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    Description

    Bold Pertinax Portrait

    Pertinax (AD 193). Orichalcum sestertius (25.20 gm). Rome, January-March AD 193. IMP CAES P HELV PERTINAX AVG, laureate head of Pertinax right / AEQVIT AVG T-R P COS II S-C, Aequitas standing left, holding balance scales and cornucopiae. RIC 14. Rare. Even dark brown patina. Very fine.

    From the Wayne C. Phillips Collection of Sestertii. Ex CNG Mail Bid Sale 84 (5 May 2010), lot 1056.

    The brief, tragic reign of Helvius Pertinax stands as proof of how far talent and hard work could take an individual in the Roman world, as well as the dangers of high office. Pertinax began life as the son of a freed slave who made a fortune in the lumber business. Given a good education, he first became a school teacher, then began a career with the Imperial civil service rather late in life. He moved up quickly and soon found himself as a procurement officer in the Roman army. He won the confidence of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius during the Marcommanic War, when he took charge of a legion and intercepted a hoard of barbarians invading Italy. He was made a senator and heaped with honors, including the governorships of Moesia, Dacia, and Syria. He retired from public life when Commodus assumed the throne in AD 180, but was called back to service a few years later to govern the provinces of Britain and Africa, which were growing restive under Commodus' listless rule. With Commodus descending into megalomania, a conspiracy formed and the plotters saw the elderly, widely respected Pertinax as the ideal candidate to replace him. Whether he was privy to the plot is uncertain, but immediately after the murder of Commodus on December 31, AD 192, Pertinax went secretly to the Praetorian camp, promised the guard a bonus, and was proclaimed emperor. The Senate enthusiastically ratified his elevation and he initiated a number of popular reforms against the excesses of Commodus, including a crackdown on military indiscipline. This, along with his failure to pay the promised donative, alienated the Praetorians, who held true power in Rome. Although one plot against him was thwarted, Pertinax made the mistake of trying to quell another mutiny by addressing the guard in person. In the middle of the address, a soldier hurled his spear and transfixed him; others finished him off and put his head on a pike. Pertinax had ruled all of 66 days, and his downfall launched the Roman Empire into a succession of devastating civil wars from which it never fully recovered.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2012
    2nd-3rd Monday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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