Septimius Severus, 193 – 211. Aureus, Eastern mint possibly Emesa or Alexandria 195, AV 7.29 g. IMP C AEL SEP SEV – PERT AVG COS II Laureate head r. Rev. ROMA – AETERNA Roma seated l. on cuirass, holding Victory and spear; behind, shield. C –. BMC –. RIC –. Calicó 2534.
Estimate: 15'000 CHF
Starting price: 12'000 CHF
Price realized: 17'000 CHF
Apparently unique. A very interesting issue and an unusual portrait
struck in high relief. Extremely fine
Sold by Numismatik Lanz, Munich, auction 74, 20 November 1995, lot 591.
Sold by Triton, New York, auction III, 30 November-1st December 1999, lot 591.
From the inventory of Robert Kokotailo – Calgary Coin Gallery (Alberta, Canada).
This aureus was struck by Septimius Severus after he and his army took control of Rome in AD 193, but while he still had to contend with Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus, rival military commanders in Syria and Britannia, respectively, who also proclaimed themselves emperors. A bloody civil war ensued in AD 193-196 that ended with the death of Severus’ opponents and the establishment of the Severan dynasty that was destined to rule the Roman Empire until AD 235. Coins such as this had a twofold purpose: their quality as high value money appealed to the avarice of the soldiery and therefore maintained the loyalty of the army, and the types served to lend legitimacy to the imperial pretensions of Severus, who was really just a military usurper not much different from Niger or Albinus.
This particular issue is at pains to cast Septimius Severus as the pious successor of Pertinax, the military commander who was made emperor by the Senate after the assassination of the dissolute Commodus in AD 192. The obverse legend naming Severus also includes the cognomen of Pertinax. Pertinax did not enjoy the support of the Praetorian Guard and was assassinated after only three months in office. The imperial title was then auctioned off to the wealthy Didius Julianus, who also reigned for about three months before he was killed by Severus. While Septimius Severus was really disposing of an obstacle to assuming imperial power, he presented himself as the avenger of Pertinax by slaying the usurping Julianus, even though Julianus seems to have played no active role in the decision of the Praetorian Guard to murder Pertinax. Indeed, Severus even went so far as to order the posthumous deification of Pertinax, thereby further elevating the perceived justice of the slaying of Julianus.
The reverse type depicting Roma with the legend ROMA AETERNA (Eternal Rome) advertised Severus’ possession of the imperial capital and the air of legitimacy that came with it. The same type was employed by Clodius Albinus, who supported Severus during the struggle with Pescennius Niger, but after Niger was defeated and killed in AD 194, Severus turned against him, again renewing the seemingly eternal cycle of Roman civil war.