The Roman Empire
Augustus, with Agrippa

Obverse:

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Reverse:

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Coin Details

Origin/Country: ANCIENT - ROMAN PROVINCIAL (2nd CENT BC - 3rd CENT BC) GAUL, NEMAUSUS Augustus & Agrippa
Design Description: Augustus and Agrippa Dupondius
Item Description: AE Dupondius(?) rv crocodile, palm tree c.AD 10-14
Full Grade: NGC VF Strike: 4/5 Surface: 3/5
Owner: Kohaku

Set Details

Custom Sets: The Roman Empire
Competitive Sets: This coin is not competing in any sets.
Research: NGC Coin Price Guide

Owner Comments:

The Nile crocodile, Crocodylus Niloticus, represents one of our planet’s most fearsome creatures. Reaching a size in excess of six meters long, the crocodile serves as the apex predator of sub-Saharan Africa. In ancient times, their range extended up the Nile river delta to the Mediterranean coast, and one can image the frequency – and severity – of their encounters with humans. Not surprisingly, crocodilians grew to be respected and even worshiped among local Egyptians.

The Romans, ever fascinated with exotic and dangerous animals, associated the crocodile with Egypt herself, for example on this ancient iconic bronze coin struck sometime around 10-14 AD. The reverse illustrates a palm tree and before and enchained to it, a crocodile. Across the scene is inscribed COL-NEM, indicating the Roman colony of Nemausus, Gaul. This numismatic motif celebrated the acquisition of Egypt from Marc Antony and Cleopatra VII.

Inviting comparisons to the Janiform designs employed on Pompeian coinage, the obverse depicts the opposite facing heads of Octavian - known as Augustus by this time – and Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (64/63 BC – 12 BC). Agrippa, a prominent Roman statesman, general, and engineer, was a lifelong ally of Augustus, and played a decisive role in his 31 BC victory at the naval Battle of Actium, as commemorated on this coin.

Agrippa and Augustus grew up as friends in Rome, inspired by epic conquests of the likes of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Gaius Julius Caesar. The latter eventually attracted the two comrades to his cause, and in 45 BC sent them east to train with the Macedonian legions. Upon hearing the news of Caesar’s assassination a few months later, the pair returned to Italy, whereupon Octavian discovered he was named Caesar’s heir. Subsequently, Agrippa helped Octavian raise troops for the escalating Roman civil war. He became Octavians’s most effective and trusted general, securing victories against external and internal enemies.

In 37 BC, Octavian appointed Agrippa as Rome’s consul, charged with defending against potential invaders, i.e., Sextus Pompey’s Sicilian navy. To improve his defenses, Agrippa executed an ambitious construction project resulting in a new harbor complex that he named Portus Julius. This Roman feat of engineering was one of many accomplished by Agrippa. Examples of his military inventions range from improved grappling hooks to naval ship designs. However, Agrippa’s most famous works are architectural, among the most beautiful buildings in the history of Rome. Agrippa’s civil projects included improving Rome’s aqueducts and sewers, for example renovating the Aqua Marcia and enlarging and cleansing the Cloaca Maxima, as well as constructing baths, roads, and gardens. Octavian came to boast about Rome that "he had found the city of brick but left it of marble", thanks in no small part to Agrippa’s efforts.

Although the significance of such engineering projects should not be overlooked, Agrippa is most renowned for his military accomplishments. For instance, Agrippa scored victories over Sextus Pompey in Sicily, earning a Triumph. Agrippa’s most notable campaign was that against Marc Antony and Cleopatra at the aforementioned famous Battle of Actium. It was at that port city wherein the Egyptian naval ships consolidated, and Octavian and Agrippa joined forces to blockade them. On Agrippa’s advice, Octavian went on the offensive (rather than risk his foes slipping past the blockade). The resulting victory led to the suicides of Marc Antony and Cleopatra, and Octavian’s undisputed mastery over all Rome’s territories.

In gratitude, Octavian arranged for his niece, Claudia Marcella Major, to become Agrippa’s second wife. It is unclear whether Agrippa was forced to divorce his first wife, Caecilia Attica (who bore Vipsania Agrippina, future first wife to Emperor Tiberius), or if she was deceased by this time. Agrippa shared several consulships with Octavian, and watched as his friend earned the title of Augustus in 27 BC. In 21 BC, Augustus induced Agrippa to divorce Marcella and marry his recently widowed daughter, Julia. Up until his death in 12 BC, Agrippa was a leading candidate as Augustus’ successor. Instead, his descendents became prominent Roman leaders among the Julio-Claudian dynasty; Agrippa and Julia sired several children, including Agrippina Sr., mother of future Emperor Caligula and grandmother of future Emperor Nero.

Augustus honored his late faithful friend with an elaborate funeral involving a month of mourning. Agrippa’s accomplishments also continued to be lauded in the form of coinage, including issues commemorating the victory at Actium. Indeed, “crocodile coins” similar to the current example saw a continued production for decades, and their distinctness and popularity endures to this day.

Additional Reading: D Vagi, “Crocodiles of Roman coins most familiar as the emblem of the province of Egypt,” 02Mar15 Coin World.

Coin Details: ROMAN IMPERATORIAL, Augustus and Agrippa, AE As (12.52 g, 27 mm), Nemausus, Gaul, struck 10-14 AD, NGC Grade: VF, Strike: 4/5, Surface: 3/5, Obverse: Heads of Agrippa (wearing rostral crown, left) and Augustus (laureate, right) back to back, IMP/DIVI F above and below, P-P to left and right of heads, Reverse: Palm-shoot with long vertical fronds, its tip to left, behind chained crocodile right; in upper left field, wreath with long ties going off to right, two horizontal palm-shoots beneath crocodile, COL-NEM (N and E in ligature) to left and right, References: RIC I p52, 161; RPC I 525.

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