Featured An Illegal coin and exciting mystery - Lydia, Sardes for Diva Claudia Octavia

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Finn235, Sep 30, 2020.

  1. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    My winnings from the Papillon Numismatic Auction 1 just arrived - quite pleased with this one

    Roman Provincial
    Lydia, Sardes for Diva Claudia Octavia, (d. AD 62)
    Minted under Mindios, Strategos for the second time

    Obv: ΘΕΑΝ ΟΚΤΑΟΙΑΝ, Head right
    Rev: CΑΡΔΙΑΝΩΝ / ΕΠΙ ΜΙΝΔΙΟΥ / ΣΤΡ ΤΟ Β, Demeter standing right, holding scepter

    Ref: RPC I 3000 (Var? There seems to be multiple legend layouts, many of which are probably not documented)
    Diva Claudia Octavia Lydia sardes Mindios strategos.jpg

    Born in about 39, Octavia was the middle child of Claudius, and his first child with Messalina, who was also the mother of Britannucus. Sadly always destined to be a pawn in the political games of her family, she was initially betrothed to the son of one of her father's political allies while still a young child, then finally married to her first cousin once removed, Nero.

    Their marriage was never happy, but ancient historians mention that Octavia was a virtuous wife, and well beloved by the people. Nero eventually became bored with Octavia and took on several mistresses. Finally, around the time that his mistress Poppaea became pregnant with his child in about AD 62, Nero divorced Octavia and banished her to the island of Pandateria on trumped-up charges of adultery. He married Poppaea, but the populace rose up in public demonstrations, calling for her return. Frightened, Nero signed Octavia's death warrant, and his agents cut open Octavia's veins and placed her in a very hot bath, apparently to frame it as a suicide. Her head was removed and sent back to Rome, and it is said that Poppaea delivered it to Nero herself.


    While there are various provincial coins from various stages in Octavia's eight year marriage to Nero, this particular emission from Sardes is unique in its use of ΘΕΑΝ, generally meaning "The Goddess" - a title generally reserved for dead empresses or divine personifications. The most common provincial coins to use this are the ones primarily from Pergamon that show the "god" of the Roman Senate (ΘΕΟΝ CΥΝΚΛΗΤΟΝ) and the goddess Roma herself (ΘΕΑN ΡωΜΗN)
    Pergamon mysia AE bust Senate roma.jpg
    Initially I wondered if this perhaps could have been intended for Augustus' sister Octavia; however the strategos Mindios in Sardes struck coins only for Nero and Octavia.

    If indeed these are intended to commemorate a deified Octavia, as the titulature would seem to suggest, they are not only the only coins struck after her death, but also the only coins to deify a Roman empress who was executed on the orders of her husband. Perhaps Mindios was one of many who loved Octavia far, far more than her husband, and decided to take the immense risk and declare her apotheosis, on the hope that his coins would never make it all the way to Rome?

    And I had no idea that such coins even existed prior to seeing them in auction - what fun!

    Any related coins out there? Let's see them!
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
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