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Ancients: Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161). AE framed medallion (67mm, 100.42 gm, 12h). ...

2013 January 6-7 Ancient & World Coin Signature Auction - New York #3021

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Auction Ended On: Jan 7, 2013
Item Activity: 2 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Waldorf Astoria
301 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Spectacular Framed Medallion of Antoninus Pius
Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161). AE framed medallion (67mm, 100.42 gm, 12h).  Rome, AD 140-144. ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR P COS III, laureate head of Antoninus left / Prometheus seated right on cuirass, fashioning image of man out of clay; Minerva stands before him to left, reaching out with right hand to bestow life and intellect into the figure. Unpublished with bust left in frame, but cf. Gnecchi, pl. 54, 8 for reverse die; cf. Toynbee pl. XXIV, 1 (framed, same obverse die) and 4 (unframed, same obverse die, same reverse composition but different die). A magnificent medallion, at 67mm and over 100 grams perhaps the largest framed piece ever offered. With a lovely dark green patina. Choice Very Fine.

'Framed medallions' such as this remarkable piece were produced by the mint of Rome toward the close of each year and presented to foreign dignitaries, military officers and distinguished citizens, likely by the emperor himself at a special ceremony.  Close examination of this and similar medallions confirms that the the broad, grooved rim around the perimeter is not a separate piece, but that the central  medallion and rim are struck from a single set of dies on a planchet composed of concentric rings of reddish bronze and yellow brass, or orichalcum as the Romans would have called it. Similar medallions were produced with some regularity in later reigns, particularly those of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus and the Severans.  

The attractive reverse theme, depicting the creation myth of Prometheus bringing the human race into existence, assisted by Pallas Minerva, was widely celebrated during the reign of Antoninus, particularly during the runup to the festivities celebrating Rome's 900th anniversary (AD 147-148).  Although this medallion must be dated before AD 145 (when Antoninus entered his fourth Consulship; the obverse legend is here dated COS III), coins  and medallions with mythological scenes clearly prefiguring the 900th anniversary were widely struck from AD 140 to 144. 

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