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What happened was this. The local General, Carausius, had been put in charge of what is now the English Channel, mainly to suppress piracy. Well, if you can’t beat ’em – join ’em. So he did and appointed himself emperor. However, he was most anxious to be legitimate and all his titles and protocol recognised his co-emperors. The attitude was certainly not mutual. Britannia and what is now Normandy was considered to be in revolt.

In this sale was a Carausius denarius struck in London, estimated at €2500. There must have been no reserve, for it slipped through at €1500 (£920). The galley on the reverse is an interesting document because it is the earliest representation of a ‘British’ warship (not, of course, a Royal Navy ship – we have to wait until Henry VIII to found this noble institution).

The RSR below the ship baffled numismatists for centuries until it was cracked in 1997. It is a quote from Virgil’s Aeneid: “Redeunt Saturnia Regna” which translates as “the Reign of Saturn (i.e. Golden Age) Returns”. This was Carausius’ slogan and his support for “old virtues”. This same example realised £50 at Glendining’s in 1955. That was a lot of money then.

What happened to this emperor? He was murdered, in 293AD, by his finance minister, Allectus. In turn he appointed himself emperor and struck coins. It is easy to imagine that these coins are collected mainly in Britain and are very well documented.

In this sale was a bronze minor coin of this second usurper. But it is a bit special; it is a variety which is not, until now, recorded in the literature on this arcane history. It is not so special in Germany so an estimate of €200 was opined. It made €240 (£150).

To close the story, Allectus left the scene of history in 297AD and Imperial order was restored.
Exchange rate: £1 = €1.63