Commodus and the praetorians - a sestertius

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by GinoLR, Jun 17, 2024.

  1. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    It's a budget sestertius, but it's one of my favourites.

    upload_2024-6-18_2-23-57.png

    Commodus, sestertius, Rome AD 185/6. AE 29 mm, 17.68 g, 6 h.
    Obv.: M COMMODVS ANT AVG P BRIT FELIX, head of Commodus, laureate, right
    Rev.: P M TR P XI IMP VII COS V P P / S C / FID EXERCIT, Commodus, in military attire, standing left on platform, holding sceptre in right hand and haranguing six soldiers
    RIC III Commodus 468D

    Dated TR P XI and IMP VII, this sestertius was minted in 185/6. The soldiers to which the emperor is delivering a speech are the praetorians, garrisoned in Rome.

    There had been an attempted coup in 185. The praetorian prefect Perennis, commander of the praetorian cohorts since 180, plotted the assassination of Commodus, but he was betrayed by some of his men who secretly went to the palace and exposed the whole thing to the emperor. In imperial Rome, it was extremely difficult for civilians to meet the emperor in person, but the military had an easy access to him. This is what Herodian later wrote : " For not much later, some soldiers visited Perennis' son in secret and carried off coins bearing the prefect's portrait. And, without the knowledge of Perennis, the praetorian prefect, they took the coins directly to Commodus and revealed to him the secret details of the plot. They were richly rewarded for their service. While Perennis was still ignorant of these developments and anticipated nothing of the sort, the emperor sent for him at night and had him beheaded."

    Commodus soon went to the praetorian camp in order to secure the soldiers' loyalty.

    New coins representing this imperial visit to the praetorian camp were minted, first in gold and silver, later in bronze, with the legend Fides exercitus, "loyalty of the army".

    Herodian is the only author mentioning the coins with Perennis' portrait. Is it true, or is it a mere legend? If such coins were actually minted, they must have been aurei and denarii (like Pescennius Niger's 193 coinage in Antioch), and all destroyed soon afterwards...But it's more probably a legend, for Cassius Dio, who considered Perennis an able commander slain by his own mutinous soldiers, does not mention these coins.
     
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    The condition isn't too bad. Congrats.
     
    Dafydd and nerosmyfavorite68 like this.
  4. YOTHR

    YOTHR Member

  5. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    The three mutinous legions of Britain? Yes, you're right, it's a possibility. But of the three standards, only one seems to be an eagle. We can see it from a very well preserved specimen
    upload_2024-6-19_1-14-4.png
    (Numismatica Ars Classica 106.985)
     
  6. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    These FID EXERCIT sestertii make 1 reference in the RIC : RIC III Commodus 468
    But there are varieties :
    468A (three soldiers) - with further varieties ( 468Aa, 468Aca, 468Acb ), depending on the obverse legend and the type of portrait
    468B (four soldiers)
    468C (five soldiers)
    468D (six soldiers)

    My specimen is a six soldiers 468D variety. I don't know if it may be called a variety, it is more likely a question of reverse die. There is one example in BNF I could not see (Cohen 517), and there does not seem to be any in the other core collections.

    On ACSearch I could find 6 specimens : all of them, plus mine, are from the same reverse die. But I found 4 different obverse dies, three with a laureate head, one with a laureate bust, drapery on left shoulder.

    upload_2024-6-19_1-38-4.png

    I did not try the same research for the other 3, 4 and 5 soldiers varieties... It would be interesting to check if they are from the same reverse die too.
     
    Bing likes this.
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