Monday, 25 January 2010

Why the adoption?

Today I am briefly going to attempt to outline my theories with regards to why Severus initially chose to attempt this fictitious adoption into the Antonine dynasty. In order to understand this I feel it is important to step back to the beginning of Severus' reign and look at not only Severus' adoption but also his earlier drive to portray himself as the avenger of Pertinax.

Septimius Severus was not a man that many in Rome felt should be emperor and up until the murder of Pertinax he had no claim to the throne. It was not until the accession of Didius Julianus that Severus took the chance to seize power.

Dio recalls the events of the day following the murder of Pertinax and the accession of Didius Julianus. here we hear what happened when Julianus attended the senate on the day following the death of Pertinax:

The next day we went up to pay our respects to him, moulding our faces, so to speak, and posturing, so that our grief should not be detected. The populace, however, went about openly with sullen looks, spoke its mind as much as it pleased, and was getting ready to do anything it could. 3 Finally, when he came to the senate-house and was about to sacrifice to Janus before the entrance, all fell to shouting, as if by preconcerted arrangement, calling him stealer of the empire and parricide. Then, when he affected not to be angry and promised them some money, they became indignant at the implication that they could be bribed, and all cried out together: "We don't want it! We won't take it!" 4 And the surrounding buildings echoed back their shout in a way to make one shudder. When Julianus heard their reply, he could endure it no longer, but ordered those standing nearest to be slain. That exasperated the populace all the more, and it did not cease expressing its regret for Pertinax and abusing Julianus, invoking the gods and cursing the soldiers; but though many were wounded and killed in many parts of the city, they continued to resist. 5 Finally they seized arms and rushed together into the Circus, and there spent the night and the following day without food or drink, shouting and calling upon the remainder of the soldiers, especially Pescennius Niger and his followers in Syria, to come to their aid. Later, exhausted by their shouting, by their fasting, and by their loss of sleep, they separated and kept quiet, awaiting the hoped-for deliverance from abroad.

Dio Roman History LLXXIV 13.2-5

It was less than 3 weeks before Severus was being declared Augustus by the XIIII legion Gemina MV at Carnuntum and he was heading for Rome. It is clear that Severus had little right to answer the call and it was more than likely the fact that he was in charge of the largest force within striking distance of Rome that convinced him to make the move (Birley 1999 p83ff).

His problem now was that Rome hates tyrants and clearly had just demonstrated that it does not like being bought, so he had to justify taking the Empire by force. Ever since the foundation of the principate system the strength of the legions had been the cornerstone of the Imperial power (Baharal 1996 p9-19) but those who flaunted it were never to be the most popular rulers and so Severus did the only logical thing and declared that he was avenging Pertinax and freeing Rome from a tyrant.

He immediately adopted the title "PERT" on his coinage and went so far as to have Pertinax consecrated an act which is recorded by Dio.

Septimius Severus AR Denarius Emesa Mint 194AD

Obv:IMP CAE L SEP PERT AVG COS II, Laur. bust right
Rev: FORTVN REDVC, Fortuna seated left, holding rudder and corcnucopia

