Roman Republic (Imperatorial Period)

L. Cestius and C. Norbanus, Praetors 43 BC

Crawford 491/1b; HCRI 195a; Sydenham 1154; Bahrfedt 25; Calicó 4, Extremely Fine

Rome. Draped bust of Africa right, wearing elephant’s skin headdress. Reverse: L • CESTIVS above, S · C to left, PR to right, C · NORBA in exergue, curule chair, front legs ornamented with eagles flying, facing half-right, surmounted by two confronted serpents.

The murder of Julius Caesar ushered in an extremely difficult period for the Roman Senate. While its membership was no doubt pleased to be rid of the dictator whose sweeping powers made the Senate little more than a rubber stamp, navigating the infighting between Caesar’s heir, Octavian, and his powerful lieutenant, Mark Antony, was a perilous enterprise. Dealing with one tyrant was difficult enough, but dealing with two was very dangerous indeed. This gold aureus was struck at the order of the Senate under the obscure praetors L. Cestius and C. Norba to oppose Antony in the so-called War of Mutina that threatened to usher in a new phase of civil war. In February of 43 BC the Senate had declared Antony a public enemy following his illegal campaign to oust Decimus Junius Brutus from his post as governor of Cisalpine Gaul. With more than a little irony, two legions were raised and placed under the command of Octavian so that he could save Brutus—one of Caesar’s assassins—from Antony! Octavian was largely successful in this endeavor in April, raising the siege of Mutina and relieving Brutus, but failing to destroy Antony. When Cicero turned the Senate against Octavian later in the spring, he negotiated a settlement with Antony and the Caesarean leader M. Aemilius Lepidus to establish themselves as the Second Triumvirate. In November the three men entered Rome and immediately proceeded to exterminate the republican faction, including Cicero, through a series of bloody proscriptions. The Senate had jumped from the frying pan and into the fire, first trading one tyrant for two and then gaining three through the duplicity of its membership.