Gallienus, 253-268. Aureus (Gold, 19 mm, 2.20 g, 6 h), Rome, December 263 to early 264. GALLIENVM AVG SENATVS Laureate and cuirassed bust of Gallienus to right, with slight drapery on left shoulder. Rev. GENIVS AVG The genius of the emperor standing front, head to left, wearing kalathos, holding patera in his right hand and cornucopiae with his left; to right behind him, signum. Unpublished save for its previous auction appearances, but cf. A. Alföldi, Studien zur Geschichte der Weltkrise des 3. Jahrhunderts nach Christus. Darmstadt 1967, p. 60, 2 = Cohen 676 = RIC 60 = Tanini p. 65 (ex collection Boncompagni) for obverse, and MIR 401 & 403 for Antoniniani, all with differing reverses (see also the following lot). Unique and of great historical importance. A very unusual issue, well struck and with a splendid portrait. Minor flan crack and with light die rust on the reverse, otherwise, extremely fine.
From the collection of Yves Gunzenreiner, ex Nomos 7, 15 May 2013, 195 and Lanz 102, 28 May 2001, 948.
This unique aureus is part of an exceptional series of coins in which either the Roman Senate or the Roman people are named in the nominative, while the emperor on the obverse is named in the accusative. GALLIENVM AVG SENATVS translates as 'the Senate [honors] Gallienus Augustus', a legend that is expanded to OB LIBERTATEM RECEPTAM ('for the retrieval of liberty'), OB REDDIT(am) LIBERT(atem) ('for the restitution of liberty') and OB CONSERVATIONEM SALVTIS ('for the preservation of the well-being') on the reverse of a number of very rare medallions and coins. These legends all postulate the resolving of a crisis, yet the wording (and imagery) is certainly not a reflective of a military victory against a foreign enemy. The expression 'restitution of liberty' is a clearly defined phrase in Roman political communication, proclaiming the liberation of the res publica from internal dangers (i.e. from civil wars and usurpations). The 'preservation of the well-being', on the other hand, refers more generally to the emperor himself and his empire. There is thus no doubt that this special emission is connected to the overcoming of an usurpation. The question then becomes, who was that usurper, how should this broadly planned issue, consisting of multipla, aurei, medallions and antoniniani, be dated, and why was it apparently abruptly discontinued? An offstrike of a quaternio, showing the emperor in a consular robe on the obverse and in a triumphal quadriga on the reverse, is fortunately of assistance here: it names Gallienus' 12th tribunician power and his 6th consulship, starting on 1st January 264. Alföldi interpreted this coin, alongside others such as ours, with reverse legends unrelated to the obverse accusative, as later hybrids. He thus places the accusative emission in early 263. This is not very convincing, however, as the impressive dated quaternio and the medallions with the extended reverse legends, some of which were struck from the very same obverse die, are most likely part of a single celebratory issue. Also, both the aureus MIR 561c and the Antoninianus 562g with regular, nominative obverses but accusative reverse legends, show that there was little hesitation in mixing up the types. We can therefore date the whole issue to December 263 or early 264 and most likely connect it to the upcoming campaign of Gallienus against Postumus in Gaul: it was then that the Roman Senate and the Roman people, through the mint in Rome, expressed their gratefulness to Gallienus, assuming, and hoping for, a successful outcome. Following Elmer's arrangement of the coinage of the Gallic Empire, however, Göbl, Schulte and König have shown that Gallienus' war against Postumus did not take place before 265. From this we may conclude that the long delayed campaign (or the second attempt, if there indeed was an earlier war in 261/2 as some scholars assume), which was initially scheduled to take place in 264, had to once again be postponed to the following year for an unknown reason. This resulted in the abrupt discontinuation of the broadly planned celebratory issue and explains the extreme rarity of these coins today. Our example, with a previously unrecorded reverse, is only the third aureus with an accusative legend known, and is thus of the greatest historical importance.