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    Breathtaking 'Star' Otho Denarius

    Otho (15 January-16 April AD 69). AR denarius (20mm, 3.28 gm, 6h). NGC AU★ 5/5 - 4/5, Fine Style. Rome, 9 March-mid April AD 69. IMP OTHO CAESAR AVG TR P, bare, bewigged head of Otho right / PONT-MAX, Ceres, draped, standing facing, head left, three grain ears upward in right hand, cradling cornucopia in left arm. Cf. RIC I 20 (aureus). CBN 25. RSC 11. Well struck, superb portrait on lustrous flan with areas of fiery toning along the periphery. Certainly one of the finest extant Otho denarii.

    From a Private Japanese Collection. Ex Heritage Auction 3030 (NYINC, 5 January 2014), lot 23942.

    The late C. H. V. Sutherland, author of Volume I of Roman Imperial Coinage, does not list this issue among denarius types for Otho, even though surviving examples number in the dozens and most museum collections include the type, but includes a footnote on p.261 the type exists and is in need of confirmation.

    Born in AD 32 to a nouveau riche family, Marcus Salvius Otho grew up as a pampered playboy with a taste for the finer things in life. He had a peculiar abhorrence for bodily hair and depilated every part of his body, including his head; to cover his baldness, he then wore a carefully made wig, clearly visible in this outstanding coin portrait. When Nero's regime collapsed in mid AD 68, Otho was governor of Lusitania and one of Galba's earliest supporters. He fully expected to be named the old man's heir apparent. Instead, Galba chose a young aristocrat of better breeding, and the furious Otho began plotting his removal. Playing on Galba's stingy reputation, he bribed the Praetorian Guards to murder Galba on January 15, AD 69, after which the Senate reluctantly confirmed Otho as emperor. But he immediately faced another rebellion, this time by Vitellius, the governor of lower Germany, whose sizeable army marched on Italy. Otho and the Praetorian Guard hurried north to hold the line at the River Po. The sharp clash at Cremona in northern Italy went decisively against him. Again, his generals urged him to keep fighting, but he decided to spare Rome further bloodshed. Retiring to his room with a dagger, he stabbed himself in the heart the morning of April 16 or 17, AD 69. His noble end gained him a respect that had eluded him in life.

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