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Portraits Of Power - The Faces Of Imperial Rome

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 Posted 07/20/2020  1:41 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks guys!

@Bob, I certainly have to agree with you - the Severans might have been by and large despicable folks, but their coins are fun (and affordable!) to collect. Most of those coins were actually from group lots, and stayed with me because I'd rather have the coin than the $25 it would fetch at auction. Domna's hairdo is impressively detailed, but IMO even more impressive is her portrait transformation from pious housewife under her husband to Empress Large & In-Charge by the time Caracalla.

@Paul - those are some beautiful coins too! I've always been fond of that long-necked Domna.

I don't think the Neptune denarii of Severus are particularly scarce (this was a lot find, so I don't really know) but the posthumous issues are indeed scarce. Nothing compared to the posthumous Domna coinage, which is among the rarest of all consecration coinage.
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 Posted 09/29/2020  12:58 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Geta
Caesar 198-208
Augustus 209-211


As Caesar, Child Portrait

AR Denarius
P SEPT GETA CAES PONT, Bare-headed, draped bust right, seen from behind
NOBILITAS, Nobilitas standing right, holding scepter and statuette of Minerva

As Caesar, Teenage Portrait

AR Denarius
P SEPTIMIVS GETA CAES, Bare-headed, draped bust right, seen from behind
VOTA PVBLICA, Geta, togate and veiled, sacrificing at altar

As Augustus

AR Denarius
P SEPT GETA PIVS AVG BRIT, Laureate head right
FORTVNAE TR P III COS II, Fortuna seated left, holding rudder and cornucopia

Not much survives of the life of Publius Septimius Geta, thanks to the attempts by his brother to erase him from history. Although only a year younger than his brother Caracalla, Geta seems to have lagged significantly behind in terms of public advancement. He held no office while his brother served as Caesar from 197-198, and was elevated to Caesar only when Caracalla was elevated to co-emperor in 198; he would not attain equal status until 11 years later, in 209. While contemporary histories are fragmentary or written after the fact, Geta was described as the pretty playboy brother; he looked more like Severus, and was better liked by the Senate. He does not seem to have ever married.

While outwardly a happy family, the Severan boys loathed each other and quarrelled often. On his deathbed, Severus begged the boys to cooperate as the joint rulers of Rome. Geta, however, would be dead by the conclusion of the year. Writing off their differences as irreconcilable, the two brothers divided up the imperial palace, forbade each other from crossing the boundary, and ultimately decided to divide the empire between themselves, to the great distress of their mother. These plans seem to have fallen through, for as 211 drew to an end, they seemed to content themselves with assassination attempts against each other. Sometime in November or early December, Geta began styling himself in the image of their dead father on his coinage. Finally, on Saturnalia (26 December 211) their mother arranged a peace meeting between her sons at her private apartments. Geta was then stabbed to death, either by his brother's centurions, or by Caracalla himself. He is said to have died in his mother's arms, his final words, "Mother which hath birthed me, help! I am being murdered!" He was 22 years old.

Finally rid of his brother, Caracalla issued a public statement that he had acted in self-defense against an assassination attempt, and thereafter proclaimed Damnatio Memoriae against his brother, ordering all statues torn down, portraits defaced, coins melted, and names erased from inscriptions and histories. It became a capital offence to even mention Geta in conversation, and thousands perished as a result. Geta's memory was reinstituted in 217 following the death of his brother, but the damage at that point was largely irreversible.
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 Posted 09/29/2020  04:39 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Palouche to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Nice coins Steve and interesting little write up.
I do like the fact that Geta and his brother Caracalla's portraits can be obtained showing their progression of age.

I only have one Geta with a rastafarian on the reverse!
Minted in AD205 about 16 years old.
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 Posted 09/29/2020  07:02 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add tdziemia to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
on that age series of Geta. These age progressions are one of my many fascinations in numismatics. Growing up in the U.S., we are so accustomed to those frozen-in-time images of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson.
I have a partial series of Charles III of Lorraine (acceeded the throne age 2, then reigned 63 years).
Edited by tdziemia
09/29/2020 07:04 am
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 Posted 09/29/2020  09:52 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks all!

