Aeolis, Temnus, C. Asinius Gallus. Proconsul of Asia, 6-5 BC. Second husband to Vipsania Agrippina. Æ 17. Rare.


Aeolis, Temnus. C. Asinius Gallus. Proconsul of Asia, 6-5 BC. Æ 17 mm. 3.5 gm. Obv: Bare head of Gallus right. Rev: Head of Dionysus right, wearing ivy wreath. RPC I 2447; SNG München 627; SNG von Aulock -; SNG Copenhagen 276. Rare….
This coin is part of a small group issued by governors appointed by Augustus, who were honored with the right to strike coins carrying their portraits. The obverse legend referring to Gallus as αγνός (= pure, holy). Grant (FITA p. 388) comments that the title “lends him a measure of the superhumanity of the Σεβαστός himself, and so gives his position a religious flavour, with which imperial portraiture is likewise endowed.” While Gallus styled himself φίλος of Augustus (see, e.g., Dittenberger, SIG I, p. 780), his relationship with Tiberius was less certain. In 11 BC he married Vipsania Agrippina, the former wife of Tiberius, whom the emperor designate was forced to divorce a year earlier in order to marry Julia, the daughter of Augustus. Tiberius’ distress over the divorce is referenced in the ancient sources and, after an embarrassing encounter with his ex-wife Vipsania (in which Tiberius trailed her sobbing), Augustus arranged that they not meet again (Suetonius Tib. 7.3). Tacitus mentions this marriage was an underlying factor behind Tiberius’ hostility to Gallus (see, for example, Ann. I.12), Gallus’ habit of publicly challenging Tiberius before the Senate did not help the situation, his actions and ambitious nature aroused the suspicions of Tiberius. Gallus’ downfall appears to stem from his later relationship with Agrippina Senior. Agrippina’s political maneuverings in the AD 20s were a growing source of concern for Tiberius. The nature of their relationship is unclear, but Agrippina’s request of the emperor for permission to remarry, along with Tiberius’ later claims that Agrippina and Gallus had an affair and that she eventually died of grief over Gallus’ own death, indicate a possible plan to form a marital as well as political union. The idea of his old personal and political rival marrying Agrippina, appears to have been too much for Tiberius. The emperor had Gallus placed under house arrest in AD 30 and he died of starvation three years later while awaiting trial (Tacitus, Ann. VI.23). To add insult to death, his character was further discredited by damnatio memoriae.

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