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Lot
23966

Ancients: Gordian I Africanus (AD 238). AR denarius (21mm, 3.40 gm, 12h). ...

2014 January 5 - 6 World & Ancient Coin Signature Auction - New York #3030

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Auction Ended On: Jan 6, 2014
Item Activity: 7 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Waldorf Astoria - Norse Suite
301 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Description:
Outstanding Gordian I Denarius
Gordian I Africanus (AD 238). AR denarius (21mm, 3.40 gm, 12h).  Rome, April AD 238. IMP M ANT GORDIANVS AFR AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Grdian I right / ROMAE AETERNAE, Roma seated left on shield, holding Palladium and spear. RIC 4. BMCRE 8. RSC 8. Very rare! With a strong portrait of this short-reigning ruler. Good Extremely Fine.

Gordian I and his son Gordian II share the dubious distinction of having the shortest reigns of any "legitimate" Roman emperors. Born circa AD 159, Marcus Antonius Gordianus Sempronianus Romanus claimed a distant relation to the emperor Trajan on his mother's side and descent from those famous Republican reformers, the brothers Gracchi, on his father's. Despite these illustrious genes, he had a rather uneventful career as a Senator and did not reach the Consulship until the advanced age of 64. He preferred the quiet life of a landed gentleman and amassed an enormous fortune during the Antonine and Severan eras. To his credit, he left retirement and returned to public duty as crises multiplied in the AD 230s. He was approaching his 80s when, in AD 237/8, the Emperor Maximinus I appointed him governor of North Africa, where he was expected to enforce the regime's draconian program of taxation against the landed gentry. In March of 238, a group of young African nobles rebeled and murdered the emperor's tax agent. Realizing they'd passed the point of no return, the rich rebels sent a delegation to Gordian begging him to accept the purple as a rival to the unpopular Maximinus, who was preoccupied campaigning on the Rhine frontier. At first reluctant, Gordian accepted their acclamation as Augustus on March 19 and appointed his son, Gordian II, as co-emperor. The Gordians next made a ceremonial entry into the provincial capital of Carthage, where they both assumed the title Africanus and dispatched a messenger to Rome proclaiming their program of reform. The Senate, which had always hated the brutish Maximinus, eagerly approved their elevation and began striking coins in their names. But Maximinus reacted quickly, preparing his own army to march on Rome and ordering his loyal governor in Numidia, Capellianus, to attack Carthage and crush the revolt. Capellianus duly set out with a veteran force, against which the Gordians could only pull together an ill-trained rabble. Gordian II died in battle on April 12, AD 238 and his father hanged himself upon hearing of its outcome. They had together reigned a mere 22 days.

Despite their brief production run, coins of Gordian I and II are notable for their excellent portraiture and careful quality control. On this rare silver denarius, the elder Gordian appears as a distinguished older gentleman with thin, hawkish features. The reverse evokes the stability of "Eternal Rome" at a time of multiplying crises. 

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