RIC IV.1 379, 16mm, 3.84g

4 Upon establishing himself in power he erected a shrine to Pertinax, and commanded that his name should be mentioned at the close of all prayers and all oaths; he also ordered that a golden image of Pertinax should be carried into the Circus on a car drawn by elephants, and that three gilded thrones should be borne into the other amphitheatres in his honour. 2 His funeral, in spite of the time that had elapsed since his death, was carried out as follows. In the Roman Forum a wooden platform was constructed hard by the marble rostra, upon which p169was set a shrine, without walls, but surrounded by columns, cunningly wrought of both ivory and gold. 3 In it there was placed a bier of the same materials, surrounded by heads of both land and sea animals and adorned with coverlets of purple and gold. Upon this rested an effigy of Pertinax in wax, laid out in triumphal garb; and a comely youth was keeping the flies away from it with peacock feathers, as though it were really a person sleeping. 4 While the body lay in state, Severus as well as we senators and our wives approached, wearing mourning; the women sat in the porticos, and we men under the open sky. After this there moved past, first, images of all the famous Romans of old, 5 then choruses of boys and men, singing a dirge-like hymn to Pertinax; there followed all the subject nations, represented by bronze figures attired in native dress, and the guilds of the City itself — those of the lictors, the scribes, the heralds, and all the rest. 6 Then came images of other men who had been distinguished for some exploit or invention or manner of life. Behind these were the cavalry and infantry in armour, the race-horses, and all the funeral offerings that the emperor and we senators and our wives, and the corporations of the City, had sent. Following them came an altar gilded all over and adorned with ivory and gems of India. 5 When these had passed by, Severus mounted the rostra and read a eulogy of Pertinax. We shouted our p171approval many times in the course of his address, now praising and now lamenting Pertinax, but our shouts were loudest when he concluded. 2 Finally, when the bier was about to be moved, we all lamented and wept together. It was brought down from the platform by the high priests and the magistrates, not only those who were actually in office at the time by also those who had been elected for the ensuing year; and they gave it to certain knights to carry. 3 All the rest of us, now, marched ahead of the bier, some beating our breasts and others playing a dirge on the flute, but the emperor followed behind all the rest; and in this order we arrived at the Campus Martius. There a pyre had been built in the form of a tower having three stories and adorned with ivory and gold as well as a number of statues, while on its very summit was placed a gilded chariot that Pertinax had been wont to drive. 4 Inside this pyre the funeral offerings were cast and the bier was placed in it, and then Severus and the relatives of Pertinax kissed the effigy. The emperor then ascended a tribunal, while we, the senate, except the magistrates, took our places on wooden stands in order to view the ceremonies both safely and conveniently. 5 The magistrates and the equestrian order, arrayed in a manner befitting their station, and likewise the cavalry and the infantry, passed in and out around the pyre performing intricate evolutions, both those of peace and those of war. Then at last the consuls applied fire to the structure, and when this had been done, an eagle flew aloft from it. Thus was Pertinax made immortal.
Dio Roman History LXXV.4

It also appears in the coinage, as seen in this denarius of 193AD

Divus Pertinax (193 AD) AR Denarius
Obv: DIVVS PERT PIVS PATER, bare head of Divus Pertinax right.
Rev: CONSECRATIO, eagle standing on globe left.

RIC 24 A
Image from ARC

Severus clearly goes to great extremes to prove that he is really acting in the interests of the Roman people. The problem with this plan is that two other Provincial governors also answer the call both with a superior claim.

Clodius Albinus was the governor of Britain with 3 legions under his control and a large contingent of supporters in the senatorial class in Rome. Initially he was declared Augustus by his troops but bowed out of the race for the throne, accepting the position of Caesar under Septimius Severus.

This left Severus free to take on his greatest threat; the governor of Syria Pescennius Niger. Niger had a real claim to the throne. The people of Rome had called on him to avenge the murder of Pertinax, so while Severus had answered the call he had no real right to.

Having defeated Niger at Issus, Severus finally unveils his adoption plan. He declares himself DIVI M PII "Son of the divine Marcus" on a series of coinage in the Summer of 195AD (RIC 702). At the same time Severus renames his eldest son Bassanius to "Marcus Aurelius Antoninus". There can be no doubt that Severus intends to found a dynasty. Albinus is declared Augustus by his troops and a second round of civil war ensued.

