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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ Roman Coins ▸ Crisis and Decline ▸ Gordian IIIView Options:  |  |  |   

Gordian III, 29 July 238 - 25 February 244 A.D.

Gordian III was the grandson of Gordian I and nephew of Gordian II. He was proclaimed Caesar shortly before the murder of Balbinus and Pupienus, and he succeeded them. Little is known about his reign. In 242 A.D. he embarked on a campaign against the Persian Kingdom which was so successful the Persians had to evacuate Mesopotamia. However, Gordian III died shortly after, through illness or the machinations of his Praetorian prefect and successor, Philip I.

Koinon of Macedonia, Reign of Gordian III, 238 - 244 A.D., Alexander and Bucephalus

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Plutarch tells the story of how, in 344 B.C. Philonicus the Thessalian, a horse dealer, offered a massive wild stallion to Alexander's father, King Philip II. Since no one could tame the animal, Philip was not interested. Alexander, however, seeing that the horse was afraid of his own shadow, promised to pay for the horse himself should he fail to tame it. He was given a chance and surprised all by subduing it. Alexander spoke soothingly to the horse and turned it towards the sun so that it could no longer see its shadow. Eventually, Bucephalus allowed Alexander to ride him. Embarrassed, Philip commented, "O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee." Alexander named the horse Bucephalus because the horse's head seemed "as broad as a bull's." Bucephalus died of battle wounds in 326 B.C., in Alexander's last battle. Alexander founded the city of Bucephala (thought to be the modern town of Jhelum, Pakistan) in memory of his wonderful horse.
RP87413. Bronze triassarion, SNG Cop 1356; BMC Macedonia p. 24, 121; SNG Saroglos 982; AMNG III 515; Lindgren -, VF, fantastic portrait of Alexander, dark sea green patina, tight flan, central dimples, weight 14.097 g, maximum diameter 26.5 mm, die axis 225o, Macedonia, Beroea mint, 238 - 244 A.D.; obverse AΛEΞAN∆POY, diademed head of Alexander the Great right, eyes to god; reverse KOINON MAKE∆ONΩN B NE, Alexander galloping his horse Bukephalus right, wearing military garb, spear in right hand, reigns in left hand, cloak fluttering behind; ex Nomos Obolos 10, lot 272; scarce; $180.00 (153.00)

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In 243, Timesitheus, Gordian's father-in-law and praetorian prefect became ill and died under suspicious circumstances. Gordian III appointed Philip the Arab as his new praetorian prefect.
RB76166. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC IV 303a, Hunter III 117, Cohen V 262, SRCV III 8732, Choice VF, attractive green patina with red earthen fill, nice portrait, well centered, light marks, small edge cracks, weight 17.522 g, maximum diameter 30.5 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 4th issue, 242 - 243 A.D.; obverse IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse P M TR P V COS II P P, Apollo enthroned left, laurel-branch in right hand, left forearm resting on lyre on back of his seat, S C (senatus consulto) in exergue; $125.00 (106.25)

Gordian III, 29 July 238 - 25 February 244 A.D.; Nikopolis ad Istrum, Moesia Inferior

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Asklepios was the son of Apollo and a mortal woman named Coronis. Apollo killed Coronis for being unfaithful but rescued the unborn Asklepios from her womb. Apollo carried the baby to the centaur Chiron who raised Asclepius and instructed him in the art of medicine. In return for some kindness, a snake taught him secret knowledge of healing. Asclepius became so proficient as a healer that he surpassed both Chiron and his father, Apollo. Asclepius was even able to evade death and to bring the dead back to life. Zeus killed him to restore balance to the human population but later resurrected Asclepios as a god to prevent a feud with Apollo. Zeus instructed Asclepios to never revive the dead without his approval.
RP83933. Bronze tetrassarion, H-H-J Nikopolis (R4), AMNG I/I 2059 var. (obv. leg.), Varbanov 4258 (R3) var. (obv. leg., same rev. die), Moushmov 1475, VF, well centered and struck, dark green patina, patina chipped and scratched, central dimples, weight 11.522 g, maximum diameter 26.2 mm, die axis 0o, Nicopolis ad Istrum (Nikyup, Bulgaria) mint, consular legate Sabinius Modestus, 241 - 244 A.D.; obverse AVT K M ANTW ΓOP∆IANOC AVΓ (AVΓ ligate), laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse VΠ CAB MO∆EΣTOV NIKOΠOΛEITΩN ΠPO, Asklepios standing facing, head left, wearing himation over left shoulder and arm and around hips and legs, leaning on snake entwined staff in right hand, I/C/T/P/O-N in five lines in right field; scarce; $110.00 (93.50)

Gordian III, 29 July 238 - 25 February 244 A.D., Thessalonica, Macedonia

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The god Kabeiros is similar in appearance to Dionysos and the rites of his cult were likely similar to those of the Dionysian mysteries. The attributes of Kabeiros are a rhyton and hammer.
RP83493. Bronze AE 26, Touratsoglou p. 262, 25 (V2/R20), Varbanov III 4545 (R3), SNG Hunterian 714, SNG Cop 426, SNG Evelpidis 1348, BMC Macedonia p. 124, 116, aVF, excellent portrait, green patina, large centration dimple on obverse, bumps and marks, some light corrosion, weight 9.207 g, maximum diameter 25.7 mm, die axis 180o, Thessalonika (Salonika, Greece) mint, 29 Jul 238 - 25 Feb 244 A.D.; obverse AV K M ANT ΓOP∆IANOC, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse ΘECCAΛONIKEΩN, Nike advancing left, Kabeiros holding hammer in her right hand, palm frond in her left hand; $105.00 (89.25)

