Clodius Macer, usurper, 68. Denarius (Silver, 17 mm, 2.99 g, 12 h), uncertain mint in North Africa (Carthage?), spring-summer 68. ROMA - S C Head of Roma to right, wearing crested helmet with palm frond on bowl. Rev. L•CLODI MACRI Trophy. BMC p. 287 note. Cohen 9. Hewitt pl. 12, 45 (same obverse die). RIC 31. Of the highest rarity, the sixth known example and the rarest type of Clodius Macer. Beautifully toned and in exceptional condition for this prestigious issue, a sharply struck piece of unusually fine style and from a hitherto unattested reverse die. Slightly rough, otherwise, nearly extremely fine.
The coinage of Clodius Macer, the legatus augusti propraetore africae who revolted against Nero in the spring of 68, is among the most fascinating of the Roman Imperial series. Macer's base of power was the Legio III Augusta, the African legion stationed in Ammaedara, but the greater threat to Nero's regime was the fact that he controlled the grain supply from the fertile African provinces to Rome. Although the revolt occurred at roughly the same time as Galba's in Spain, there appears to have been no cooperation between the two and the background of the African uprising remains obscure. Macer's coinage consists of seven main types with some very distinct characteristics, most notably the absence of his portrait on all but the latest issue, the unusual use of the genitive in his name, the refusal to claim any imperial titles and the ostentatious appearance of S C on all of his coins, all of which undoubtedly reflect the offhanded nature of his rebellion, as does the usually poor workmanship and the crude engraving of the dies. Our coin belongs to Hewitt's Group F (Group 6 in RIC), which is the rarest of them all, known to him in only three examples struck from three obverse and three reverse dies. Two additional pieces have shown up since then in Sternberg XXVI, 16 November 1992, 290 and in the Leo Benz Collection, Lanz 94, 22 November 1999, 270, bringing the total number of coins belonging to Group F to six (including ours), struck from five obverse and five reverse dies. The issue shows the head of Roma on the front and a trophy on the back, both of which are distinctly Republican and imperatorial numismatic motives, a fact that is further underlined by the legends and their arrangements: while ROMA - S C on the obverse boasts the Senatorial traditions of the res publica, the appearance of Macer's name on the reverse without any titles recalls the coinage of Republican moneyers. Perhaps not surprisingly, Macer's luck faded when Galba succeeded to the throne after Nero's suicide in June. Unwilling to tolerate a rival to the throne and pressured by the need to supply the Roman plebs with grain, the new princeps had the African rebel executed by one of his procurators sometime in the fall of 68. Macer's newly established African mint (probably Carthage) was taken over by Galba, but the rebel's coinage was almost certainly immediately recalled and melted down after his downfall, thus explaining its extreme rarity today.