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Sestertius, struck 64 AD in Rome.
Obv.: NERO CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG GERM P M TR P IMP P P, Nero head, laur., wearing aegis, r.
Rev.: PORT AVG / S - C, aerial view of the harbour of Ostia. At the top, pharos surmounted by statue of Neptune l., l. holding sceptre; at the bottom, reclining figure of Tiber l, r. holding rudder, l. dolphin; to l., crecsnt-shaped pier with portico of varying length, terminating with figure sacrificing at altar and with building; to r., crescent-shaped row of breakwaters or slip, sometimes terminating with figure seated on rock; within the central harbour, several ships.
RIC² - ; Bolaffi (15.5.2008), 134
Picture: Bolaffi

 Romanatic-ID: 2394

Curtis Clay

19:23:37, 08.02.2009

The earliest Port of Ostia sestertius of Nero at the mint of Rome

There are three indications that this is the earliest known Port of Ostia sestertius struck by Nero at the mint of Rome.

1. The long obv. legend, NERO CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG GERM P M TR P IMP P P, which was apparently the earliest legend of Nero's bronzes, eventually being replaced by abbreviated versions of the same legend with CLAVD for CLAVDIVS and/or GER for GERM. The Port of Ostia type belongs to the middle issue of Nero's sestertii at Rome before IMP was moved from the end to the beginning of his name in 66: not the earliest issue, which experimentally omitted the traditional letters S C from the reverse, but not the latest issue either, which was restricted to the two types Roma seated and Closed Temple of Janus which then continued in the issues with IMP as praenomen from 66 on. Within this fairly large middle issue, MacDowall's Issue 3, the Port of Ostia type occurred mainly with the abbreviated obverse legend with CLAVD and GER. MacDowall 86 = RIC 183 reported just two specimens with CLAVDIVS and GERM, both in a private collection and unfortunately not illustrated. The new coin joins these two as, apparently, Nero's earliest Port of Ostia sestertii at the mint of Rome.

2. The reverse legend, PORT AVG below, S - C above. Until now the legend PORT AVG S C had been known only on Port of Ostia sestertii of the mint of Lugdunum. All Rome-mint coins had, in contrast, POR OST below, AVGVSTI above, plus S C, with several variants in legend position and abbreviations. We can now understand the origin of the different legend used at Lugdunum: it was apparently copied from the very earliest Roman coins of the type, which had previously been unknown. Because of the "Lugdunese" legend, the Bolaffi catalogue mistakenly assigns the new coin to Lugdunum: but the style is Roman not Lugdunese, there is no Lugdunese globe at the tip of the neck, and the long form of obverse legend on the coin is otherwise known only at Rome, not at Lugdunum.

3. The fifteen ships shown in the harbor are two more than ever recorded before, probably indicating an early die on which special care was lavished.

Four large ships showing four successive stages in a ship's use of the harbor are essential to the type and are included on virtually every die: the two ships left and right of the lighthouse at the top, one entering the harbor under full sail and the other being rowed out of the harbor; the large ship in the center, which has recently arrived and cast anchor and whose sails are being taken in by a man on deck and two in the rigging; and finally the ship alongside the quay at nine o'clock whose cargo is being unloaded by several men on deck and another crossing the gangplank to shore.

To these essential four large ships, the die in question adds three more: one at 10 o'clock, apparently with a sailor on deck taking down the sail; one at 2:30, apparently safely anchored and with the sail furled, though possibly with a man still working on the sail at right; and one at 8 o'clock, with sail furled, and perhaps a steersman seated in the stern.

The other boats are all small ones that are apparently engaged in transporting sailors from ship to shore and back. On the die in question, there are three such small boats on the left; one in the center, with a steersman and three passengers; and four on the right, three of them apparently carrying one or two passengers each.