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Amazing Otho Denarius

Otho (AD 69). AR denarius (20mm, 3.28 gm, 6h).  Rome, 9 March-mid April AD 69. IMP OTHO CAESAR AVG TR P, bare, bewigged head of Otho right / PONT MAC, Ceres standing left, holding three grain ears in right hand and cradling cornucopia in left arm. Cf. RIC 20 (aureus). CBN 25. RSC 11. A simply astounding coin of this brief-reigning Caesar, struck in sculptural high relief on a broad flan and possessing lustrous, lightly toned surfaces. Only a small area of roughness along the upper reverse rim keeps this piece from absolute perfection; as it is it surely ranks among the finest known denarii of Otho. NGC AU? 5/5 - 4/5, Fine Style.

In a surprising omission, the late C. H. V. Sutherland, author of Volume I of Roman Imperial Coinage, does not list this issue among denarius types for Otho, even though surviving examples number in the dozens and most museum collections include the type. 

Born in AD 32 to a nouveau riche family, Marcus Salvius Otho grew up as a pampered playboy with a taste for the finer things in life. He had a peculiar abhorrence for bodily hair and depilated every part of his body, including his head; to cover his baldness, he then wore a carefully made wig, clearly visible in this outstanding coin portrait. When Nero's regime collapsed in mid AD 68, Otho was governor of Lusitania and one of Galba's earliest supporters. He fully expected to be named the old man's heir apparent. Instead, Galba chose a young aristocrat of better breeding, and the furious Otho began plotting his removal. Playing on Galba's stingy reputation, he bribed the Praetorian Guards to murder Galba on January 15, AD 69, after which the Senate reluctantly confirmed Otho as emperor. But he immediately faced another rebellion, this time by Vitellius, the governor of lower Germany, whose sizeable army marched on Italy. Otho and the Praetorian Guard hurried north to hold the line at the River Po. The sharp clash at Cremona in northern Italy went decisively against him. Again, his generals urged him to keep fighting, but he decided to spare Rome further bloodshed. Retiring to his room with a dagger, he stabbed himself in the heart the morning of April 16 or 17, AD 69. His noble end gained him a respect that had eluded him in life.

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January, 2014
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