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Home > Members' Coin Collection Galleries > Jay GT4 > Adoptive Emperors to the 3rd Century
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Laureate head of Caracalla right

The spina of the Circus Maximus decorated as a ship facing l., with the turning posts at its prow and stern, a sail mounted on the central obelisk, and the spina's other monuments visible in between; above the ship, four quadrigas racing l.; below, seven animals: an ostrich at l. and bear at r.; between them a lion and a lioness chasing a wild ass and a panther attacking a bison.

Rome 206 AD


Ex-Londinium coins, Ex Professor K.D. White with original envelope.

Sear 6813, RIC 157, BMCRE 257, CSS 793

Very rare! Only 2 examples in the Reka Devnia hoard

Better in hand

Notes by Curtis Clay:

This famous type commemorates the chariot races and animal hunt that took place on the seventh and final day of Severus' Saecular Games in 204 AD, as described in the inscriptional acts of those games which were found in Rome in the 1870s and 1930s. According to the acts, after three days of sacrifices and three days of honorary stage shows, Severus and Caracalla held circus games on the seventh day, consisting of chariot races and then a hunt of 700 beasts, 100 each of "lions, lionesses, panthers, bears, bisons, wild asses, ostriches". Dio Cassius describes the same hunt, adding the detail that the cage from which the animals were discharged was formed like a boat: "The entire receptacle in the theater had been fashioned in the shape of a boat and was capable of receiving or discharging four hundred beasts at once; and then, as it suddenly fell apart, there came rushing forth bears, lionesses, panthers, lions, ostriches, wild asses, bisons, so that 700 beasts in all, both wild and domesticated, at one and the same time were seen running about and were slaughtered. For to correspond with the duration of the festival, which lasted seven days, the number of the animals was also seven times one hundred." In Dio's text this passage follows directly on his account of Severus' Decennalian Games in 202 AD, causing scholars to accuse Dio of misdating the hunt or to postulate that similar hunts of 700 animals were held both in 202 and in 204. But the true explanation, in my opinion, is that Dio's Byzantine epitimator Xiphilinus, on whom we are dependent for this section of Dio's text, has simply jumped without warning or transition from Dio's description of the Decennalian Games of 202 to his description of the circus spectacle concluding the Saecular Games of 204. This hypothesis easily explains why Dio's text as we have it makes no mention of the Saecular Games themselves or of any event of 203: Xiphilinus omitted this whole section of Dio's history! The seven kinds of animals named by both Dio and the inscriptional acts are also depicted in the coin type: on good specimens, especially the aureus BM pl. 34.4, the ostrich and the bear are clear, the lion has a mane, the ass has long ears, the bison has horns and a hump. Two large felines remain, of which we may suppose that the one accompanying the lion is the lioness and the one attacking the bison is the panther. The animals are named somewhat differently in Cohen, BMC, and other numismatic works: though numismatists have long cited Dio's text to explain the coin type, no one previously seems to have posed the question whether the seven animals in the lower part of the type might not be the same seven that Dio and now the inscriptional acts too name! These circus games with the ship and 700 animals were held in 204 AD, but the coin type commemorating them did not appear until two years later: on aurei of Septimius the type is die linked to a dated type of 206 AD, and for Caracalla the type passes from a draped and cuirassed obverse type on the aureus to the "head only" type on his denarii, a transition that took place in 206 AD according to his dated coins.

SOLD October 2014
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Sam  [Jan 25, 2014 at 08:06 PM]
Very Nice !
David Atherton  [Jan 25, 2014 at 08:46 PM]
Wow! Superb catch.
quadrans  [Jan 25, 2014 at 09:12 PM]
I agree very nice ..
carthago  [Jan 25, 2014 at 11:06 PM]
neat coin!
sulcipius  [Jan 26, 2014 at 04:16 AM]
What a superb coin ,with such a very interesting revers; congrats :
ickster  [Jan 27, 2014 at 04:04 AM]
Nemonater  [Feb 20, 2014 at 05:57 PM]
Excellent coin, fantastic type!
Potator II  [Feb 22, 2014 at 05:20 PM]
Really enviable coin, superb depiction on reverse !
Jochen  [Jan 24, 2016 at 06:48 PM]
How you could sell this coin?
Ancient Aussie  [May 25, 2019 at 07:27 AM]
Absolutely fantastic coin Jay.
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