I agree- the Severan dynasty is fun to collect an age progression portrait - especially for Caracalla and Geta.

I was really hoping to have a denarius of Geta while he had a beard but was still only a Caesar - sadly, the supply seems to have run out right around the time I decided it was time to buy. I'll be keeping a look out, though.

Also, as an aside - the prize pig of Geta portraits are the ones minted right around November/December 211, when he apparently grew his beard out to match Daddy's - they are rare, but not impossible to find.
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 Posted 09/29/2020  10:00 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Caracalla
Caesar 196-198
Augustus with Septimius Severus 198-211
Augustus with Geta 211
Sole Reign 211 - 217


As Caesar

AR Denarius
M AVR ANTON CAES PONTIF, Bare-headed draped bust right, seen from behind
IMPERII FELICITAS, Felicitas standing left, holding caduceus and child

As Augustus, Child portrait

AE, Antioch, Pisidia
IMP CAES M AVR ANTONINVS A, Laureate head right
ANTIOCH GEN CL CA, Genius standing left, holding branch and cornucopia

As Augustus, Teenage Portrait

AR Denarius
ANTONINVS PIVS AVG, Laureate head right
VIRTVS AVGVSTOR, Virtus seated left, holding small Victory and parazonium

As Augustus, Sole Rule

AR Denarius
ANTONINVS PIVS AVG GERM, Laureate head right (having a particularly bad day!)
LIBERAL AVG VIIII, Liberalitas standing left, holding coin-counter and cornucopia


AR Antoninianus
ANTONINVS PIVS AVG GERM, Radiate draped bust right
VENVS VICTRIX, Venus standing left, holding spear, shield, and statuette of Victoria


AE Sestertius
M AVR ANTONINVS PIVS FELIX AVG, Radiate draped bust right, seen from behind
PROVIDENTIAE DEORVM SC, Providentia standing left, holding wand over globe at feet
*Note: Probably moderately tooled, heavily smoothed, and re-patinated, but nevertheless genuine*

Born in 188, Lucius Septimius Bassianus was described by contemporaries as a mean child. He would go on to become one of the most bloodthirsty, tyrannical emperors of Rome. He was five years old when his father was made emperor, and elevated to the status of Caesar in 196 at age eight. To give an extra degree of apparent legitimacy to his dynasty, Severus renamed his son Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and all coins give his name as Antoninus Pius. At nine he was elevated to co-emperor with his father, although he probably exercised very little real authority. He was married to Plautilla, the daughter of his father's praetorian prefect Plautianus, in 202, although he was deeply unhappy with the arrangement, apparently complaining that his wife was squabbling his fortune. Three years later, in 205, he had Plautianus executed for treason (it remains unclear if this charge was justified, or if the plot was fabricated to rid himself of his wife), and Plautilla was sent away. His brother Geta was finally elevated to co-Augustus in 209 (the first time the empire had three legitimate emperors) and whatever sibling rivalry existed then erupted into hatred. Despite his father's deathbed pleas that they set aside their differences, Caracalla and Geta spent most of 211 squabbling and attempting to murder one another. On 26 December, Caracalla succeeded, the act carried out in front of their mother Julia Domna. This act would continue to haunt the remainder of his sole reign.

In a public statement, Caracalla claimed that Geta was the aggressor; that he had been forced to kill his brother in self-defense. Then, to stifle any dissent or investigation, Caracalla issued a Damnatio Memoriae against his brother, ordering the destruction of Geta's name and image across the empire, and forbidding anyone to even mention Geta on pain of death. The death toll from enforcement of this edict is said to be well in the thousands; most infamously this included the last surviving child of Marcus Aurelius. In 215 he had an entire crowd slaughtered outside of Alexandria upon hearing that a playwright had written a satirical play about the murder of Geta.

