Augustus's Natal SignAugustus (27 BC-AD 14). AV aureus (20mm, 7.73 gm, 6h). Pergamum, 19 BC. AVGVSTVS, bare head right / SIGNIS above, RECEPTIS below, capricorn right, foreleg raised. RIC 521. Calicó 272 (this coin illustrated). BMCRE 680. BN 976, 979-980. Rare, surely among the finest known examples of this attractive issue. Well struck, with underlying luster. NGC AU? 5/5 - 4/5.
From The Lexington Collection. Ex Triton XI (8-9 January 2008), lot 722; Gilbert Steinberg Collection (Numismatica Ars Classica, 16 November 1994), lot 146.
This reverse type has a dual purpose: It celebrates the recovery of the legionary standards lost to the Parthians through the disastrous campaigns of Crassus (53 BC) and Mark Antony (36 BC), and also celebrates Augustus' natal sign of Capricorn. Augustus recovered the standards in 20 BC through diplomacy backed by military muscle. According to Suetonius, Gaius Octavius, later known as Augustus, was born the morning of September 23, 63 BC, under the sign of Capricorn. Later in life, he placed great stress on his natal sign, as related in this account by Suetonius: "In his retirement at Apollonia (a Greek colony in Illyria), Augustus went with his friend Agrippa to visit Theogenes the astrologer in his gallery on the roof. Agrippa, who first consulted the fates, had great and almost incredible things predicted of him. Augustus therefore did not wish to make known his nativity, and persisted for some time in the refusal, from a mixture of shame and fear, lest his own fate should be predicted as inferior to that of Agrippa. When Augustus had been persuaded, however, after much importunity, to declare his nativity, Theogenes started up from his seat and paid him adoration. Not long afterwards, Augustus was so confident of the greatness of his destiny that he published his horoscope, and struck a silver coin bearing the image of Capricorn, the sign under which he was born." While Capricorn was indeed a common motif on Augustus' silver denarius, it is much rarer on his gold issues.
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