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Gordian III


Gordian III. A.D. 238-244. Æ medallion (44 mm, 57.65 g). Rome, ca. A.D. 244. IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FELIX AVG, laureate and cuirassed bust left with transverse spear in right hand and shield over left shoulder. The shield is decorated with an horseman (the Emperor ?) spearing a fallen enemy; before him, Victory flying left and behind, soldier standing left / VIRTVS AVGVSTI, Gordian standing left, holding transverse sceptre, receiving globe from Sol and being crowned by Valour; in field left, soldier holding spear and vexillum. In the background, a youth standing to front, three standards and two captives seated on the ground facing each other. Toynbee pl. 45, 1 = cf. Cohen 397 (no shield over shoulder); Gnecchi p. 93, 58, pl. 106, 9. Extremely rare. A fabulous medallion well-struck in very high relief on a broad flan, a portrait of enchanting beauty and an exceptionally rich and well-detailed reverse composition. Undoubtedly one of the finest Roman medallion in existence, untouched brown-green patina and good extremely fine. Ex NAC 24 (25 June 2003), 546. Realized CHF 65,000 on an estimate of CHF 60,000. NAC: Without question this is one of the most exceptional bronze medallions to have survived antiquity: not only is its artistry of monumental quality, but it is almost perfectly preserved and is struck on a planchet that is medallic even by medallion standards. This magnificent piece exemplifies Tonybee’s opinion that the bronze medallions of Gordian III and his immediate successors "…represent the last flowering of the second-century medallic tradition." This piece was struck within months of Gordian’s murder early in 244, and the occasion of its issue is the success of his campaign against the Sasanians, in which he scored significant victories over Shapur’s army in 243. On this piece the sungod Sol, representing of the Orient, is shown handing Gordian a globe representing the world, both terrestrial and celestial. On a medallion from the same issue inscribed PAX AETERNA, Sol is shown driving a frontal chariot beside Gordian, who, crowned by Victory, makes sacrifice to Sol before the reclining figures of the Tigris and Euphrates. The date of this medallion is supported not only by its historical context, but also by Gordian’s mature and forceful portrait (a far cry from the innocent, boyish portraits of his earlier years), and the obverse inscription, which includes PIVS and FELIX, and thus places it in the last phase of his reign. The propaganda value of this medallion is as clear today as it must have been in 243 and 244. Its tenor is entirely militant – from the armored bust of Gordian on the obverse to his armored figure on the reverse, crowned by Virtus. The soldier, vexillum, three signa and two seated captives round out the composition.

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Roman Imperial Medallions

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