'For Having Saved the Citizens'

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Jul 16, 2019.

  1. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    In the recent Leu Web Auction I was very pleased to have landed a fairly rare sestertius struck for Vespasian in 71. Researching the meaning of the reverse was quite fascinating!

    V1137.jpg Vespasian
    Æ Sestertius, 25.51g
    Lyon mint, 71 AD
    RIC 1137 (R). BMC p. 198 note ‡.
    Obv: IMP CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M TR P P P COS III; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.; globe at point of bust
    Rev: S P Q R / •P•P• / OB CIVES / SERVATOS within oak wreath
    Ex Leu Web Auction 8, 29-30 June 2019, lot 1008.

    During the great bronze issue of 71 a sestertius reverse type was struck at both Rome and Lyon (ancient Lugdunum) which commemorates the Senate awarding the corona civica to Vespasian. The corona civica was originally a military honour bestowed upon a Roman who had saved a fellow citizen's life in battle. It was one of the greatest public honours. In the imperial era the honour developed from a coveted military decoration into an imperial emblem granted by the Senate to the emperor. The wreath was made of oak leaves and is sometimes called a corona quercea after the common name for the oak. Plutarch believed the oak was chosen for this highest of honours for several reasons. The tree was easily found throughout the countryside and was quite convenient for fashioning a wreath when the need arose. Also, the oak is sacred to Jupiter and Juno and thus was an appropriate symbolic honour given to one who has saved the life of a fellow Roman citizen. Finally, the early settlers of Rome, the Arcadians, were nicknamed 'acorn-eaters' in an oracle of Apollo.


    The corona civica was awarded to Vespasian by the Senate for rescuing the Roman people from civil war and bringing about peace. The legend within the wreath S P Q R / P P / OB CIVES / SERVATOS translates as: 'The Senate and the Roman People / Father of the Nation / For Having Saved the Citizens'. This rare Lugdunese specimen commemorating the award was struck during the first bronze issue at that mint.

    Here is a bust of Vespasian wearing a corona civica.

    Vespasian Corona Civica.jpg

    The type was also struck in silver, although the legend was greatly abbreviated to accommodate the small flan of the denarius.

    AR Denarius, 3.20g
    Rome Mint, 73 AD
    RIC 547 (C). BMC 103. RSC 516.
    Obv: IMP CAES VESP AVG CEN; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.
    Rev: S P Q R in oak wreath
    Acquired from Ancient Coin Art, April 2006.

    This denarius type is sometimes erroneously attributed as an Actian anniversary commemorative.

    Feel free to post your wreaths!
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
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  3. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Congrats David, great coins
    these 2 are from his predecessor Galba:

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  4. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    A wonderful coin David. Congrats! I love that type. Unfortunately I am still waiting for my Leu lot to be delivered.

    Here are a couple of wreaths.
    Galba RIC 62
    Galba RIC 62 new.jpg

    Vespasian RIC 1414
    Vesp 141 savoca.jpg

    Augustus RIC 477
    Augustus Cistophorus RIC 493.jpg
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  5. jamesicus

    jamesicus Supporter! Supporter

    …………… A Sestertius of Claudius:

    Claudius perceived that it was imperative for him to accomplish a great feat of arms in order to enhance his prestige with the Senate and prove himself worthy of the title of Augustus. His own father NERO CLAUDIUS DRUSUS and brother GERMANICUS had been acclaimed as great military leaders on the northern frontier and he was determined to emulate their successes. His predecessor (and nephew), CALIGULA, had set out to conquer Britain and add that island outpost to the Empire, but had failed. Now Claudius was determined to fulfill that mission and to that end in AD 43 he dispatched an advanced force consisting of four legions commanded by a renowned general, AULUS PLAUTIUS to invade Britain and engage the Britannic forces there.

    Shortly thereafter Claudius landed in Britain and assumed command of the army led by General Plautius. In short order Claudius accepted the surrender of the Britannic forces, appointed Plautius Governor of Britannia and subsequently returned to Rome to celebrate his Triumph and enhance his entitlement by the Senate as Father of the Country - PATER PATRIAE (PP), and exalted servant of the People - OB CIVES SERVATOS - and as restorer of Liberty - LIBERTAS.

    RIC Vol. I, CLAUDIUS, SESTERTIUS, Rome, No. 112, 50-54AD (36mm, 28.2gm)
    Obverse depiction: Claudius, laureate head facing right
    Reverse depiction: Civic Oak Wreath
    Inscription in four lines:
    EX SC
    P P
    (within Civic wreath)

    *** Nice coin and excellent write-up David ***
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
  6. jamesicus

    jamesicus Supporter! Supporter


    BMCRE, Vol. I, CLAUDIUS, SESTERTIUS, Rome, No. 120, 41-45AD (38mm, 29.2gm)
    Obverse depiction: Claudius, laureate head facing right
    Countermarked PROB
    Mattingly note - Cmk. in oblong incuse in front of neck and face; end of legend obliterated
    Reverse depiction: Civic Oak Wreath
    Inscription in four lines:
    EX SC
    O B
    C I V E S

    (within Civic Oak Wreath)

    Enlargement of PROB countermark:


