The Triumvirs. Octavian. 30/29 BC. Italian (Rome?) mint

The Triumvirs. Octavian. 30/29 BC. Italian (Rome?) mint


AR Denarius, 3.69g (21mm, 9h). Bare head right / Naval and military trophy facing, composed of helmet, cuirass, shield, and crossed spears, set on prow of galley right; crossed rudder and anchor at base. 

Pedigree: From the Collection of a Director (CNG Auction) 

References:  CRI 419; RIC I 265a (Augustus); RSC 119 (Augustus)

Grade: VF, toned, banker’s mark on obverse, some minor marks under tone (re1027)

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At the age of nineteen Octavian became the youngest man to assume the elected position of consul. Julius Caesar’s nephew and later adopted son became a force to be reckoned with. The famous orator and senator Marcus Tullius Cicero conducted a series of inflammatory speeches towards Mark Antony. At this point Antony and Octavian were freshly allied again after a short period of fighting and while both desired more power they remained unified in keeping the political ideas of Julius Caesar alive. 

With this political motivation in mind, the second Triumvirate was created. This group of three were Mark Antony, Octavian and a governor of Transalpine Gaul, a man by the name of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. The three were confirmed by the Senate and given absolute power over taxation and the appointment of officials. Bloodshed ensued when the newly formed alliance mercilessly slaughtered three hundred senators and over two thousand equestrians.

Cicero was no exception to this slaughter. He was captured in 43 BC and murdered by soldiers sent by Octavian. He was beheaded and two stories circulate today as to what became of the severed head. The first is that Antony would place Cicero’s head at his table at the beginning of his meal until he could no longer view it. The second was that the head was nailed up at the Forum for all to see and his mouth pried open with his tongue pinned by Antony’s then wife Fulvia. This was to represent punishment for the horrible utterances he spoke about Antony.

The Triumvirate effectively sought out and murdered the perceived killers of Caesar: Brutus and Cassius. Afterwards they promptly divided up the then Roman world with Octavian taking the West and Antony the East. Lepidus was left only with Spain and shortly afterwards even that was taken from him and his participation in the group was effectively diminished until it was all but gone and he was condemned to exile by Octavian.

Once Lepidus was out and Marc Antony and Octavian remained in power their competitiveness and need for power took a heightened turn. Antony became the lover of Cleopatra VII and she bore him twins, a boy and girl. The end of Antony and Cleopatra is known the world over. Once they were gone Octavian was left standing and the power of Triumvirate became now the power of only one person. Octavian was renamed Augustus by the Senate (Augustus means ‘worthy of veneration’) and thus commenced the beginning of rule by a Roman Emperor.