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Carausius Wolf & Twins

Carausius Wolf & Twins

Carausius AR Denarius Wolf & Twins


Carausius. Silver Denarius (3.98 g), Romano-British Emperor, AD 287-293. London, ca. AD 287. IMP I CARAVSIVS P F AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Carausius right. Reverse RENOVAT ROMANO, she-wolf standing right, suckling the twins Romulus and Remus; RSR (Rs retrograde). Cf. RIC 571; cf. Shiel 68; cf. RSC 82. Very Rare. Toned. Extremely Fine.

Carausius was the commander of the Roman fleet stationed in the English Channel who usurped power, gaining control over Britain and of part of Gaul. While the vast majority of his coin types were debased antoniniani as circulated in the official Empire, he also struck aurei and silver denarii of very high purity, the likes of which had not been seen for many years. The legends and types of his denarii, as is the case with the the coin offered here showing the she-wolf and twins motif combined with the legend RENOVAT ROMANO, evoked traditional Roman virtues.

This of course is highly interesting coming from a province at the edge of the Roman world, but it clearly espouses Carausius’ ideology that he was in fact restoring Rome and not simply another military opportunist as had beset the Roman Empire for the past half century. Of more novel interest is the abbreviation RSR in the exergue. This had always been assumed to be a mintmark, the precise meaning never satisfactorily resolved. However, it turns out that it is not actually a mintmark at all! Guy de la Bdoyre,”Carausius, RSR and I.N.P.C.D.A,” NC 1998, pp. 79-88, shows a Virgilian connection, the RSR being an abbreviation for Redeunt Saturnia regna, and INPCDA found on other Carausian coins the abbreviation for Iam nova progenies, clo Demittitur alto. These phrases come from the sixth and seventh lines of Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue on the Golden Age, and translate “now Virgin Justice returns, and Saturn’s reign: now a new race descends from the heavens above.” Any educated person in the Roman world would have recognized the abbreviation; thus it played perfectly into Carausius’s clearly-defined ideology of restoring the virtues of Rome.

Estimated Value $4,000 – 5,000 Ex Helios 4 (14 October 2009), 694; A. Lynn Collection; CNG 54 (14 June 2000), 1792

Thank you Ira & Larry Goldberg for auction text and image.

Carausius, 286 – 293 Denarius, Londinium circa 287-289, AR

Auction Lot Date Estimate Result
Auction 62 2083 (« | ») 6. October 2011 30’000 CHF 60’000 CHF


The S.C. Markoff Collection of Roman Coins
The Roman Empire
Carausius, 286 – 293
Denarius, Londinium circa 287-289, AR 4.94 g. IMP CARAVSIVS P F AVG Laureate, draped and
cuirassed bust r. Rev. RENOVAT ROMANO She-wolf standing r., suckling Romulus and Remus; in
exergue, RSR. C 293. RIC 571. Shiel 68.  Very rare and in exceptional condition for the issue, possibly the finest denarius of Carausius in existence. A very attractive portrait struck on an unusually good metal with a delightful old cabinet tone. Extremely fine Ex NFA sale XX, 1988, 459.

Carausius was a man of considerable talent who rose from humble origins in Menapia, a seafaring region between the Waal and the Scheldt rivers, to achieve command of the Channel Fleet and, ultimately, to found his own empire. Whether Carausius abused his authority over the Channel fleet or he was a victim of false accusations, the issuance of an arrest warrant caused the new commander to believe his only chance for survival was to stage a revolt, using Britain as his base. After making landfall and forging agreements with the Scots and the Picts, Carausius defeated the army of the Roman governor Quintus Bassianus and absorbed many of those soldiers into his own army. He was in a good position at the start of his revolt, for he had an expert knowledge of the waters surrounding the island, there were many new fortresses along the Saxon shore, and Maximianus was distracted by persistent warfare on the Rhine. This gave Carausius a chance to develop his philosophy of governance, which included copying much of what he admired about the Roman Empire and its ancient institutions. This denarius, for example, celebrates the foundation of Rome by portraying the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. It goes a step further with the inscription RENOVAT ROMANO, which presents his own enterprise as an effort to restore the greatness of a bygone era. It is easy to recognise why Maxentius, a nobleman who later would revolt in Rome, adopted this approach to his public messages, but it is remarkable that a provincial of humble origin would attempt this in a remote corner of the empire. In the process, Carausius spared no aspect of empire-building: he hosted Saecular Games, held consulships and even assumed the titles pontifex maximus and pater patriae. His success did not long endure, though. In 293 the emperors Diocletian and Maximian each adopted a Caesar, with Constantius I being assigned in the West. Constantius’ main purpose seems to have been recovering the lost territories, and his initial efforts expelled Carausius from his possessions in Gaul. He also terrified the rebel’s Frankish allies so greatly that Carausius’ sphere of influence was effectively reduced to Britain. Upon returning to the island, Carausius was murdered and replaced by his chief minister Allectus, who survived three years before he was defeated in a daring invasion of Britain by which Constantius brought an end to the rebel state.
Thank you for image and auction text to Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG