Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 111   |   24 September 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 189

Estimate: 25'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 20'000 CHF Price realized: 23'000 CHF
Septimius Severus, 193 – 211. Aureus 202-210, AV 7.32 g. SEVERVS – PIVS AVG Laureate head r. Rev. CON – COR – DIA Concordia standing l., holding sceptre; between six ensigns; in exergue, MILIT. C 75. BMC 313. RIC 256. Calicó 2438.
Extremely rare, a very interesting and historically important issue. Perfectly struck
and centred on a full flan. Virtually as struck and almost Fdc
Ex Gorny & Mosch sale 219, 2014, 437. From the Collection of a Retired Banker.
Septimius Severus began his career as a somewhat obscure man of equestrian rank from the city of Lepcis Magna in North Africa. He prospered under Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161-180) and Commodus (A.D. 177-192), first attaining the rank of senator and then a position as governor of Pannonia Superior. Severus was quickly propelled to heights far beyond that of a provincial governor after Commodus was assassinated in late A.D. 192. Pertinax, the Urban Prefect of Rome, initially assumed the title of Emperor, but he was murdered three months later, after failing to placate the Praetorian Guard with the traditional gifts of money. When the death of Pertinax became known, the Pannonian legions under Severus proclaimed him the new emperor. Unfortunately, shameful events that took place in Rome while Severus marched south to consolidate his position soon produced rival claimants to the imperial purple. Public outrage was sparked when the Praetorian Guard auctioned off the imperial title to the wealthy Didius Julianus. This in turn inspired Claudius Albinus and Pescennius Niger, commanders in Britannia and Syria, respectively, also to proclaim themselves emperors. Since a power-sharing arrangement was out of the question, it was inescapable that A.D. 193, the Year of the Five Emperors, would be one of great bloodshed and civil war. As it turned out, Severus did not need to defeat Julianus in battle, since he was murdered as the former approached Rome with his army. Thus Severus was able to take possession of the capital before turning his attention to Albinus and Niger who were advancing from opposite ends of the Empire. Considering Pescennius Niger to be the greater threat, Severus offered to recognize Albinus as Caesar (junior co-emperor) in return for peace. Albinus accepted these terms, thereby permitting Severus to defeat Niger at the Battle of Issus (A.D. 194) without fear of attack in the West. However, the peace settlement fell apart in A.D. 196, when Severus’ growing dynastic ambitions led Albinus to proclaim himself emperor and invade Gaul. He was defeated near Lugdunum (modern Lyons) and committed suicide the following year. With Albinus safely out of the way, Septimius Severus was free to establish the Severan dynasty as the source of legitimate Roman Emperors until it was finally extinguished in A.D. 235. In A.D. 197, Severus raised his eldest son, Caracalla, to the position of Augustus (full co-emperor) and made his younger son, Geta, Caesar before embarking upon a great war against the Parthians. By A.D. 199, Severus had achieved great successes against the long-time eastern foe of the Roman Empire, capturing the western Parthian capital of Ctesiphon and establishing a relationship with the Arab caravan kingdom of Hatra. At the conclusion of the war, Septimius Severus and his family returned to Rome, stopping in Egypt along the way to visit the sacred sites there. Severus and Caracalla are both known to have had a special devotion to the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis. Following the lavish celebration of his decennalia (the 10-year anniversary of his reign) in A.D. 202 and the Secular Games in A.D. 204, Severus spent time settling the affairs of North Africa before turning his attention to increasing problems with the Caledonians in Britannia. In A.D. 208 Severus and his two sons crossed the English Channel in order to punish the northern barbarians for their incursions into the Roman province. Together they forced the Caledonians to withdraw north of the Antonine Wall, a feat that had not been achieved since A.D. 162. While still on campaign and hoping to push the Caledonians even further north, in late A.D. 210 Severus fell ill at Eboracum (modern York). He died on 4 February, A.D. 211, leaving behind Caracalla and Geta to carry on his legacy and advance the dynasty. Alas, bitter jealousy between the brothers made it impossible for them to work together for the good of the Empire. Before the end of A.D. 211, Geta was murdered and Caracalla became the sole emperor. As future history would show, no emperor of the Severan dynasty ever rose to power without at least a little blood on his hands. The obverse of this gold aureus features a wonderful portrait of Septimius Severus with his distinctive pronged beard and curly hair. The reverse type depicts Concordia amid six Roman military standards. It is so well preserved that the specific standards are easily identified. Two are aquilae, the sacred eagle-topped standards of the legion. The dishonour incurred by the loss of a legionary eagle was so great that stories abound of soldiers sacrificing themselves to save the aquila in battle. Likewise, on the rare occasions when aquliae and other standards captured by the enemy could be restored through diplomacy or force of arms it was a propaganda coup for the emperors involved, as in the famous case of Augustus and the restoration of the standards lost to the Parthians by Crassus. The other standards flanking the two aquilae on the aureus reverse are signia, standards of the first centuries (units of 100 men) in units of two centuries known as maniples. The hand (manus in Latin) symbol at the top of these signia refers to the name of the manipular unit. Although this aureus is broadly dated to the period A.D. 202-210 it is tempting to associate it more closely with the military donatives and public largesse distributed on the occasion of Severus’ decennalia or the Secular Games. Both of these occasions warranted a variety of happy sentiments on the coinage. And really, after the bloody civil war that brought Severus to power in the first place, what could be a happier sentiment than concord and harmony within the army?

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