Possibly the finest known
LYCIA, The Lycian League. Masicytes. Augustus, 27 BC-AD 14. Drachm (Silver, 19 mm, 3.34 g, 12 h), c. 27-20 or c. 21 BC. Λ - Y Bare head of Augustus (?) to right. Rev. M - A Two lyres. RPC I 3309c. Trowel 121.3 (same dies). Sharply struck on excellent metal, and with a particularly individualistic head on the obverse. Very minor scuff on the obverse, otherwise, good extremely fine.
The outstanding quality of the portrait on the obverse gives rise to the question, is this really meant to be Augustus, or could it in fact be the head of Augustus's great friend and son-in-law, Agrippa? This is really not so far-fetched. All the other portrait heads on the silver drachms and the large bronzes of the Lycian League - see Troxell pls. 20-25, 33-35 - have one in common: they look like Augustus! They all have close parallels to Augustan denarii - minted in Rome and the East - as well as the large portrait CA bronzes (RPC I 2227 ff.), which may have been minted in Ephesus. But while the head on the present coin does have, in general, a Julio-Claudian-Augustan look, it does not look like Augustus. In 21 Augustus forced Agrippa to marry his flirty daughter Julia, the widow of Marcellus, as a way of cementing a dynasty; and that was just about the time this coin must have been struck. Could it be that a magistrate in Lycia, decided to surreptitiously honour Agrippa at the time of his marriage to Julia by placing his portrait (but not his name) on this issue of League drachms in the name of Masicytes? The lack of a name provided deniability, if needed, and the presence of a non-imperial portrait - governors and other officials - on coins of this period was by no means unusual. In any case, the quality of the portrait on the die that produced this coin is far and away better than that found on any other Lycian League portrait coin of the Augustan period (it is also infinitely better than the two other obverses Troxell identified as being part of this small group - all the others bear a symbol on the reverse while this lacks one). Thus, what we have is a very special issue, made discretely for a limited audience of people in the know.
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