Octavian, 44-27 BC. Denarius (Silver, 20 mm, 3.53 g, 12 h), uncertain mint in Italy (Rome?), 28. CAESAR - COS VI Bare head ot Octavian to right; behind, lituus. Rev. AEGVPTO - CAPTA Nile crocodile standing right with open jaws. Babelon (Julia) 148. BMC 650 (Rome). Cohen 2. CRI 430. RIC 275a (Rome). Fully lustrous and undoubtedly among the finest known. A spectacular example of this intriguing issue, with mirror-like surfaces and an exceptionally beautiful rendering of the Nile crocodile on the reverse. A hint of die rust on the obverse and struck very slightly off center, otherwise, virtually as struck.
This magnificent denarius celebrates Octavian’s conquest of Egypt in the aftermath of the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. Though Antony continued to resist Octavian’s advance in Egypt proper, Alexandria was eventually captured in the summer of 30 BC, and the former triumvir and Cleopatra committed suicide shortly thereafter. Egypt and its immense agricultural wealth now fell to Octavian, along with the fabled Ptolemaic treasury, but while it was certainly the crown jewel of his conquests, he held little love for the country. When asked whether he wished to view the tomb of the Ptolemaic kings after having visited the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great, Octavian reportedly quipped that he had wanted to see a king, not corpses. Despite this animosity, Octavian did commemorate Egypt's capture on his coins, including this magnificent denarius, which shows the image of Egypt's fiercest predator, the Nile crocodile, on its reverse, a wild beast now subjugated by Roman might.