While Septimius Severus was a politician with military experience, Caracalla made no pretense about placing the Roman army above all else. He was the first emperor to deviate from the fashionable philosopher's beard instated into Roman fashion by Marcus Aurelius, preferring a more closely trimmed look. He preferred military dress to the formal aristocratic toga, and his nickname Caracalla comes from a Germanic cloak he often wore. Finances within the empire were stretched thin by his overly-generous pay raises to the army, so Caracalla debased the denarius, issued a new double-denarius denomination today called the Antoninianus (which was unpopular for having only about 50% more silver weight than a single denarius), and in a scheme to collect more taxes, he granted sweeping citizenship to all free adults within the empire, and compelled them all to both adopt his name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and pay taxes like a citizen. This edict would have significant consequences for the remainder of the third century.

Caracalla's reign was marked by near-constant warfare. He and Geta concluded a peace treaty with the Caledonians in early 211, writing the campaign off as a loss, and retreating their forces back to Hadrian's Wall. Caracalla remained in Rome only until 213, and thereafter never set foot in the city again. He spent 213-214 putting down border raids from the Germanic tribes, after which he switched his honorific on coinage from Britannicus to Germanicus. During this time, it is said that he became infected with a serious case of Alexander Mania, studying the ancient Macedonian king to the point of obsession, and converted at least one legion to "phalangari" after the by then obsolete battle formation. During his obsession, Caracalla eventually resolved to push his father's conquests of Parthia further, determined to reclaim the former empire of Alexander the Great all the way to India. He moved his army to Edessa in 216, and began preparing to invade and hopefully conquer Rome's greatest foe. This was cut short, however, in April 217 when Caracalla was murdered by one of his disgruntled soldiers when he had stopped to urinate. It is said that the soldier's brother had been executed on orders of Caracalla, and the disgruntled troop was moved into action by Caracalla's praetorian prefect, Macrinus, who was acting out of fear when a soothsayer told the emperor that Macrinus would one day usurp him. Caracalla was 29 years old.
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 Posted 09/29/2020  10:09 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Plautilla, wife of Caracalla, d. 211


AR Denarius
PLAVTILLA AVGVSTA, Draped bust right, hair waved and coiled into bun at the back of her head
PIETAS AVGG, Pietas standing right, holding scepter and infant
*Some believe this coin to be evidence that Plautilla and Caracalla had, or at least were expecting a child*


AR Denarius
PLAVTILLA AVGVSTA, Draped bust right, hair elaborately braided into chignon
CONCORDIA AVGG, Concordia standing left, holding scepter and patera

Fulvia Plautilla was the daughter of Septimius Severus' praetorian prefect, Plautianus, who was an old and trusted friend. She was married to the young Caracalla in 202, and their marriage was deeply unhappy. Caracalla complained that his new bride was a spendthrift, wasting his fortune on luxuries (and apparently hair appointments). Some believe the couple had a daughter, but evidence for any children of Caracalla is shaky. In 205, Plautilla's father had a falling out with Severus, and was executed on charges of conspiracy. It is unclear whether this plot was a legitimate threat, or whether Caracalla framed his father in law to rid himself of his wife. Plautilla thereafter was banished to Lipari off the coast of Sicily. She was treated as a prisoner there, and Caracalla had her murdered sometime after the death of his father in 211.
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 Posted 09/29/2020  6:06 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Palouche to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Nice additions and continuation....
Really like the Plautilla Pietas coin!...Interesting
Here's my humble offering..
Caracalla RIC IV#224 AND Plautilla RIC#369
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 Posted 09/29/2020  9:23 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Just getting caught up on the updates. Great work, Steve, and an outstanding selection of coins. Excellent examples too, Paul.
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 Posted 10/01/2020  1:15 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks Bob!

Nice selections, Paul. I've noticed that on those Plautilla denarii with Venus reverse, she often looks less like the goddess of beauty and love, and more like an absolutely jacked male bodybuilder. Just look at those big, square pecs!
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 Posted 10/01/2020  1:25 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Macrinus
217-218



AR Denarius
IMP C M OPEL SEV MACRINVS AVG, Laureate, draped bust right
SALVS PVBLICA, Salus seated left, feeding snake from patera


AE "Sestertius" of Seleucia, Laodicea ad Mare
IMP C M OP SEV MACRINOS P AV, Laureate head right
ROMAE FEL, She-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus

Marcus Opellius Macrinus was born in 164 or 165 to an equestrian family. He enters history as a distinguished lawyer in Rome, serving the praetorian prefect of emperor Septimius Severus. He earned the trust of Caracalla, and was himself nominated as praetorian prefect in 212.

