A gold aureus of Roman Emperor Trajan Decius (RIC 22; Calicó 3297) was the top-selling ancient at Ira and Larry Goldberg Auctioneers’ pre-Long Beach sale conducted June 10-13.
It was a superb mint state lustrous piece. The obverse shows the laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of the emperor along with the legend MP C M Q TRAIANVS DECIVS AVG; the reverse depicts two Pannonia [Danube people] holding signum [standard] and vexillum [flag]. The coin had been struck in Rome in 250 C.E.
On an estimate of $12,500, the price raced to $15,000 including 20 percent buyer’s premium.
Trajan Decius was a Roman general who hailed from the Danube. In 249, he successfully quelled a revolt in that region, leading his troops to proclaim him emperor. His army then successfully routed that of the incumbent emperor, and the Senate confirmed his new status.
With the reins of power in his hands, he set about restoring Rome’s military might and launced a morality/piety campaign. The latter saw him issue an edict requiring “All the inhabitants of the empire” … “to sacrifice before the magistrates of their community for the safety of the empire.”
In effect, the people had to publicly acknowledge their loyalty to the ancestral gods. All who refused were executed, including many Christians.
Two years later, Decius and about half his army perished when they pursued Goths into marshes at Abrittus. Christians declared it God’s revenge.
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