It has become clear that this situation has outgrown Pertinax. Severus is now left in charge of an Empire in which 1/2 of the legions were earlier under control of the his enemies. Although nominally he was, as Emperor, in charge of the whole military Severus could not rely on this to ensure the loyalty of the troops. Since age of the imperators legions had become more and more loyal to their commanders, for example the XIII legion Gemina were willing to be declared enemies of the state to follow their leader Julius Caesar across the Rubicon. This loyalty could be transferred down through generations, even accepting adopted heirs, as in the case of Octavian.
From Augustus onwards the Emperor was supreme ruler over all the troops and so they owed their loyalty to him over all others. This loyalty explains why some of the worst emperors were accepted by the troops, even Commodus ruled for 12 years. (discussed in full in Baharal 1996). So Severus needed to reunite the troops under him and to do that he chose to link himself to their last "good" commander; Marcus Aurelius.

In theory this meant that he could now trace his lineage as far back as the divine Nerva (eg. Ostia Inscription ) giving him the full support of the troops and also the justification he needed for not only seizing the throne but defeating two superior claimants.

Anyway here is a new coin and I will get an update on Mater Castrorum up soon, I just need to get this bit nailed for uni.

I got a new rare Elagabalus Denarius....

Elagabalus AR Denarius "SACERD DEI SOLIS ELAGAB"
Elagabalus Denarius. 220-222 AD Rome Mint

Obv: "IMP ANTONINVS PIVS AVG", laureate, horned, draped bust right right
Rev "SACERD DEI SOLIS ELAGAB", Elagabalus sacrificing right over lighted altar, holding patera and club

RIC 133, 2.01g, 18mm

Its not the best photo but I love this coin. Not only is it a rare error as it is missing a star from the right field but also it is historically significant. The reverse represents Elagabalus' attempts to install his patrol deity the Easter Sun God Elagabal into the Roman pantheon.

PS. Sorry if this post is a bit fragmented I wrote half of it a week ago.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Caracalla Dedication @ Ostia, Matri Castrorvm.....

I found another useful inscription from Ostia for my dissertation that I thought I would post it up here so I can't lose it in the mess of my desk.


CIL 14,4387

Photo courtesy of bstorage
on flikr

Statue Base of Caracalla in the Vigiles Barracks

To the Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Augustus the lucky, with tribunician's power for the tenth time and consul twice. Also Imperator Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus, victor over the Arabians, victor over the Adiabenians, greatest victor over the Parthians and father of the fatherland. Son of the divine Antoninus Pius victor over the Germans and Sarmatians (Marcus Aurelius), grandson of the divine Antoninus Pius, great grandon of the divine Hadrian, great great grandson of Trajan the victor over the Parthians and great great great grandson of the divine Nerva. The army camp at Ostia was restored under of Gnaius Marcius Rustius Rufinus praetor of the vigiles and a very emminent man under the charge of Gaius Laecanius Novatillianus sub-prefect and Marcus Flavius Raesianus tribune of the second cohort of the vigiles by the vigiles under their charge.>

This is an extremely ropey translation as my latin is very out of practice but I do see a few important points.

  • Caracally comes first which is unsurprising as it is the base of a statue of him but the fact that Caracalla is the one getting the statue as Augustus in 207AD raises is a perfect example of Severus' plans to reinforce his dynasty. As Caracalla is styled as ruler while Severus is still alive.
  • Marcus Aurelius is called Antoninus Pius and bears honorific titles but not "PART MAX" as Severus has now surpassed him as greatest victor over the Parthians.
  • Trajan's Parthian victories are emphasised possibly to show that this glory runs in the family and really hit home how far back the greatness can be traced, clearly attempting to show Severus and his son as the natural successors of the Good Emperors.
Now I have some new treats I bought myself to post up as well, including my new favourite coin....

Septimius Severus AR Denarius Rome Mint
Obv: L SEPT SEV AVG IMP XI PART MAX, Laureate bust of Severus right.
Rev: AEQVITATI AVGG, Aequitas left, holding scales and cornucopiae.

RIC IV.1 122c
end 198 -200AD

I was bored and passing the coin shop so I got this to kill time. It's nothing special but I just liked the reverse and it was pretty inexpensive.

