(62) Octavian - AR denarius, 28 B.C., 3.58 g. (inv. 91.113).
Obverse: Bare head of Octavian r.; behind, lituus; CAESAR CO(N)S(VL) [VI]: Caesar, consul for the sixth time.
Reverse: Crocodile r.; AEGVPTO CAPTA: Egypt captured.
Provenance: Edward Gans, 1959.
Bibliography: C.H.V. Sutherland, The Roman Imperial Coinage I: from 31 BC to AD 69, rev. ed. (London 1984) 275a.
This denarius celebrates the successful conclusion of Octavian's Egyptian campaign. The campaign began with the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., at the Gulf of Ambracia on the western coast of Greece, in which he defeated the fleet of his rival Marc Antony and forced Antony and his ally Kleopatra to flee to Egypt. On August 1, 30 B.C. Octavian's forces entered the Egyptian capital, Alexandria, where most of Antony's troops surrendered. Antony and soon after Kleopatra committed suicide, and Octavian became sole ruler of the Roman world. In 29 B.C. Octavian returned to Rome for his official triumph (a triple one, primarily celebrating his successes at Actium and Alexandria but also in Illyricum), and in the following year the crocodile with the inscription AEGVPTO CAPTA celebrated the event on these denarii, probably struck at Rome.
The portrait on the obverse is a particularly youthful one. The lituus behind it, a symbol of the priest as augur or diviner of success or failure, is often taken to refer to the customary auguries before battle and thus here probably refers to the anticipated victories in the three campaigns celebrated in 29 B.C.
All contents copyright (c) 1996.
All rights reserved.