Valerian I, 253-260. Binio (Gold, 21 mm, 5.42 g, 7 h), Samosata, 255-256. IMP C P LIC VALERIANVS AVG Radiate and cuirassed bust of Valerian I to right. Rev. MINERVA VICTRIX Minerva standing front, head to left, holding Victory in her right hand and inverted spear with her left; at feet to left, shield; behind her, trophy of arms. Calicó -. Cohen -. MIR -. RIC -. Unpublished and of the highest rarity. The best of only two known examples, the other in CNG 106 (2017), 799 (same obverse die, but holed). Sharply struck on a full flan and of great historical importance. Extremely fine.
When Valerian I ascended to the throne in 253, he took over an empire in peril. Paralized by a number of civil wars, the Roman Army had been unable to stop numerous foreign aggressions: Gaul, Italy and Pannonia were threatened by constant barbarian invasions, Gothic raiders were plundering the Balkans and Asia Minor, and the Sasanians under Shapur I had forced their way into the eastern provinces and sacked the Syrian capital of Antioch. Faced with these multiple crises, the new emperor sent his son Gallienus north to take care of the Rhine and upper Danube frontiers, while he himself moved east to fight the Goths and Sasanians. After the disposal of the usurper Uranius Antoninus in 254, the main Roman operating base was moved to Samosata in 255. This heavily fortified legionary camp was located close to the eastern frontier and at the terminus of several military roads, its strategic position allowed quick troop movements in all directions to face the changing threats from different sides. A new mint was set up at the base, striking both gold coins and antoniniani to cover the expenses of the army. The first issue of Samosata included an extremely rare series of double-aurei or binios (MIR 1672-5), likely struck as a donativum to important officers and all known in very few or even unique examples only. Our example and that of CNG are of a new, previously unrecorded reverse type: it was copied from Aurei and Denarii of Caracalla and shows the victorious Minerva standing in front of a trophy, an appropriate motive for an army preparing for another war. Unfortunately for the Romans, Valerian campaigned with little success against the Sasanians. An early victory in 257 (?) was followed by a catastrophic defeat near Edessa in 260. The emperor was captured by Shapur I, together with thousands of his troops, leaving behind an empire yet to face its biggest crises: the troubled sole reign of Gallienus and the secession of its eastern and northwestern provinces through the revolts of the generals Macrian and Postumus.