The relationship soured quickly in early 217 when a prophet foretold that Macrinus would depose of Caracalla to replace him. We don't know what Caracalla intended, but Macrinus feared for his life and hired Justin Martialis--a soldier of whom it is said Caracalla had his brother executed--to assasinate the emperor. Martialis struck down Caracalla while he stopped to urinate, and was killed while attempting to flee. Caracalla had no heir, and after a three day interregnum, Macrinus either declared himself emperor, or accepted nomination from the troops.

The Senate ratified the nomination, relieved to be rid of Caracalla, but detested Macrinus for his "low" background. His popularity with the army declined rapidly when he negotiated peace with Parthia and attempted to restore stability by increasing the fineness of the denarius and decreasing army pay.

Macrinus tried to force Julia Domna out of Antioch, but she responded by starving herself to death while she succumbed to her already advanced breast cancer. Her sister Julia Maesa was forced back to Syria but not relieved of her vast personal fortune, which she used to buy the loyalty of the Army there while spreading the rumor that her 14 year old son, later called Elagabalus, was Caracalla's illegitimate son and rightful heir. Elagabalus was hailed as emperor from Antioch, and the remnants of the army loyal to Macrinus were defeated in battle. Macrinus fled the battle, shaved his beard and attempted to flee to Rome, but he was identified, arrested, and he and his son Diadumenian were executed. Macrinus was about 53 years old.
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 Posted 10/01/2020  1:41 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Diadumenian
Caesar under Macrinus, 217-218
Augustus, ca. May-June 218


As Caesar

AE tetrassarion, Moesia, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Magistrate Statius Longinus
Κ Μ ΟΠΠΕΛ ΑΝΤΩΝ ΔΙΑΔΟΥΜΕΝΙΑΝΟΣ Κ, bare-headed, draped bust right
ΥΠ ΣΤΑΤΙΟΥ ΛΟΝ-ΓΙ-ΝΟΥ ΝΙΚΟΠΟΛΙΤΩΝ ΠΡΟΣ Ι/ΣΤ-ΡΩ, Hera standing left, holding scepter and patera


Diadumenian was the young son of Macrinus, and was appointed Caesar in an effort to consolidate support and establish a dynasty. His father raised him to co-Augustus in May 218 when Elagabalus was declared emperor by the troops, and was sent with some loyal soldiers to seek refuge in Parthia. They were however captured and Diadumenian was executed. He was about 9 years old. Diadumenian was technically the first emperor who lived entirely within the Severan period, although his legal status as Augustus is questionable.

Coins of Diadumenian are generally quite scarce, although provincial bronzes are much more available and affordable than imperial coins of any metal. Several provincial cities and at least one Imperial mint produced coins for Diadumenian as Augustus, which are extremely rare.
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 Posted 10/01/2020  2:37 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Bob L to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Enjoying the entries, and loving those Provincial AE's.
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 Posted 10/01/2020  3:13 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add DirtyHarry to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thank you so much for taking the time to share this beautiful pieces and detailed information,
Best,
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 Posted 10/02/2020  1:16 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Elagabalus 218 - 222

Child portrait

AR Antoninianus
IMP CAES M AVR ANTONINVS AVG, Radiate, draped bust right
SALVS ANTONINI AVG, Salus standing right, feeding snake from hand


AR Denarius
IMP ANTONINVS PIVS AVG, Laureate draped bust right
P M TR P IIII COS III PP, Sol (El-Gabal?) advancing right, nude but for chamlys, saluting with right hand and holding whip with left, star in left field

Mature Portrait

IMP ANTONINVS PIVS AVG, Laureate, draped bust right, wearing "horn"
INVICTVS SACERDOS AVG, Elagabalus as the Invincible High Priest, holding club and sacrificing over lighted altar and slain bull, star in left field
*Note that this coin was minted only months after previous one - quite a transformation!*

