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Portraits Of Power - The Faces Of Imperial Rome

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 Posted 10/02/2020  1:22 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Julia Soaemias, mother of Elagabalus

AR Denarius
IVLIA SOAEMIAS AVG, Draped bust right
VENVS CAELESTIS, Venus seated left, holding apple and scepter, child at feet

Julia Soaemias was the younger daughter of Julia Maesa, but found herself named Augusta when her son Bassianus ascended to the principate. She was widowed, but Cassius Dio mentions a lover around this time by the name of Gannys, whom it is said Elagabalus had executed for attempting to seize power. Along with her mother, Soaemias largely ran the Empire, her son acting as a mere figurehead. Like her son, it is said that Soaemias engaged in numerous public and damaging romantic affairs in a time when Roman women were expected to show Pudicitia, or sexual modesty and restraint. She took little or no interest in reining in her increasingly erratic and troubling son, and as a result, perished alongside him in the coup of March 222.
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 Posted 10/02/2020  1:38 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Julia Maesa, Sister of Julia Domna, Grandmother of Elagabalus & Severus Alexander, d. late 220s.


AR Denarius
IVLIA MAESA AVG, Draped bust right
SAECVLI FELICITAS, Felicitas standing left, holding long caduceus and sacrificing at altar, star to left


AR Antoninianus
IVLIA MAESA AVG, Draped bust right on crescent, wearing stephane
PIETAS AVG, Pietas standing right, holding box of perfumes, altar at feet
*All antoninianii of Julia Maesa were minted under Elagabalus*


AR Denarius
IVLIA MAESA AVG, Draped bust right
PVDICITIA, Pudicitia seated left, holding drapery away from face
*Note the markedly aged look - this series may have been minted shortly before her death, under Severus Alexander*


Julia Maesa was the elder sister of Julia Domna. Although she did not marry a future Roman emperor, she did marry an aristocrat, and became enormously wealthy. Through her husband Julius Avitus, Maesa had two daughters, Julia Soaemias and Julia Mamaea. When her sister committed suicide in 217, Maesa was enraged. She used her fortune (which Macrinus foolishly did not strip her of) to buy off the local legions, using the clearly fabricated story that Soaemias' teenaged son Bassianus was in fact the illegitimate son of Caracalla. Either taking the lie, or simply eager to rid themselves of Macrinus, the legions declared the fourteen year old boy emperor, and Macrinus was killed. Now in power, Maesa sought to rule through Elagabalus as her puppet. Through her influence and for the first time in Roman history, Maesa and Soaemias were allowed to attend meetings of the Senate, and headed a secondary Senate specifically for the women of the Roman empire. The boy soon proved to be impossible to control, and so Maesa tricked him into adopting his young cousin Alexander, and then had the Praetorians kill Elagabalus, his mother perishing as collateral damage. Alexander proved to be a much more pliable emperor, although Maesa died of natural causes just a few years after his succession, aged well into her 60s.
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 Posted 10/02/2020  1:41 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Julia Paula, 1st wife of Elagabalus


AR Denarius
IVLIA PAVLA AVG, Draped bust right
CONCORDIA, Concordia seated left, holding patera, star in left field

Julia Paula was the young daughter of Julius Paulus, a famous jurist active during the early Severan period. She was given to Elagabalus in marriage in 219 in a political bid to connect the Syrian high-priest dynasty to the traditional Roman aristocracy. The marriage failed, ostensibly because the 15 year old Elagabalus found her too conventional and boring. They were divorced after about a year, and Paula then disappears from history, returning to the life of a private citizen.
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 Posted 10/02/2020  1:47 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Julia Aquilia Severa, 2nd and 4th wife of Elagabalus


AR Denarius
IVLIA AQVILIA SEVERA AVG, Draped bust right
CONCORDIA, Concordia standing left, holding double cornucopiae and patera over altar, star in left field

Julia Aquilia Severa was a Vestal Virgin, keeper of the temple and cult of Vesta, goddess of the home and hearth. In Roman society, Vestals were bound to an oath of 30 years of chastity, on pain of death. During this time, they were socially and legally seen as the sisters of all Roman people, and enjoyed significant benefits, including a personal bodyguard at all times when venturing from the Temple, and the ability to testify at court and have their word taken as fact. Of all of his wives, Elagabalus seemed to have only actually loved Severa, as she was the only one he did not part with willingly, and ultimately returned to her.

The marriage took place in late 220, both parties probably in their teens. Elagabalus declared that the marriage was divinely ordained, and their union symbolized the matrimony of Vesta with Elagabalus; an appalling notion to most Romans. He also voiced his intent to produce divine children with his new wife, which was even worse, as most Romans felt that both ought to be put to death for defiling one of the oldest of Roman traditions. After immense pressure, Elagabalus conceded in divorcing Severa, although after a brief failed marriage to Annia Faustina, he returned to her, declaring the divorce had never been legitimate. They were still wed when Elagabalus was assassinated, and her fate afterwards is unknown. It is not entirely certain whether she ever consented to either marriage in the first place, or whether she was forced into it.
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Edited by Finn235
10/02/2020 1:52 pm
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 Posted 10/02/2020  2:04 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
*Drumroll please*

Annia Faustina, 3rd wife of Elagabalus


AE23, Hierapolis, Phrygia
ANNIA ΦAVCTEINA CEB, Draped bust right, wearing stephane; C/M: Venus holding apple?
IEΡAΠOΛEITΩN NEΩKOΡΩN, Wreath with A-KTI-A in three lines
Minted for Actian Games

Annia Faustina was the great-granddaughter of Marcus Aurelius' sister, and was one of the last members of that prestigious dynasty, most of whom had been wiped out by either the Antonine Plague, or else from Caracalla's purges of suspected Geta sympathizers. She was a wealthy heiress, inheriting her parents' estates and marrying the senator Pomponius Bassus. They had two children together, Pomponia Ummidia, and Pomponius Bassus, both of whom led long and prestigious lives during the later Crisis years.

In 221, her husband was killed on orders of Elagabalus, and she was forced into marrying the deranged young emperor, in a move orchestrated by Julia Maesa as damage control after the scandalous marriage to Aquilia Severa. The couple were wed in about July 221, and by the end of the year, Elagabalus decided to stand up to his grandmother, divorcing Annia Faustina and returning to Aquilia Severa. Thankfully, both Annia and her two young children were spared and allowed to return to their lives as private citizens.
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 Posted 10/02/2020  4:25 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Palouche to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
*Drumroll please*
....It's worth two!
........That's a big big white whale Steve! Congrats...Great detective work finding an Annia Faustina coin that is at least reachable!....You also have a lovely collection of the rest of the Elagabalus ladies and cool write ups too thanks...
PS...Rewind.....The Diadumenian is also a great looking coin! Nice pick up!
Here's a couple of mine you'll probably recognise the
Soaemias....
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 Posted 10/06/2020  11:05 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks all! And I am still fond of that Soaemias, Paul - quite an attractive tone.
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 Posted 10/06/2020  11:41 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Severus Alexander
Caesar under Elagabalus Mid(?) 221 - March 222
Augustus 222 - 235

As Caesar


AR Denarius
M AVR ALEXANDER CAES, Bare headed, draped bust right
PIETAS AVG, Priestly implements

As Augustus, child Portrait

AR Denarius
IMP C M AVR SEV ALEXAND AVG, Laureate, draped bust right
P M TR P COS PP, Mars the Pacifier standing left, holding inverted spear and olive branch

As Augustus, Teenage Portrait

IMP ALEXANDER PIVS AVG, Laureate bust right, drapery on far shoulder
PROVIDENTIA AVG, Providentia standing left, holding wheat over modius and rudder

As Augustus, Adult Portrait

IMP ALEXANDER PIVS AVG, Laureae, draped bust right
IOVI PROPVGNATORI, Jupiter standing right, holding eagle and thunderbolt
*Late in Alexander's reign, he employed mint employees that were arguably the best in any Imperial period - stunning coins such as this one are plentiful an inexpensive!*

The reign of Severus Alexander was one that polarized historians, both contemporary and modern. Coming to the purple at the age of 13, Alexander's 13 year rule marked the last stretch of peace that the Roman empire would enjoy. He was the younger cousin and adoptive son of Elagabalus, chosen by their grandmother, who thought (correctly) that Alexander would be more pliable in office. After a brief stint as Caesar under Elagabalus that was mostly characterized by thwarted assassination attempts, Severus Alexander was declared emperor by the Praetorian guard upon the assassination of his cousin on March 13 222. He was the youngest sole emperor of Rome up to that point, and spent his entire rule under his mother's thumb.

