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    Tacitus: Senatorial Warrior?

    Tacitus (AD 275-276). AV aureus (22mm, 4.28 gm, 1h).  Lugdunum (Lyon), October-November AD 275. IMP C M CL TACITVS AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Tacitus to right / PAX PVBLICA, Pax standing left, holding branch in her right hand and scepter in her left. RIC 3. Bastien 13c (same dies). Cohen 79. Calic├│ 4078 (this coin illustrated). Very rare. NGC (photo-certificate) Choice XF 5/5 - 2/5, wavy flan.

    From The Andre Constantine Dimitriadis Collection. Ex Dreesmann Collection (Spink London, 13 April 2000), lot 53; Spink-Leu (Lugano, 26 September 1987), lot 325.

    The notoriously unreliable Historia Augusta claims that the Emperor Marcus Claudius Tacitus was a descendant of the famous first-century Roman author Cornelius Tacitus, but most modern historians dismiss this as fictional. The story of his accession, as recounted in the Historia Augusta, goes like this: After the murder of the Emperor Aurelian by a military cabal in mid-AD 275, the soldiers were so chastened by their own behavior that they asked the Senate to nominate the next emperor. The Senate was leery of taking them up on the offer, and threw the choice back to the Army. This back-and-forth supposedly went on for six months, until the Senate finally relented and elected Tacitus, a 75-year-old ex-consul, as the new emperor. In actuality, the "interregnum" probably lasted only a few weeks, and Tacitus, while an Italian with considerable wealth, likely had considerable military experience. Assuming the throne in October or November of AD 275, Tacitus spent a few weeks signing new laws before hurrying to the Balkans to take charge of the huge field army Aurelian had assembled. After inflicting a severe defeat on the Goths and Heruli, Tacitus abruptly died at Tyana in Cappadocia in June or July of AD 276. His reign had lasted seven months at most, and various historical sources give different causes of death, ranging from simple overexertion, to disease, to assassination. 

    Whatever his origins, Tacitus does appear to have been cut from a different bolt of cloth than the rough-hewn Danubian soldier-emperors who came before and after him. His coin portraits depict a portly man with a carefully combed and curled set of chin-whiskers, quite distinct from the military crew-cuts and stubbly beards of the lean Danubians. 

    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: 10
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