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In 240, the year this coin was struck, a rebellion lead by Sabinianus, the governor of Africa, was defeated in a battle near Carthage.
RB68909. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC IV 293a, Cohen V 390, SRCV III 8745 var. (obv leg), VF, nice portrait, well centered, weight 14.938 g, maximum diameter 30.5 mm, die axis 45o, Rome mint, c. 240 A.D.; obverse IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse VIRTVS AVG (the valor of the Emperor), Virtus standing left, helmeted, in military garb, branch in right hand, inverted spear in left, grounded shield on left against right leg, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across field; $100.00 (85.00)

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The kithara (cithara) was an ancient stringed musical instrument resembling the lyre, a simpler two-stringed folk-instrument, but with seven strings and a flat back. A symbol of Apollo, credited with inventing it, the kithara's origins were likely Asiatic. The kithara was primarily used by professional musicians, called kitharodes. In modern Greek, the word kithara has come to mean "guitar."
RS87250. Silver denarius, RIC IV 114, RSC IV 238, SRCV III 8679, Hunter - (p. lxxxiv), Choice VF, well centered, nice portrait die wear, small edge crack, weight 2.896 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 240 - 241 A.D.; obverse IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse P M TR P III COS II P P (high priest, holder of Tribunitian power for 3 years, consul 2 times, father of the country), Apollo seated left, laurel branch in right hand, resting left arm on lyre; $100.00 (85.00)

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In Roman Coins and Their Values, Volume III, David Sear notes this type was issued for the wedding of Gordian and Tranquillina.

Under Gordian III the same coin types were often struck at both Rome and Antioch. One way to distinguish Gordian's coins struck at Antioch from those struck at Rome is the shape of the letter M. On coins from Antioch, M usually resembles a V in the middle of two I's, thus IVI. From the Rome mint, M normally resembles two lambdas, thus ΛΛ.
RS79932. Silver denarius, RIC IV 130 (R), RSC IV 340, Hunter III 65, SRCV III 8682, Choice gVF, well centered, nice metal, die wear, weight 2.879 g, maximum diameter 19.6 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, issued for wedding to Tranquillina, 241 - 242 A.D.; obverse IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse SECVRITAS PVBLICA (security of the public), Securitas seated left, at ease, scepter in right hand, propping head with left hand; $95.00 (80.75)

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Pax, regarded by the ancients as a goddess, was worshiped not only at Rome but also at Athens. Her altar could not be stained with blood. Claudius began the construction of a magnificent temple to her honor, which Vespasian finished, in the Via Sacra. The attributes of Peace are the hasta pura, the olive branch, the cornucopia, and often the caduceus. Sometimes she is represented setting fire to a pile of arms.
RS85599. Silver antoninianus, RIC IV 3, RSC IV 173, Hunter III 8, SRCV III 8627, VF/aVF, centered on an unusually broad flan, fantastic portrait, light marks, die wear, edge cracks, weight 4.223 g, maximum diameter 24.8 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 238 - 239 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES M ANT GORDIANVS AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, from behind; reverse PAX AVGVSTI (to the peace of the emperor), Pax standing front, head left, raising olive branch in right hand, long transverse scepter in left hand; ex Ancient Imports, ex Harlan J. Berk; $90.00 (76.50)

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This type is listed as rare in RIC IV but many examples have been found since RIC was written. It is at most scarce and probably common.
RS87251. Silver denarius, RIC IV 81 (R), RSC IV 234, Hunter III 30, SRCV III 8678, Choice VF, well centered, nice portrait, uneven toning, reverse die wear, weight 2.832 g, maximum diameter 19.8 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 3rd issue, 240 A.D.; obverse IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse P M TR P III COS P P, Gordian on horse pacing left, bare-headed, wearing military dress, raising right hand in salute, spear in left hand; $85.00 (72.25)

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A.D. 238 was the year of six emperors. Maximinus Thrax was killed (along with his son Maximus Caesar) when his soldiers mutinied. Gordian II was killed in battle. Gordian I hanged himself. Pupienus was lynched by his bodyguard. Balbinus was beaten and dragged naked through the streets of Rome before being killed by the Praetorians. Gordian III lived to become sole emperor.
RS90445. Silver antoninianus, SRCV III 8655, RIC IV 4, RSC IV 302, Hunter III 9, VF, centered, frosted, weight 2.691 g, maximum diameter 23.2 mm, die axis 135o, Rome mint, 238 - 239 A.D.; obverse IMP CAES M ANT GORDIANVS AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse PROVIDENTIA AVG (the foresight of the Emperor), Providentia standing left, globe in right hand, transverse long scepter in left; $80.00 (68.00)






Banti, A. & L. Simonetti. Corpus Nummorum Romanorum. (Florence, 1972-1979).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappes sous l'Empire Romain, Vol. 5: Gordian I to Valerian II. (Paris, 1885).
Mattingly, H., E. Sydenham & C. Sutherland. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol IV: From Pertinax to Uranius Antoninus. (London, 1986).
Robinson, A. Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet, University of Glasgow, Vol. III: Pertinax to Aemilian. (Oxford, 1977).
Seaby, H. & D. Sear. Roman Silver Coins, Volume IV, Gordian III to Postumus. (London, 1982).
Sear, D. Roman Coins and Their Values III, The Accession of Maximinus I to the Death of Carinus AD 235 - AD 285. (London, 2005).
Vagi, D. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. (Sidney, 1999).

Catalog current as of Sunday, November 18, 2018.
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Roman Coins of Gordian III