A World of Money – Ancient Coins: The Flavian Amphitheatre
Titus (AD 79-81). Orichalcum sestertius (33mm, 26.90 gm, 6h). Rome, AD 80-81. Oblique overhead view of the Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheater); the exterior displaying four tiers of arches, the top three containing statuary, and the interior showing spectators arrayed in sectioned seating; to the left, fountain on base (Meta Sudans); on right, porticoed building (Baths of Titus?) / IMP T CAES VESP AVG P M TR P P P COS VIII, Titus seated left on curule chair, holding branch and scroll; below, on either side, pile of arms. In field, S – C. RIC 184. Elkins 6 (A4/P6). CBN 189. Hendin 1594.
Among the most famous monuments ever depicted on an ancient coin is Rome’s Colosseum, formally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, so named after the dynasty that built it. Flavius Vespasianus (A.D. 69-79), began its construction in AD 71 on the site of Nero’s sumptuous Golden House. It was Rome’s first permanent outdoor amphitheater, and it was built on a scale not to be exceeded for the next eighteen centuries.
Vespasian dedicated the partially completed structure in AD 75; however the final touches, including the top tiers of arches and seating, were not completed until June, AD 80, under his son and successor Titus. To mark the occasion, this remarkable coin was issued, and we are privileged to offer an example in our 2013 September 25 – 27, 30 & October 1 World and Ancient Coins Signature Auction in Long Beach.
The die engraver did a exemplary job depicting the mammoth structure in surprising detail, carefully depicting the exterior tiers of arches and the decorative statuary within each arch, as well as the spectators crowded within. Even the interior staircases arched entrance ways and the Imperial box are depicted. To the left of the central structure stands a huge, conical fountain called the Meta Sudans; to the right is a porticoed building usually identified as the Baths of Titus, formerly part of Nero’s Golden House.
This ancient coin is an excellent specimen of this very rare and important historic type. Although there is some minor smoothing in the fields, the devices and main details are untouched. This coin grades a pleasing Very Fine with green-brown patina.