186 AD, Commodus -
Commodus, Denarius, Rome, 186, laureate bust right, rev. Janus standing facing holding long sceptre within domed distyle temple, 2.74g (cf. RIC 141 [Aureus]; BMC p.728; RSC –; Sear –; NAC 45, 132, same dies).
A die duplicate of the present coin, described as ‘unique and unrecorded’ was offered for sale in the Barry Feirstein Collection, Part IV, NAC Auction 45, 2 April 2008, lot 132. This coin is a spectacular rarity (it is possible that only a single other example (ex Feirstein) exists: the one in Vienna cited by Cohen et al has only a laureate head on the obverse) and has a particularly interesting and important reverse. On it is a statue of Janus within the arch of a shrine, often identified as that of Janus Geminus, the god whose temple doors were closed when the Empire was at peace. However, the statue there was an archaic one, which this is not, and in LIMC V, 1, sv. Ianus, E. Simon points out (p. 621, 17-18) that this statue is more likely from the temple dedicated by C. Duilius as an offering after the battle of Mylæ in 260 BC. Tiberius rededicated this temple in 17, and its 400th anniversary was commemorated by coins struck by Antoninus Pius in 140. Exactly why he appears here under Commodus has been explained as being a testimony to the Emperor’s increasing megalomania. Janus was the god who opened and closed each year, and since Commodus had begun renaming the months in his own honour, it is suggested that he placed the god on the coinage to commemorate this act (see BMC IV, p.clxiii).
Images/data courtesy of DNW.