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Coin Detail
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ID:     34-6
Type:     Roman Republican
Issuer:     Cn. Domitius L.F. Ahenobarbus
Date Ruled:     41 BC
Metal:     Gold
Denomination:     Aureus
Struck / Cast:     struck
Date Struck:     41 BC
Diameter:     21 mm
Weight:     7.97 g
Obverse Legend:     AHENOBAR
Obverse Description:     Bare male head (Ahenobarbus ?) right
Reverse Legend:     CN·DOMITIVS·L·F·IMP / NE-PT
Reverse Description:     Tetrastyle temple; in upper field, NE – PT
Mint:     Mint moving with Ahenobarbus
Primary Reference:     Crawford 519/1
Reference2:     Syd 1176
Reference3:     Bahrfeldt 68
Reference4:     Calicó 69
Photograph Credit:     Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG
Price Sold For:     48000 Swiss Franc
Date Sold:     11/24/2006
Grade:     VF/F
Notes:     NAC Auction 34, Lot 6 Excessively rare, probably only the tenth specimen known. Minor scuff on obverse and marks on reverse, otherwise very fine / fine This aureus ranks high among the prizes of Roman numismatics. Its remarkable portrait has been the subject of much debate, especially since it is different from the one on denarii issued at the same time by Ahenobarbus, the man who unwittingly was the great-grandfather of the emperor Nero. Here we have a fleshy, indulgent, almost Vitellian portrait that is filled with character and individuality. On the denarii we have a portrait of a thin man that is stiff and noticeably stylized. The difference in the engraving quality may be due to the fact that a better artist worked on the aureus dies, but it is more likely that the denarius portrait was meant to represent an ancestor and that the aureus portrait is of the imperator himself. On both issues the name AHENOBAR appears alone on the obverse, and his title is relegated to the reverse. To many scholars this suggests that both portraits are of Ahenobarbus’ ancestors, but that argument is not conclusive. Had Ahenobarbus placed his portrait on one of the issues, the aureus would have been a good choice since it circulated among the most influential members of his retinue. The temple of Neptune on the reverse may help narrow the portrait down to two men in the family who either built or restored such a temple. Most agree it is the Aedes Neptuni, the temple of Neptune on the Campus Martius, but some consider it to be one attributed to Domitius Ahenobarbus, who was consul in 192 B.C., and others favor the temple that the coin-issuing Ahenobarbus vowed between 42 and 38 B.C. (and seems to have realized in 32, when he was consul). Philip Hill considers the temple to have "…every appearance of being a ‘blueprint’ rather than representing a building which had been in existence for more than a century and a half." He notes that the actual temple was hexastyle – having six columns on its façade – rather than tetrastyle, as it is shown on the coin. If the temple is the one attributable to the coinissuing Ahenobarbus, then we might rightly describe the portrait as that of the imperator himself. Since 1945, this issue has been offered in public auction only twice: Sotheby’s sale 10 November 1972, lot 4 and Hirsch sale 193, lot 13 (graded very fine and sold for 117,000 DM). A third specimen was offered by NFA in 1989, but after a close examination the coin has been condemned as a modern forgery.