Roman Empire

Augustus, Emperor 27 BC-AD 14

RIC 538; BMC 659; Bahrfeldt 137/6; Calicó 168, Superb Extremely Fine

Uncertain mint, probably in Asia Minor. CAESAR behind, bare head of Augustus right. Reverse: AVGVSTVS above, heifer, with head lowered, advancing left.

The bold simplicity and beauty of this aureus captures the essence of Augustus’ reign. The attractively classicizing bare head of the Emperor gives the impression of continued Republican traditions: he wears neither a wreath, like the murdered Julius Caesar or a diadem, both of which smacked of kingship. Nevertheless, the powers awarded him by the Senate in 27 BC and expanded further in 23 BC made him equivalent to a king. The legends also reflect continuity as well as the rise of a new order. The emperor is named as Caesar on the obverse, affirming his relationship with the deified dictator, while on the reverse he is described as Augustus, the name he assumed in 27 BC. The sacred character of the new title is perhaps underlined by the depiction of a sacrificial bull on the reverse.