Rare Julius Caesar 46 BC Gold Aureus NGC CHXF Lifetime Issue A. Hirtius Praetor
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Rare Julius Caesar 46 BC Gold Aureus NGC CHXF Lifetime Issue A. Hirtius Praetor.
The Roman general and dictator Julius Caesar is still famous 2,061 years after his death, though most people are probably more familiar with the legend than the man and his actual achievements.
Not that the facts disappoint.
Caesar was by all accounts an energetic and forceful personality, his life lending itself quite naturally to dramatic interpretation and the insertion of higher meaning–which he understood perfectly well as a writer and propagandist himself. Long after his death, his life story was told by such classical literary greats as Plutarch and the historian Suetonius. From these texts, William Shakespeare compiled the plot points of his famous play, Julius Caesar, which has undoubtedly served as the wellspring of popular Caesarian legend in the modern West. Politicians and military officers have, of course, found their own value in Caesar over the millennia.
Vesta was the Roman goddess of the hearth and the family. Her Greek equivalent was Hestia. The worship of Vesta was highly significant to the city of Rome, extending back at least to the religious reforms of Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome who ruled in the late eighth century BCE. Vesta was an especially important cult during the later Empire under Augustus, who viewed her as a symbol of the conservative values that made Rome great. The famous Vestal Virgins–young girls from good families who took a vow of chastity for a lifetime of service–were responsible for the upkeep of a sacred fire, which symbolized the life of Rome and was never allowed to go out.
Her appearance on this coin therefore significant cultural import, and helped convey Caesar’s piety and respect for traditional values.
Julius Caesar 46 BC Gold Aureus 7.88g NGC CHXF 5/5 Strike 3/5. Surface
Obverse: Female head (probably Vesta) right; around, inscription. Border of dots.
Lettering: C•CAESAR COS•TER
Translation: Gaius Caesar Consul Tertium (Gaius [Julius] Caesar, Consul for the Third time)
Engraver: Aulus Hirtius
The central motif on the obverse is a right-facing head of Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth. Her head is veiled to represent her modesty and piety. The inscription C* CAESAR is found to her left; the “C” is the standard Roman abbreviation of the praenomen, or traditional first name, Gaius. To her right and in front of her face is the inscription COS * TER, which refers to Caesar’s third (tertium) consulship in 46 BCE. A ringed border of dots surrounds the design.
This particular specimen features an exceptional strike, with only the right portion of the ringed border showing signs of wear.
Emblems of the pontificate: lituus, capis (jug) and securis (axe); on left, moneyer mark.
Border of dots.
Translation: Aulus Hirtius Praetor (Praetor Aulus Hirtius)
Engraver: Aulus Hirtius
Comments: Beyond being praetor, Aulus Hirtius would have been a friend of Julius Caesar.
The reverse features three priestly implements of the Pontifex Maximus, a position not unlike the pope in the state religion of ancient Rome. A position, incidentally, that Julius Caesar held earlier in his career in 63 BCE and that this coin certainly was intended to remind everyone of. A Roman jug, presumably for holding water or oil for use in ritual libations, is situated in the middle. To the right is a single-headed axe; to the left is the lituus, a curved staff carried by priests and augurs.
The objects are cradled by the inscription A* HIRTIVS * PR, which stands for Aulus Hirtius Praetor. Aulus Hirtius was a longtime friend and supporter of Caesar, having worked with him since at least the Gallic campaign, going so far as to finish the eighth and final book of Caesar’s De Bello Gallico after Caesar’s death. The aureus under discussion here was minted during a time when Hirtius served as a praetor, a high-ranking magistrate with evolving duties throughout Roman history but which here can be understood to have been something like an assistant consul.
The design is surrounded by a ringed border of dots. it is relatively well-struck, but not as nice as the obverse.