Septimius Severus AR Denarius Emesa Mint
Obv:IMP CAE L SEP PERT AVG COS II, Laur. bust right
Rev: FORTVN REDVC, Fortuna seated left, holding rudder and corcnucopia
RIC IV.1 379

I bought a lot just for this coin. I love Eastern mint denarii, the style has a wonderful boyish style. It seems more of an amateur affair than the sharp cold stylings of the mint at Rome.

Now comes my new favourite........

Julia Domna AE Sestertius. Rome. 198 AD.
Obv: IVLIA AVGVSTA, draped bust right
Rev: MATRI CASTRORVM, Julia standing left sacrificing over altar, three standards to left.
RIC 860

I have wanted one of these for so long and I missed this one when it came up for sale before. So imagine how happy I was when it came up for sale again. Anyway I snapped it up and it's now it's the pride of my collection.

I will write up a bit on the mater castrorvm another night but for now I just wanted to share it with you.


Sunday, 17 January 2010

Ostia Theatre Inscription

Following his adoption into the Antonine dynasty Severus could make some grand claims. No longer was he "avenger of the son of a freedman" he was now the son of the Divine Marcus and brother of the Divine Commodus. Who could deserve the throne more than a man who could trace his lineage back all the way to the Divine Nerva?

I mainly made this post to have a permanent record of an inscription I found displaying Severvs' new ancestry.


Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

Dedicated to the son of the Divine Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Brother of the Divine Commodus, Grandson of the Divine Antoninus Pius, Great Grandson of the Divine Hadrian, Great-great Grandson of the Divine Trajan the victor over the Parthians and
Great-great-great Grandson of the Divine Nerva, Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus the victor over the Arabs and Adiabenians, father of the fatherland, head priest with tribunicians power for the 4th time, Imperator for the 8th time and consul twice also to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caesar.

This inscription dates to 196AD and clearly shows the early stage of Severus' adoption agenda.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Coins....

Well it's been a while since I posted anything of my own collection so I thought I would share a few new images with you, both of my own coins and new coins for my store.

Firstly my own coins which are, as usual, almost all Severan and almost all Denarii.

Severus Alexander AR denarius. SPES 232 AD. RIC 246
AR Denarius of Severus Alexanders (222-235AD) minted at Rome 232AD
Obv: "IMP ALEXANDER PIVS AVG", laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right
Rev: "MARS VLTOR", Mars advancing right, holding shield and spear
RIC 246, 19mm, 2.77g
RIC IV 14; BMCRE 19; RSC 272

This type celebrates Severus Alexander's "victories" over the Parthians in the East.

Septimius Severus, AR Denarius: - 198-200 AD "Moneta"
Septimius Severus AR Denarius. 198-200 AD.
Obverse: "L SEPT SEV AVG IMP XI PART MAX" laureate head right
Reverse: "MONETA AVGG" Moneta seated left holding scales and cornucopia
RIC 510a. 3.72g 18mm
Laodicea Ad Mar mint.

A nice example of a "new style" denarii from Laodicea Ad Mar in the East. Although the style is clearly inferior to the Rome mint it is a huge improvement on the early style.

Septimius Severus, AR Denarius: - 193 AD "LEG XIIII GEM MV"
AR Denarius of Septimius Severus minted 193AD
Obv: "IMP CAE L SEP SEV PERT AVG", laureate head right
Rev: "LEG XIIII GEM M V, TR P COS" in exergue, legionary eagle between two standard
RIC IV 14; 3.13g, 17mm
Ex HD Rauch 85. Coins Auction, 26-28.11.2009

I have been trying for a while to convince myself to dip into my pocket for Severan legionary denarii and this one was a complete accident. I love it though even in this low grade it's probably my favorite coin.

This particular type honors the XIIII legion Gemina Martia Victrix, who were the first to declare Septimius Augustus. They also received aureii and sestertii for the troubles, but I don't eel quite rich enough for them yet.