During his first nine years in office, Rome was greatly stabilized, as, under the guidance of his mother, Alexander mostly delegated the tasks of office to boards of experienced advisors. The economy was stabilized during this time (The Antoninianus was demonetized, although it is unclear whether Alexander or Elagabalus issued the order), and religious toleration increased, especially for Jews and Christians. He is known to have commissioned a synagogue in the city of Rome, and associated closely with the famous Christian Church Father, Origen. He reportedly offered to build a temple to Jesus in Rome, but never came close to actually subscribing to the Christian faith.

The last years of Alexander's reign were a prelude of the impending Crisis that would repeatedly threaten the surivival of the Roman Empire for the next 50 years until the rise of Diocletian. In 224, the majority of Parthia fell to the internal rebellion of Ardashir I, who would go on to found the Sassanian Empire. The last holdout of Parthia, Vologases VI, fell in 228, and Ardashir began raids on the Roman East, intent to recapture all of the former Achaemenid empire which he claimed as his birthright. Alexander marched to meet this threat, and succeeded in stalling Ardashir's advances, although the new Sassanian Empire proved to be a much more formidable foe than the Parthians, who had been easily defeated in every major campaign of the past two centuries. Whether glorious or not, Alexander celebrated a triumph for halting the invasion in 233. Not long after, probably as a result of the Huns displacing the peoples of Central Asia, the Germans began large, concerted invasions into Roman territory. Alexander and his mother went north to deal with the threat, but his troops were undisciplined and lacked respect for their empror. Alexander sent for envoys from the Germans and began peace negotiations, offering to pay them off to stay out of Roman territory. Indignant, the soldiers mutinied and murdered their emperor and his mother. He was 28 years old.
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 Posted 10/06/2020  11:45 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Julia Mamaea, mother of Severus Alexander


AR Denarius
IVLIA MAMAEA AVG, Draped bust right, wearing stephane
FECVND AVGVSTAE, Fecunditas standing right, holding cornucopia and reaching hand out to small child at feet

Like her mother, Julia Mamaea was an ambitious and power-hungry Roman empress. For the entire duration of her reign, Mamaea kept her son Alexander under her thumb, choosing his tutors and advisors, instructing him in affairs of state, and even choosing his wives. Her selections were generally sound, as under her son, Rome enjoyed her last decade of tranquility until the Tetrarchy a half-century later. She was, however, a vain, jealous, and power-hungry woman who reacted violently against any perceived threats to her power; most notably in the banishment of her daughter-in-law, Orbiana. She was on campaign with her son and likely advised him to offer a monetary peace settlement to the Germans, for which the indignant soldiers murdered both mother and son.
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 Posted 10/06/2020  11:48 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Orbiana, wife of Severus Alexander


AR Denarius
SAL BARBIA ORBIANA AVG, Draped bust right, wearing stephane
CONCORDIA AVGG, Concordia seated left, holding patera and cornucopiae

Sallustia Barbia Orbiana was the daughter of prominent Roman aristocrat, Lucius Sallustius. In 225, aged about 16, she was arranged to marry emperor Severus Alexander, and reportedly enjoyed a mutually affectionate marriage; she was widely praised for her beauty and virtue. Her father was tentatively made Caesar until a child could be produced. However, Julia Mamaea became increasingly jealous of her son's new wife, and began to treat her abusively. Alexander did nothing to stop his mother, so Orbiana fled to her father for protection in mid 227. The official story goes (whether true or not is a matter of debate) that Sallustius defected and proclaimed himself emperor; he was executed on orders of Mamaea, and Orbiana was forcibly divorced from Alexander and banished to Libya, where she then disappears from history. Although Alexander would marry again, Orbiana was his only wife to hold the title Augusta or to be featured on coinage.
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 Posted 10/07/2020  7:23 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Palouche to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Interesting!.....Thanks..
Steve that's a great looking Orbiana......Also like the SA as Caesar with a nice portrait.....You have been busy!
I only have these two...
Severus Alaxander RIC IV 83 minted in AD 228
Julia Mamaea RIC IV 343 minted in AD 222

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 Posted 10/08/2020  2:01 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Nice crisp coins there Paul!