Born in about 203, Varius Avitus Bassianus was raised from a young age to assume the duties of the high priest of the Syrian sun god, Elagabal. During the late reign of Caracalla, he provided a source of amusement to the Roman troops who gathered to watch his unusual and entertaining religious rituals to Elagabal and the Stone of Emesa, a black meteorite said to represent the sun god on Earth. He was about thirteen years old when his family fell from power, and about fourteen when he was thrust forward by his grandmother and claimed to be the legitimate heir to the purple. Like his second cousin and purported father, his name was changed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and all of his coins bear the name Antoninus Pius (He was only called Elagabalus posthumously). His legions beat those of Macrinus, and the young boy became the sole emperor of Rome at the age of 14.

While Caracalla is sometimes considered to be the most tyrannical of Roman emperors, Elagabalus is said to be the most unorthodox. Having only ever lived to serve his god, Elagabalus focused most of his energies on forcing the Roman people to adopt his alien religion. He moved the Stone of Emesa to Rome with him, and forced the senators to make offerings under a painting of Elagabal. Romans were offended when he declared Elagabal to be superior to Jupiter, upset when he began joining Roman goddesses in marriage to Elagabal, and outraged when Elagabalus declared his right to have illegal and sacriligeous relations with a Vestal Virgin--normally a capital offence for all parties involved.

It is important to note, when dealing with this emperor, that the only surviving histories come from the pens of his political enemies, so tales of unhinged debauchery should be taken with a grain of salt. The tales of his scandals could stretch on for pages. In the 21st century, Elagabalus would have been described as transgendered, probably bisexual, and entrusted with entirely too much power for a young teenager to wield responsibly. Elagabalus married three times - first in an arranged marriage to an aristocrat's daughter, Julia Paula, whom Elagabalus discarded for being too conventional. Then, at age 16, he married the acting Vestal Virgin Julia Aquilia Severa, whose 30 year vow of celibacy the emperor claimed did not apply to the high priest of Elagabal. The entire public was outraged at this, and after receiving pressure from his mother and grandmother, he divorced her to take Annia Faustina, a distant relative of Marcus Aurelius. She in turn was cast aside, and Elagabalus returned to Julia Aquilia Severa, in addition to taking a "husband" of his chariot driver, Hierocles.

All the while, Elagabalus refused to give up his position as high priest of an orgiastic mystery cult, taking his bizarre religious rituals to the city of Rome. Historians note that Elagabalus periodically placed the Stone of Emesa on a driverless chariot, and led the horses down the streets of Rome while engaging in an erotic ritual dance, to the bewilderment and horror of the populace. He often threw elaborate banquets, insisting on dining on only the finest and most exotic of ingredients from faraway lands. Reportedly, the emperor had trained leopards that he would sometimes unleash upon his guests at his banquets, simply to revel in the confusion and panic. He was also rumored to have extensively participated as a prostitute, even setting aside a room within his palace specifically for the act.

Although no histories mention the fact, Elagabalus seems to have abolished the double denarius or Antoninianus denomination early in his reign, perhaps indicating that he (or his advisors) had some measure of financial sense, as the large silver coin was damaging to the Roman economy. The antoninianus would not be minted again for nearly two decades, until the disastrous rule of Pupienus and Balbinus.

Realizing that her grandson could not be controlled, Maesa turned instead to her other grandson, Alexander, to continue the dynasty. She compelled Elagabalus to adopt the then-13 year old Alexander as Caesar and heir. Sensing the shifting favor of the army and populace, Elagabalus attempted several times to have his cousin killed, to no success. In March 222, he stripped Alexander of all of his titles and announced his cousin was near death, to the outrage of the Praetorian Guard, who demanded to see him. Seeing him alive and well, the Praetorians declared their loyalty to Alexander and Elagabalus was slain along with his mother in the ensuing chaos. He was 19 years old.
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Edited by Finn235
10/02/2020 1:51 pm
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