the Battle(s) of Philippi in 42 BC. With Lepidus gradually loosing influence in the following years, the stage was eventually set for the mightiest clash of titans, between Octavian and Mark Antony in 32-30 BC.