Denarius – Roman Republic c.137B.C. S.Pompeius Faustulus NGC CHVF Ex.Deetz 1946
Sextus Pompeius Faustulus Denarius, Rome circa 137 BC. The obverse features the helmeted head of Roma right, with a jug behind. An X, or a mark of value, is below the chin. The reverse features SEX POM FOSTLVS / ROMA and has a wonderfully engaging She-wolf standing right, head facing left, with the suckling the twins of Romulus and Remus. Behind them is a shepherd (Faustulus) standing and facing right. Three birds (woodpeckers?) are perched on a fig tree behind them. This is exactly the state-of-preservation one would expect from a coin two millennia old. It still retains a wonderful original patina lighter on the high-points and darker in the deeper regions. NGC assesses the Strike to be a perfect 5/5; the surface is 3/5. Ex. Stacks, November 1946 auction sale of the Charles H. Deetz collection, lot 293.
According to various sources, the two children, Romulus and Remus, depicted on the reverse of this denarius were thrown into the Tiber by order of Amulius who usurped the crown of his brother Numitor. They were preserved after the river stopped its course (according to Florus) and a she wolf came and fed them with her milk. Further according to the legend, this occurred at the foot of a fig-tree. The fig-tree was symbolically looked upon with special veneration and that such a leafy shade was a proper place to consecrate as a temple. They were found by Faustulus, one of the king’s shepherds, who educated them as his own children. Latins not only called wolves lupae, but also women of loose life; and such an one was the wife of Faustulus, who nurtured these children, Acca Larentia by name.
*NGC identifies “Faustulus” as “Fostius” while the 1946 Stacks cataloger used “Fostulus.” Either way seems to be acceptable but today the spelling is more widely regarded as “Faustulus.”