    PROB (Probatum = approved) countermark. I believe this to be an irregular issue coin (struck from locally made unofficial dies). Note the flattened and bulged area on the reverse resulting from the very heavily struck countermark on the obverse which was carelessly positioned almost off the flan. The inscriptional lettering on the reverse is somewhat uneven and not very well formed.
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  7. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Thanks everyone for sharing your wreath coins! It seems it was a primarily a first century type, I would be curious to know how prevalent it was in later centuries.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
  8. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    I wonder if by Vespasian's day the physical corona civica was constructed of actual oak leaves? If so, based on the photo of the bust of Vespasian in the OP, it may have looked similar to this.

    oak wreath.jpg

    Or, perhaps a wreath awarded to the emperor was crafted from a precious metal such as gold.

    gold wreath.jpg

    Although, I have a hunch that the rustic Vespasian would have preferred the traditional version.

    An oak tree from the region of Vespasian's birth.


    I'm still doing a bit research on oak wreaths, so please forgive the indulgence.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
  9. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    Very cool coin and write up! Thanks for sharing:wideyed:
    Here's a dual purpose wreath: let em know you're boss. Don't let em know you're bald(ing):


    Augustus with Divus Julius Caesar
    (27 BC-14 AD) MACEDON. Thessalonica. Obv: ΘEOΣ.
    Wreathed head of Julius Caesar right; uncertain c/m on neck.
    Bare head of Augustus right; Δ below. RPC I 1554.
    Fine. 12.3 g.21 mm.
    Former: Numismatik Naumann
  10. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    I just had to include this coin. caiuss9.jpg Sestertius of Caius (Caligula) Obv Head left. Rv.Oak wreath. RIC 37 Minted 37-38 A.D. 27.88 grms
  11. Eduard

    Eduard Supporter**

    Lovely coin, David!

    I love the SPQR motif as well, and actively collect coins bearing it.

    Here are two cousins to your nice Vespasian SPQR sestertius:

    This examples is ex. DNW.
    Originally from the Prince Waldeck Collection, Basel 1934.
    Vespasian Sestertius-Wreath-OBV-Better - 1.jpg Vespasian Sestertius-Wreath-REv - 1.jpg Vespasian Sesterz-Originally Prince Waldeck Collection sale 1934.jpg

    This second example is unfortunately badly pitted and corroded, but I like the motif so much I could not leave it behind...(it cost less than 70 euros).
    Vespasian sestertius SPQR low grade-pitted example - 1.jpg Vespasian sestertius SPQR low grade-pitted example REV - 1.jpg
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
  12. Eduard

    Eduard Supporter**

    A few more sestertii bearing the SPQR / Oak Wreath motif.

    Gaius 'Caligula'
    Gaius Caligula Sestertius-Wreath-Obv - 1.jpg Gaius Caligula Sestertius-Wreath-Rev - 1.jpg

    Claudius sestertius-Wreath-Obv better - 1.jpg Claudius Sestertius wreath CIVES SERVATOS REV1 N  good pic- 1.jpg

    Galba sestertius Wreathe OBV1 N - 1.jpg Galba sestertius Wreath REV1 N - 1.jpg

    Galba as:
    Galba As Wreath-Obv - 1_opt.jpg Galba As Wreath-Rev - 1_opt.jpg

    Galba denarius:
    Galba denarius-wreath-obv - 1.jpg Galba denarius-wreath-rev - 1.jpg
  13. jamesicus

    jamesicus Supporter! Supporter

    Great coins coins being depicted here! I too like the SPQR motif:

    Example of inscription in obverse field:

    Sestertius, RIC, Vol. I, Tiberius, No. 68, AD 36-37 (35mm, 22.6gm)
    Cataloged in Wildwinds under Augustus - Sear 1784
    Coin obverse depiction: Augustus, radiate, togate, holding laurel branch in r. hand and long sceptre in l., seated on throne, placed on a car, drawn l. by four elephants, each bearing a mahout on its neck. The side of the car is ornamented with shields
    Inscription across top in three lines DIVO AVGVSTO SPQR
    Coin reverse depiction: Large, centered S C
    Inscription clockwise from top: TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVST PM TR POT XXXIIX

    Apologies for the thread drift David
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
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  14. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Thats pretty neat
  15. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Interesting to note that our coins come from the same mint, struck at the same time, but yet the wreaths are artistically quite different!
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  16. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    No apologies necessary. I learn much more when threads 'drift'.
  17. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Sestertius of Claudius Rv Oak wreath RIC 112 50-54 A.D. 25.76 grms 37 mm claudiuss2.jpg Denarius of Augustus Colonia Patricia Rv Oak Wreath RIC 77a 29 B.C. 3.90 grms 18 mm augustusd49.jpg
  18. octavius

    octavius Well-Known Member

    Some wreaths. Last coin shows how enduring traditions can be. 3grARQi47zmCDZe6t9TiPy8RJHp52E.jpg 133B248.jpg 1200.jpg 060600.jpg 060600N2.jpg 160220.jpg a10.jpg n74RX5kFq47ZiPa2G6afoD9MQ2p8b3.jpg s2043LG.jpg !CEO!qU!!mk~$(KGrHqR,!hgE0frcQTiyBNRNPZDqlg~~_3.jpg
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