Gallienus, 253-268. 'Denarius' (Silver, 19 mm, 2.90 g, 5 h), an 'offstrike' from aureus dies, Rome (?), circa 266-267. GALLIENVS P F AVG Cuirassed bust of Gallienus to left, wearing crested pseudo-Corinthian helmet and balteus, holding spear in his right hand and shield on his left shoulder, cuirass and shield decorated with a gorgoneion. Rev. P M TR P XV C VII P P Mars, holding spear in his right hand and round shield in his left, descending right through the air to sleeping Rhea Silvia, reclining left on the ground, with her hands behind her head. Cohen -. MIR -. RIC -. Roma XIV (2017), 796 (same dies). Triton XXI (2018), 832 (same obverse die). Extremely rare. An exceptional coin with spectacular bust type and a wonderful reverse. Minor roughness and with a thin flan crack, otherwise, good very fine.
From the E. Mensch & A. Bauer Collection of coins of Gallienus, ex Roma XIII, 23 March 2017, 890.
Gallienus' extremely rare Rhea Silvia issues are remarkable in many ways. They pick up a motive from an as of Antoninus Pius, on which we see the vestal virgin Rhea Silvia, the daughter of Numitor Silvius, King of Alba Longa, being approached by Mars. According to the myth, the romance (Livy calls it a rape) led to the birth of Romulus and Remus, Rome's ancestors, and thus the world-conquering Romans could claim ancestry from the god of war. We do not know what prompted Gallienus to pick up the theme, but the superior craftmanship on the dies as well as the unusually high silver content clearly indicates that this issue did not circulate as regular coinage. Recently, the emergence of another example dated somewhat earlier, namely to 264-265 (CNG 114 (2020), 977), revealed that the type was used more than once and perhaps struck to commemorate specific events such as military victories, thereby drawing a connection between Gallienus and the god of war, highlighting Rome’s supposed descendance from this god.