Impressive Silver Medallion of HonoriusHonorius, Western Roman Emperor (AD 393-423). AR medallion of 6 siliquae (35mm, 13.42 gm, 6h). Rome, AD 404-406. D N HONORIVS P F AVG, pearl diademed, draped and cuirassed bust of Honorius facing, head right / TRIVMFATOR GENT BARB, emperor standing facing in military dress, head left, holding globe in his left hand and vexillum emblazoned with Christogram in his right; to left, bound captive kneeling left, head turned back to right. Cohen 34. Gnecchi 5, pl. 37, 4. RIC 1261 (R4). Extremely rare, one of only six known examples, the only one in private hands! An impressive medallion, struck on an immense flan, with gorgeous old cabinet toning. NGC AU 4/5 - 5/5.
Ex de Guermantes Collection (Leu Numismatik AG 86, 5 May 2003), lot 1047.
This extraordinary medallion celebrates Honorius as "victor over the barbarian nations," although the victories of his early reign were actually won by his great general, Flavius Stilicho. Born in AD 384 as the younger son of Theodosius I the Great, Honorius was proclaimed Augustus at the age of nine, making him theoretically co-equal with his father and older brother Arcadius. Unfortunately, Theodosius fell ill and died in January of AD 395, leaving his young, untried sons in charge of a divided Empire beset by mounting crises. The Visigothic king Alaric, ostensibly a Roman ally, exploited the situation by ravaging Thrace and Italy. Stilicho defeated and cornered Alaric twice, but each time let him escape. In AD 405, another huge barbarian horde led by the warlord Radagaisus swept into Italy and threatened Rome itself. Stilicho managed to surround and destroy this rabble early in 406, capturing and executing Radagaisus, and perhaps providing the occasion for the striking of this large celebratory medallion. But Stilicho's victory proved costly, as he had to strip the Rhine and Danube frontiers of their defending legions, allowing fresh waves of invaders to plunder Roman Germany, Gaul, and Spain. While chaos engulfed the Roman world, Honorius ordered Stilicho's arrest and execution in May of AD 408. This only worsened an already horrific situation, and on August 24 AD 410 the Visigoths sacked Rome, heralding the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.
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