Water and access to it for trade has played an important role in
world exploration and economies.
A rare bronze sestertius of Trajan celebrating the expansion of a
Roman port is offered in Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins &
Collectibles’ June 7 and 8 auction.
Roman emperor Trajan commissioned a new harbor at Ostia to
accommodate the needs of a huge population (more than 1 million people
lived in Rome in the second century A.D.) and to control silting that
required periodic dredging.
The small port at Ostia was located at the mouth of the Tiber River
14 miles from Rome. Goods off-loaded at Ostia were either transferred
to barges that then went up the Tiber or were carried overland on
carts and pack animals to the capital city.
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The port was greatly expanded during the reigns of Claudius and
Nero. But it was not enough, and Trajan ordered the construction of a
new hexagonal harbor further inland behind the original Claudian port.
The new port was finished in A.D. 113, an event honored on a rare
bronze sestertius from 113.
The coin, which weighs 25.58 grams, depicts on the obverse a
laureate and draped bust of Trajan. The reverse shows an aerial view
of Trajan’s hexagonal harbor at Ostia, with entrance at bottom,
buildings and colonnades surrounding the harbor, and three ships
anchored within, in a compact memory of the grand project.
The remains of part of the docks as well as the canal that linked
Trajan’s port with the Tiber can still be seen today.
The example in the Goldberg auction is graded Very Fine by the firm
and has an estimate of $5,000 to $6,000.