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    Gallienus: Chaos, Despair, and Hope

    Gallienus (AD 253-268). AV aureus (17mm, 2.78 gm, 6h).  Rome, AD 253. IMP C P LIC GALLIENVS AVG, laureate and draped bust of Gallienus right / CONCORDIA EXERCIT, Concordia standing left, holding patera in right hand and double cornucopiae cradled in left arm. RIC 70. Cohen 130. Calic├│ 3473 (this coin illustrated). Very rare. A pristine and perfect example of the sadly diminished aureus of the mid-third century. Lustrous. NGC (photo-certificate) Choice AU? 5/5 - 5/5.

    From The Andre Constantine Dimitriadis Collection. Ex McLendon Collection (Christie's New York, 12 June 1993), lot 184. 

    No Roman emperor is more undeservedly vilified than Gallienus, who spent his entire 15-year reign desperately fighting the forces of chaos and destruction that threatened the empire's very existence. Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus was born circa A.D. 218-220 in the waning days of the Pax Romana-the "Roman Peace" which had endured for 250 years. His father, Valerian, seized the throne for himself in AD 253 and named Gallienus, then in his mid 30s, as co-emperor. Gallienus took charge of Roman forces in Gaul and the Balkans while Valerian traveled East to combat a major Persian invasion. From AD 253-260, Gallienus fought furiously against continuous barbarian incursions along the crumbling Rhine and Danube frontiers. He won a smashing victory over the Alemanni in AD 259, but almost immediately thereafter came news that Valerian had been captured by the Persians and the entire Roman army of the East annihilated. Gallienus had no time to ponder rescuing his father, for all hell broke loose in the following months. Roman generals revolted in Gaul, the Balkans and Asia Minor, while barbarian raiders poured across the unprotected frontiers in destructive waves. Economic collapse, banditry, piracy and pestilence followed in their wake as the Roman Empire fragmented and spiraled perilously close to oblivion. Still, Gallienus battled on doggedly, showing grit and ingenuity. His military reforms, including the creation of a large central cavalry reserve and the promotion of a tough new officer class from the Danubian provinces, were key to the eventual Roman recovery. His poetic pretensions, gender-bending wit and love of luxury earned him the disdain of Rome's upper classes. But he was tolerant and humane, and he won the respect of Christians by ending decades of persecution. In AD 268, he fell victim to a plot by the very Danubian officers he had raised to prominence. 

    This gold aureus, struck early in Gallienus' joint reign with his father, is less than half the weight of aurei struck a half-century earlier, testimony to the inflationary spiral of the times. The portraiture, however, remains excellent, showing Gallienus as a rather weary-looking young man dressed for combat. The reverse appeals in vain to the "harmony of the armies" at a time when ceaseless civil war frequently pitted legion against legion.

    All Roman gold coins from the Dimitriadis Collection have been issued a photo-certificate by NGC. These may be sent in for encapsulation after the auction at the request of the buyer, free of charge. Please e-mail SamS@HA.com if you would like to utilize this option.


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    10th-16th Thursday-Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 6
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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