Ancients: Sextus Pompey denarius

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by AncientJoe, Apr 15, 2014.

  1. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Well-Known Member

    Here's a new acquisition of mine, the first of a string of posts I'll be making as I have a fair number of queued coins to post. I've cobbled together the writeup from some historical articles and auction descriptions - let me know if you have any questions!


    Sextus Pompey AR Denarius. Uncertain mint in Sicily (Catania?), 42-40 BC. MAG PIVS IMP ITER, bare head of Pompey Magnus right; capis behind, lituus before / Neptune standing left, holding aplustre in right hand, resting right foot on prow, between the Catanaean brothers, Anapias and Amphinomus, carrying their parents on their shoulders, PRÆF above, CLAS ET ORÆ MARIT EX S C in two lines in exergue. Crawford 511/3a; Sydenham 1344; Sear 334; RRC 511/3a; BMCRR Sicily 7; Pompeia 27; Catalli 2001, 824. 3.96g, 20mm, 11h.

    Virtually Mint State. Ex Chiltern Collection; Ex A. Tkalec, 18 February 2002, lot 119;

    After the death of his father, Pompey the Great, in 48BC and the execution of his older brother, Gnaeus Pompey the Younger three years later, Sextus Pompey, a skilled naval commander, took over the campaign started by his father.

    The title he uses on this coin, “praefectus classis et orae maritimae ex senatus consulto” (commander of the fleet and of the sea shores by decision of the Senate) is a well-aimed insult to the other triumviri. In order to put an end to the attacks of Pompey's fleet of pirates on the ships bringing grain to Rome, they were forced to reconcile with Sextus Pompey and prove to him their goodwill by asking the Senate to bestow on him this official title. The mention of this title on the coin informs everyone that Pompey was given an official command by the Senate, and that therefore he was not simply a commander of pirates, as the triumvirs proclaimed.

    The reverse of this coin alludes not only to Sextus' command of the seas and the probable location of the mint through the legend of Amphinomus and Anapias, but is also a reference to the piety (the faithfulness for the divine rules) of Sextus Pompey in upholding the Republican ideals of his late father, who is depicted on the obverse.

    This imagery was intentional and open defiance to Octavian. In the ancient version of the legend there was only one pious hero, leaving no room for Octavian to claim the same title. Sextus would likely have been inspired by the original poem by Lycurgus:

    "A stream of fire burst forth from Etna. This stream, so the story goes, flowing over the countryside, drew near a certain city of the Sicilians. Most men, thinking of their own safety, took to flight; but one of the youths, seeing that his father, now advanced in years, could not escape and was being overtaken by the fire, lifted him up and carried him. Hindered no doubt by the additional weight of his burden, he too was overtaken. And now let us observe the mercy shown by the Gods towards good men. For we are told that the fire spread round that spot in a ring and only those two men were saved, so that the place is still called the Place of the Pious, while those who had fled in haste, leaving their parents to their fate, were all consumed."

    Octavian had always boasted of his own piety which pushed him to prosecute the murderers of his adoptive father, Julius Caesar. With the representation of the son risking his life to save his father, Sextus is now formally claiming this piety towards his own parents. He represents himself, exactly like Octavian, as a son who wants to follow in the footsteps of his murdered father, Pompey the Great.

    Pompey presided over the Mediterranean for some time as claimed on this coin, represented by Neptune, the master of the Sea. But he did not have the allegiance of all of his captains, evidenced by the fact that they did not adhere to his orders or honor the truce agreement with the triumviri.

    Because of this insubordination, after the formation of the Second Triumvirate, Sextus himself was declared an enemy, and the Senate instructed Octavian to defeat him. At this point, Sextus had occupied Sicily where he received fugitives from the Republican defeat at Philippi who were condemned as enemies of the state by the Triumvirs. With the help of these soldiers, Sextus Pompey defeated Salvidienus who had been sent against him by Octavian.

    In 38 BC, Octavian himself declared war against Sextus, with limited success. He was offered support from Lepidus, who landed 14 legions in Sicily. However, Lepidus attempted to take advantage of the situation and gain control of Sicily himself, but his legions defected to Octavian when challenged.

    The tides turned against Sextus on September 3rd, 36 BC when Octavian and Agrippa destroyed his fleet at the Battle of Nauolchus. Sextus escaped and fled to the East, but was later captured by Antony’s general, Ahenobarbus, and was executed.
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Another wonderful coin and very interesting and informative write-up. Thanks for posting.
  4. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Such a dynamic coin! I didn't realize the significance of the reverse elements-- thanks for the history lesson. :)
  5. CoinMike747

    CoinMike747 Barber Connoisseur

    Awesome coin with an equally awesome history! Thanks for sharing!
  6. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

  7. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    It is a great coin. I've always been quite aware of the type because it is the other common coin of Sextus Pompey which I have no reason ever to expect to own. I do feel more than lucky to have a fourree denarius of the Sextus Pompey galley type which I bought from Charles Wolfe, one of the earlier dealers I so benefited from knowing. Before he would sell it to me, I had to convince him that I understood what a fourree was.
  8. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES! Supporter

    absolutely stunning.

    great write up also AJ.
  9. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    Very cool coin, AJ ... Neptune, with foot on prow is a total winner!!
  10. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    *ooops ... double post edit*

    => oh, and great obverse portrait (congrats on another top-drawer example, my coin-friend)
  11. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Wonderfully historic type! The details are sharp and the portrait especially nice.
    Thanks as usual for the informative writeup. Looking forward to the rest of the lineup.
  12. TJC

    TJC Well-Known Member

    WOW, that is an amazing coin, great detail, toning, history and fantastic eye appeal!!!!! Rockin history!!!!! Thanks for sharing!
  13. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Spectacular specimen. Thanks for the writeup, I had always wondered what was being referenced by these ancient disco-maniacs.
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