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BM03427

Caracalla, Silver Denarius

Caracalla (A.D. 198-217), Silver Denarius. Mint of Rome, struck A.D. 206-210. ANTONINVS - PIVS AVG, laureate head facing right, rev. LAETITIA / TEMPORVM, ship in Circus, between four quadrigae, a menagerie of animals below, 3.91g., 12h (C. 118; RIC 157). Well centered on a broad flan, lightly toned, about extremely fine and rare.

The reverse of this fascinating and historically important coin provides us with our most immediate surviving visual experience of the spectacle of races and games in the Circus Maximus. This detailed composition includes the spina of the Circus, decorated as ship with a number of details visible, including a large central sail; around it is a multitude of wild beasts: an ostrich, a bear, a lion, a lioness, an ass, a panther and a bison. Providing further energy to the scene are four racing quadrigae, bringing to life the description of such an event by the historian Cassius Dio (A.D. 155-235): "The whole construction in the amphitheatre was made in the form of a ship, and was so conceived that four hundred beasts might be received into it, and at the same time be sent forth from it. Then, when it suddenly collapsed there emerged from it bears, lionesses, panthers, lions, ostriches, wild asses and bison, so that seven hundred beasts, both wild and domesticated, were seen running about at the same time and were slaughtered." (LXXVII, 4-5)

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