The damnatio memoriae of Sejanus, Tiberius' famous praetorian prefect
Lot 1232
SPAIN. Bilbilis. Tiberius, 14-37. As (Orichalcum, 30 mm, 12.07 g, 10 h), L. Aelius Sejanus, praetorian consul and honorary duovir, AD 31. TI•CAESAR•DIVI•AVGVSTI•F•AVGVSTVS• Laureate head of Tiberius to right. Rev. MVNAVGVSTA•BILBILIS• / •TI•CAESARE•V•[L•AELIO•SEIANO] around laurel wreath containing COS. ACIP 3024. NAH 1079-80. RPC I 398. SNG Copenhagen 620. Very rare, particularly with the damnatio memoriae. A very interesting piece of the greatest historical interest. Very minor traces of corrosion and with light deposits, otherwise, very fine.

Ex Leu Web Auction 28, 9-14 December 2023, 2158.

L. Aelius Sejanus was perhaps Rome's most powerful praetorian prefect. As Tiberius's closest friend and advisor, he stoked the aging emperor's fears of a conspiracy led by Agrippina the Elder, Augustus' granddaughter. As a result, Tiberius became increasingly paranoid and eventually withdrew to the island of Capri in 26 AD, effectively handing over power in the capital to Sejanus. In 31, the strongman received the consulship, despite being an Eques, and became engaged to Livilla, sister of Germanicus. These events marked the climax of his rise and perhaps hastened his downfall, for that same year he was suddenly arrested and executed on the emperor's orders. Later authors accused him of plotting against Tiberius, and planning to assume the purple for himself. However, as Sejanus was not of senatorial origin but a simple eques, such accusations from the senatorial historiography must be taken with a grain of salt, and modern historians have therefore come to very different assessments of Sejanus' role. Whatever the true background, by executing his closest ally, Tiberius made it abundantly clear who held true power in Rome.

The present coin belongs to the sole emission of coins with the upstart's name, struck in the provincial mint of Bilbilis in Spain. Only a few examples of this coinage have survived to this day, suggesting either that the issue was abruptly stopped after Sejanus' downfall, or that many of the coins were confiscated and melted down after Sejanus' execution. What makes this particular example especially interesting is that it belongs to a very small number of coins on which Sejanus' name was erased in an act of damnatio memoriae. This is the earliest instance in Roman history of such condemnation of coins by the authorities, and set the stage for some of the later removals of names and portraits from provincial coins, such as when Caracalla murdered his brother Geta in 211.
Starting price:
1000 CHF
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3600 CHF
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Closing time: 14-Jul-24, 12:00:00 CEST
All winning bids are subject to a 20% buyer's fee.


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