Roman Empire

M. Agrippa, General Died 12 BC

RIC 58; BN 77-97; BMC 161-8, Extremely Fine

Rome mint. Struck under Gaius Caligula, AD 37-41. M AGRIPPA L F COS III, head left, wearing rostral crown. Reverse: S C acrosss field, Neptune standing facing, head left, holding dolphin and trident.

Agrippa had been a critical figure in the rise of Octavian (Augustus after 27 BC) as the master of the Roman world. Whereas Octavian had floundered in his attempts to oust the rebel Sextus Pompeius from Sicily and suffered defeat at the battle of Messina (38 BC), the skilled naval commander Agrippa swept Pompeius from the seas and destroyed his fleet at the battle of Naulochus (37 BC). For this service Agrippa was awarded a golden crown adorned with the beaks of defeated ships (the corona rostralis). Later, in 31 BC, Agrippa lived up to this award when he led Octavian’s fleet at the battle of Actium and dealt the crushing blow to the forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VIII. The great naval commander was subsequently chosen to succeed Augustus, but died in 12 BC before he could take the helm of the Roman ship of state. However, through his daughter, Agrippina the Elder, Agrippa was the grandfather of the third Roman Emperor, Gaius Caligula.