Yeah, Orbiana is a tough one - she's out there, but you have to fork over some serious $$$ to get one that's nicer than mine. I would say she's a little rarer than Aquilia Severa.
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 Posted 10/08/2020  8:54 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add travelcoin to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Steve, your collection is awe inspiring and your write ups are a tremendous read.

You've taken the family tree to new heights here.
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 Posted 10/09/2020  09:41 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks!

And for those curious, the coins I posted above constitute *almost* the complete set of titles held by the Severan dynasty. The ones I do not have are:

- Septimius Severus consecrated Commodus to tick off the Senate
- Septimius Severus also consecrated Pertinax shortly after deposing Julianus
- Caracalla was consecrated, either by Macrinus or by Elagabalus
- Julia Domna was consecrated by Elagabalus and Julia Maesa
- Julia Maesa was consecrated by Severus Alexander
- An exceptionally rare series of Tetradrachms of Elagabalus make surprising claims, including consecrating Plautilla as the emperor's mother and honoring Caracalla and Septimius Severus as his father and grandfather, respectively.

All of these coins are extremely rare and I doubt I will ever be able to complete the entire set - even finding Annia Faustina was a huge accomplishment.
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 Posted 10/09/2020  09:57 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Finn235 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Chapter VII - Beginning of the Crisis
Maximinus Thrax and the Year of Six Emperors



Maximinus Thrax, 235 - 238

Early Portrait - "Aged" Severus Alexander

AR Denarius
IMP MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG, Laureate draped bust right
SALVS AVGVSTI, Salus seated left, feeding snake from patera

Middle Portrait - Large Chin
(It is possible that these were created from an older bust of the emepror, before his acromegaly had deformed his forehead)

AR Denarius
IMP MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG, Laureate draped bust right
LIBERALITAS AVG, Liberalitas standing left, holding coin counter and cornucopia
*This scarce issue was most likely given as an accession bonus to the soldiers who had declared him emperor*


AR Denarius
IMP MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG, Laureate draped bust right
VICTORIA AVG, Victory striding left, holding wreath and palm

Late Portrait
(These accurately portray what Maximinus really looked like)

AR Denarius
MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG GERM, Laureate draped bust right
PAX AVGVSTI, Pax standing right, holding scepter and olive branch



AE Sestertius
MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG GERM, Laureate draped bust right
P M TR P III COS PP S C, Maximinus standing between three standards, holding scepter and giving salute
*This rare issue is the final issue of Rome while still controlled by Maximinus, January-March 238*

Born in about 173 in Thrace, Maximinus I was a career soldier, climbing through the ranks to prominence during the reigns of Commodus and Septimius Severus. The details of his early life are not well recorded, but Maximinus rose to particular prominence both for his skill as a general, his ironclad resolve, and his enormous stature - reportedly over 8 feet tall! The details of his height are likely exaggerated, but most agree that he suffered from acromegaly; a benign tumor on the pituitary gland that caused painful and exaggerated bone growth, usually causing abnormally tall stature, large extremities, and a jutting jaw and brow. He was entrusted with leading his troops on Severus Alexander's Germanic campaign, and suddenly found himself proclaimed emperor when the disaffected troops mutinied and killed their emperor.

Maximinus had only been granted citizenship as an adult by edict of Caracalla; the Senate saw him as a monster--a barbarian unfit to rule. Maximinus responded to his critics by unilaterally executing everyone who had supported Severus Alexander or questioned his legitimacy. Soon into his rule, he reversed the treaty started by his predecessor and led a crushing campaign deep into Germanic territory, for which he gained the honorific Germanicus. The Senate, however, was eager to rid themselves of this emperor, and in 238 turned to father and son Gordian I and II in Africa, offering them the Principate if they rallied their troops and defeated Maximinus. The Gordians accepted, but their rebellion was short lived as Gordian II fell in battle against a legion loyal to Maximinus; Gordian I committed suicide shortly thereafter. Hearing news of this treason, Maximinus headed straight for Rome to exact his vengence on the Senate; in desperation they elected two of their own, Pupienus and Balbinus, who were not popular. The major cities of Rome began shrugging off allegiance to Maximinus, and Aquilia refused him shelter and supplies when he arrived at the gates. He set out to seige the city, but his troops tired of their authoritarian, vindictive emperor and murdered him while he slept. He was 65 years old, and was among the last of the Roman emperors who had lived and served under the Nerva-Antonines.
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