Featured New Octavian / Divus Julius bronze: CAESAR DIVI FILIUS

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Julius Germanicus, Jun 19, 2020.

  1. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    While Octavian was active in the south of the Italian peninsula in 38 b.C, he used Tarentum as base port for his campaign against the renegade Sextus Pompeius.

    It may have been here that he struck his handsome and enigmatic DIVOS IVLIVS emission as the son of the divine C. Julius Caesar, which is not only a good example of the political propaganda of that time, but can also be seen as the prototype for all roman imperial portrait bronze coins to come.

    Bildschirmfoto 2020-06-19 um 21.42.14.png

    CAESAR DIVI F - bare head of Octavian right
    DIVOS IVLIVS - wreathed head of Divus Julius Caesar right
    Sestertius (?), southern Italy, 38 b.C.
    30 mm / 19,73 gr
    RPC 620; Crawford 535/1; Sear Imperators 308

    Struck with 21 obverse and 27 reverse dies, this was one of the most abundant bronze emissions produced during the final stage of the Roman Republic. A large number of contemporary imitations, most likely struck in Gaul, are known and feature a cruder style, thin flans and inferior metal.

    There is a second type (RPC 621, Crawford 535/2) which has the name "DIVOS IVLIVS" in two lines within a laurel-wreath (struck with another 19 obverse and 22 reverse dies) instead of the Caesar portrait on the reverse, but like most collectors I was looking for this version as it features what is the only portrait of the most famous Roman available on a roman bronze coin.
    Therefore there would have been no substitute for a specimen of this as the beginning point of my portrait Sestertius gallery.

    Octavians adoptive father, Julius Caesar, was officially consecrated in 42 BC as Divus Julius, the highest god next to Jupiter Maximus. On the very day of the games a comet was visible for seven days in the northern part of the sky, as testified by Plinius the Elder in his Natural History. The common people believed that this star represented the soul of Caesar received among the spirits of the immortal gods.
    On the southeastern narrow side of the Roman Forum in Rome, where the body of the murdered Caesar was cremated, a Temple for Divus Julius was built from 42 BC and dedicated 18.August 29 BC.
    Julius Caesar was found worthy of divinity by all parties: „He was added to the number of the gods, not only by a formal resolution, but also in the conviction of the people“ (Suetonius, Divus Julius, 88.1).

    As much as Julius Caesar legally and in the belief of millions had become a god, Octavian, in his new guise as Caesar Divi Filius and later Augustus, could claim to be indeed the legal son of a god.

    In the five decades after laying this claim Augustus managed to prove himself worthy of divinity in every sense by creating an age of peace and prosperity for the (roman) world.
    Loved by the common people and honored by the Senate in every possible way, his soul like his father's ascended to the heavens (in the shape of an Eagle, as a praetor swore by oath). Augustus joined Caesar in Roman Pantheon, a temple was built for him at the forum, and his cult continued unaffected for centuries.

    It was while this son of a god was worshipped throughout the empire that a child was born in relative obscurity. Four centuries later Theodosius the Great in the name of that child and his father, a jealous god that allowed no other deities, prohibited all other cults and closed the temples of Caesar and Augustus. Remarkably will never know what Jesus looked like or wrote, as he himself has left us no books, statues, temples, or coins like the god Caesar and his son Augustus did. We can still read the ideas of those brilliant minds in their own words and look into their realistic faces via their marble portraits and touch the coins they designed.
    While we can certainly believe in Jesus and the holy God, we will never know as much about them as this very coin tells us about Divus Julius and his son, Caesar Divi Filius, as a first hand witness.

    Please share your thoughts (I hope I did not offend anybody's religious feelings, that was certainly not my intention), and coins of deified Romans!
    Edessa, Gallienus, Clavdivs and 22 others like this.
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  3. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    Sear presents it as a Dupondius and CGB presents these coins (weight is lighter 17.53 g) always as a Dupondius. Normal issue about 19 -20 gr.

    You wrote here that this type shouldn't be called Sestertius:confused::

    "A weight of three Asses would put this emission (just like the largest denomination of Antonius´ AE coinage) right in the middle between a Dupondius and a Sestertius. Calling it a Sestertius would be an anachronism, as the brass Sestertius with a nominal weight of 27 grams was only introduced 15 years after 38 BC.

