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Carausius denarius brings $13,568

The extremely rare 2.99 g denarius of the rebel emperor of Britain Carausius struck at London c. 289-90 C.E. The obverse legend reads IMP CARAVSIVS PI AVG. On the reverse is a radiate lion with thunderbolt in mouth. This may refer to a passage in the Thirteenth Sibylline Oracle, “Then shall a dread and fearful lion come, sent from the sun, and bearing forth much flame.” (Images courtesy & © Dix Noonan Webb Body)

Earlier this year, the London auction house of Dix Noonan Webb sold an extremely rare found denarius struck by rebel emperor Carausius at London c. 289-90 C.E. (RIC 591). In choice EF, it realized £9,600 [$13,568].

The coin is one of several recent detectorist finds that have sold well in the UK market. In this instance, the finder was 62-year-old Richard Patterson, who discovered it in a ploughed field near Winchester. It was only when he got it home that he realized it was a rarity from the reign of Carausius who had ruled Britain independently of Rome from 286 until 293 C.E. It was his first major find in 25 years of metal detecting.

In the 3rd century, Carausius rose through the ranks of the Roman navy to end up commander of a fleet tasked with suppressing pirate activity in the English Channel. When he was suspected of retaining captured treasure for himself, the Emperor Maximian ordered his execution.

Carausius learned of his intended fate and promptly became the first Brexiteer with the support of both his fleet and three local Roman legions. He declared Britain independent of Rome and himself “Emperor of the North.”

He successfully repelled a Roman invasion and further emphasized his independence by minting his own coins. Many of these bore propaganda messages declaring Carausius liberator of Britain.

Among other matters, he brought lions from Africa. It is one of these that is depicted with a thunderbolt in its mouth on the reverse of the coin found by Patterson. These animals were star attractions at Secular Games staged by Carausius for three days and three nights in Britain – an event of a magnitude that would have normally have taken place in Rome.

In 293 C.E., Carausius was assassinated on the orders of Allectus, his finance minister, who was probably in collusion with Rome.

However, Allectus promptly declared himself ruler of Britain only to be killed three years later during a successful Roman re-invasion.


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