L. Plautius Placus
AR Denarius. 3.82g, 18.3mm
MINTED: Rome mint, 47 BC
REF: Crawford 453/1b; RBW 1584; Sydenham 959a
OBVERSE: L PLAVTIVS, Head of Medusa, facing, with coiled snake on either side.
REVERSE: PLANCV, Victory (or winged Aurora) flying right, head to left, holding reins and conducting four rearing horses of the sun.
Very Fine. Nicely toned with some minor deposits.
A scarce, fascinating and popular type. This example in better than average condition for this difficult series.
Ex Maggiore Collection (formed in the late 1970s to early 2000s)
The unusually elegant reverse design of this coin, depicting Victory (or Aurora) leading a quadriga of four hoses, was modeled after a famous painting by the great 4th century BC Greek artist Nikomachos of Thebes. The moneyer, L. Plautius Plancus, was most likely the owner of the painting at the time. Some years later, in 43 BC, Plautius, serving as Praetor in Rome, sided with Cicero to oppose Octavian (the future emperor Augustus) when he attempted to occupy the city. For this, he was proscribed, his properties confiscated, and he himself executed soon thereafter. That same year, his brother, L. Munatius Plancus, proconsul of Gallia Comata and a supporter of Octavian, was accorded a Triumph in Rome for his victory against the Gallic tribes. As part of the celebrations, he dedicated and installed the same painting in the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitol. Some ancient sources implicate Munatius in the proscription of Plautius, suggesting he stood to benefit from his brother's fall.
The significance of the obverse design, a facing head of the gorgon Medusa, is more contentious. There is apparently a tradional story in which Gaius Plautius, a famous ancestor of the moneyer, was celebrated by using Medusa masks to disguise a troop of banished performers so they could enter Rome incognito to provide entertainment to the people of the city. In any event, the arresting design of both sides of this particular issue makes it a popular, if difficult, coin type to collect. The minting was plagued by quality control issues, and examples are often off-center or poorly struck.
ROMAN REPUBLIC . L. Plautius Plancus, 47 BC . Denarius . Medusa / Victory
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