    The proto-Dupondius Julius Caesar struck in 45 BC (RPC 601) however was made of yellow orichalcum and had an average weight of 14,8 grams, just like the bronze Dupondii Antonius struck in 38 BC.

    This coin here was clearly a different denomination, as is was made of reddish bronze and had an average weight of 20,0 grams (just like the largest bronze coins of Antonius´ fleet coinage, RPC 1453). Therefore I would call this a "Proto-Sestertius".
    It was the first bronze coin featuring the single portrait of a living or (in this case and) a deceased ruler, and was therefore the obvious model for all portrait Sestertii to come.
    It was also struck in large numbers (at least 23 obverse dies were used and dozens more for contemporary imitations) and remained the predominant large bronze coin until it was replaced by the familiar brass Sestertii of Augustus and his successors."
  4. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE

    Outstanding coin! I really like that! I like that it is an evolutionary piece that later became the new Sestertii and Dupondi of Augustus coin reforms.

    Here is an As that Sextus minted to honor his Father, Pompey. Caesar was assassinated at the foot of Pompey's statue in Pompey's Theater that the Senate had temporarily used as the Senate House. Fitting.

    Sextus Pompey
    42-38 BCE
    AE As
    Janus, Honoring Pompey Magnus
    Sear 1394 Craw 479-1
    Edessa, Marsyas Mike, Ryro and 9 others like this.
  5. Ryro

    Ryro Trying to remove supporter status

    Wonderful write up! My caesar has a stab wound through his neck:
    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
    The D has been interpreted as either a denomination mark (four assaria) or, more likely, a date - year four of the Actian era (28/7 BC). The ligate NK monogram has been generally accepted as a reference to Nero (Nerwn Kaisar). This is problematic considering that Thessalonica had abundant coinages issued under Claudius and Nero, such that countermarking these quite older coins would be unlikely. Touratsoglou (p. 105) follows Kraay's suggestion that the NK is an abbreviation for Nike (NiKh), and was applied to the coins during celebrations of the city's 50th anniversary of its grant of liberty by the Romans. All but two of the known specimens of this countermark occur on the coins of this first issue of Thessalonica, and the wear on the countermarks is nearly identical to that of the coins, suggesting that the countermarks could not have been applied very long after the coins entered circulation.
  6. octavius

    octavius Well-Known Member

    my DIVOS IVLIVS dupondius....

  7. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

  8. CoinDoctorYT

    CoinDoctorYT Well-Known Member

    I don't own any bronzes of Octavian, but I do have a super nice terminal denarius from 27 BC. Great post BTW.

    Screen Shot 2020-06-19 at 9.57.16 PM.jpg
  9. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Well-Known Member

    There are so may "gods" regularly displayed and discussed on the Ancient Coin forum how can you avoid offending another "god" ??

    Wonderful write ups, discussion and examples shown so far..
    Here is my modest example. She is rough.. but very proud to own it.


    Large AE portrait of Julius Caesar. Imperatorial Era: Octavian/Augustus and Divus Julius Caesar, Orichalcum Sestertius, 29mm, 12.98 gm, 2h. Mint in Italy, 38 BC. Obv: CAESAR DIVI F bare head of Octavian right Rx: DIVOS IVLIVS laureate head of Julius Caesar right (here Caesar shown on the left).
  10. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    And here it is, as worn as they come. Please note the high weight at 27 gr

    Octavian, Dupondius
    Minted in Italy 38 BC
    DIVI F, bare head of Octavian right
    DIVOS IVLIVS, in a laurel wreath
    27.07 gr
    Ref : HCRI # 309, RCV # 1570

    Edessa, cmezner, Marsyas Mike and 7 others like this.
  11. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    David Sear in the Millenium Edition of his “Roman Coins and their Values” (p. 302, Nr. 1569 and 1570) explicitly presents these coins as “Bronze Sestertius (or dupondius?)” after calling them “Bronze Sestertius or Dupondius” in his “The History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators (p. 189, Nr. 308 and p. 190, Nr. 309) where he continues “… these handsome bronzes of Octavian bear no indication of their denomination. Grueber calls them sestertii whilst Amandry considers them to be dupondii. Either could be correct. The weight standard appears to be between 19 and 20 grams

    My coin at 19,73 gr falls right into Sear´s range and would not even be unusually light for an Augustan orichalcum Sestertius (which rarely reached their target weight of an Uncia or or 27,3 gr) while even 17,53 gr would be way too heavy for any Dupondius of Augustus (whose Lugdunum Asses averaged about 13 gr).

    I wrote that I would call it a Proto-Sestertius as the term “Sestertius” would be anachronistic.

    The only coins termed as Sestertii at the time were the tiny silver Sestertii of the earlier Republic and the large fleet coinage bronzes (labelled "HS").
    However, the silver Sestertius had long fallen out of use while Anthony´s new design with it´s two portraits facing each other was as short-lived as it´s originator.

    It was Octavian´s DIVOS JULIUS emission that formed the bulk of the large bronze coins in circulation for the next decades, while the familiar Nemausus As (or Dupondius, depending on the material) became the major small bronze coin in use in the western half of the Empire.
    When the orichalcum Sestertius was introduced by Augustus, I would suggest that it was this coinage that it slowly replaced while the new Asses and Dupondii replaced the Nemausus Asses or Dupondii.

    By the third century the 19 to 20 grams of the DIVOS JULIUS coinage would be the average weight and the OP coin´s 30 mm diameter the average size of the Sestertius denomination which by then also featured the very same reddish copper tone. In every aspect it was equal to a Sestertius at least by then.

    It was therefore anachronistic by being ahead of it's time.

    Your coin proves that this cannot have been intended as a Dupondius :)
    Edessa, Marsyas Mike, cmezner and 3 others like this.
  12. eparch

    eparch Well-Known Member

    As the two varieties were issued at two different weights, perhaps one was
    intended as a sestertius and the other as a dupondius ?
  13. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    That would have made sense, but it seems not to have been the case:

    Amandry in 1986 listed 49 specimens of my variety with the Julius Caesar portrait reverse (RPC 620) with weights ranging from as low as 13.02 gr to as high as 27.36 gr with a medium weight of 19.81 an a median of 18.97 gr, whilst the 36 specimens of Cucumbor´s variety with two lines in wreath Amandry looked at ranged from 14.49 to 27,76 gr with a medium of 19.72 and a median of 18.85 gr.

    This proves that both varieties (which were also struck at the same place and time) were struck at the same weight "standard" which included (in fluid transition) both "heavy" specimens like Cucumbor´s, "average" or "medium" specimens like mine, and "light" specimens, which may in fact be ancient imitations to some extent.

    The heaviest specimens would certainly qualify as full-weight 1st century Sestertii while the lightest would be equal to Dupondii weight-wise (but of course not as the type of metal is concerned), while the medium specimens would be too heavy to be a Dupondius in any case but still in the (lower) weight range of Sestertii struck in the 1st century while they matched average Sestertii of 150 to 250 a.D. in weight.

    While the average coin of this type is made of 81 % copper, 4 % tin and 15 % lead (with a higher level of lead in imitations), my OP specimen is identical both in fabric and colour and and in diameter and weight to my Sestertii of the year of five emperors (193 aD.).
    Therefore it could very well have circulated as a Sestertius but never as a Dupondius.
  14. Gallienus

    Gallienus coinsandhistory.com

    Also a factor in the valuation of these coins at the time was the social stability and existing currency. In 38 BC There was a lot of social unrest, the traditional silver denarii of the Republic were no longer being struck, and it was a few years before before Anthony's debased Legionary denarii were issued. It should also be noted that Sextus Pompey bronze {portrait /Galley} was issued at this time {43-36 BC} with a typical? weight of 22-24 grams. That coin was commonly referred to as an "As" though it's weight seems more in line with a Dupondius. I'm not sure why that coin of Pompey is always billed as "an ass".dWith inflation and necessity rampant; this sort of coin could command it's own premium. This would argue that it could be sold as a sestersius.

    I'll repost mine here merely for completeness of this thread. As it's in the SD box, I'll have to wait to get it for a weight and size. My recollection is that it's over 20 grams. Provinance: Numismatic Fine Arts auction ca 1990.

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