Finally from my collection something non Severan...

Histiaia, Euboia AR Tetrobol
Obverse: Head of the Nymph Histiaia right, wearing sphendone.
Reverse: Histiaia sitting on galley right. Head of fork below. Legend: IΣTIAIEΩN.
Weight: 2.14 grams. Diameter: 15-18 mm

I bought this as it just looked beautiful, unfortunately my poor photography skills don't do it justice but it is a lovely coin in the hand with the most wonderful toning.

Now a few new coins for my shop.....

Antoninus Pius AR denarius. 146AD.
Obverse: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P, Laureate head of Antoninus Pius right
Reverse: COS IIII Clasped right hands holding caduceus between corn-ears
RIC 135, 18mm, 3.05g

I posted this one as I love the cabinet tone on it. The contrast between the dark toning and silver raised portions is truly beautiful.

Titus Denarius. 80 AD.Tarraco
Obverse: IMP TITVS CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M, laureate head right
Reverse: TR P IX IMP XV COS VIII P P, elephant left
RIC 115, 18mm, 3.19g

A slightly more affordable example of this rare type. I love the stern face of Titus and the elephant reverse.

Anyway I'm not going to clog my blog with spam for myself so I won't post any more just now. I will however be back soon with some more of my research shortly.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Dating Coinage & Inscriptions of Septimius Severus


I wrote up this list of title dates to help me with dating coins and inscriptions of Septimius Severus so I thought I'd put it up here.


COS = 193AD
COS II - 194AD ->
- 202AD ->

Tribunician's Powers:

- Accession -> end 193AD
TRP II - 194AD
TRP V - 197AD
TRP VI - 198AD
TRP X - 202AD
TRP XI - 203AD
TRP XV - 207AD
TRP XVIIII/XIX -January 1st - 4th Feb 211AD

The trinunician's powers of Septimius Severus are interesting as, unlike earlier emperors, there is no evidence to suggest that the tribunician's powers were renewed on the 10th of December prior to the consulship. One will never see coinage of Severus with the legend TRP X with COS (minted until the end of 201AD) only COS III. This either implies that no coinage was struck in December of 201AD or that his 10th tribunician's power was granted at the same time as his third consulship that is the beginning of the year 202AD. The same can be seen on the coinage of Caracalla whose TRP V coinage always bears the title COS, which was granted in 202AD, and is never seen without.

Imperial Acclamations:

IMP (I) - 9th April 193ad
IMP II - Late November/December 193AD
IMP III - Jan 194AD
IMP IV - Spring 194AD
IMP V- VII - Summer of 195AD
IMP VIII - End of 195AD
IMP IX - 19th Feb 197AD
IMP X - Late October 197AD
IMP XI - Late 197AD
IMP XII - Jan 205AD
IMP XIII - Before Feb 206AD

Honorary Titles:

"Arabicus" Summer 195AD
Summer 195AD
PART MAX: "Parthicus Maximus" Jan 198AD
BRIT: "Britanicus Maximus" 210AD

*Although Severus claims he officially denied the title Parthicus at this time these titles are often found on coinage as "PART ARAB" "PART ADIAB"

Congiarium (Imperial Largess) :

LIBERALITAS III: 9-15th April 202AD
LIBERALITAS VI: 1 Jan 208AD (although this is not certain)


I know most of you already know how this all works but I thought I would run through a few examples below to help anyone who doesn't.

Septimius Severus, AR Denarius, Rome Mint (RIC IV 60)

Obv: L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP V, laureate head right

P M TR P III COS II P P, Mars advancing right with trophy over shoulder & spear

This coin is perfect for dating as, instead of a topical reverse legend, it had the extended titles of Severus giving us all the information we could possibly need. The TR P III first narrows the date range down to 1195ad, which would normally be close enough but IMP V allows us to date this coin even closer. Severus' 5th imperial acclamation was in the summer of 195ad so that means this coin must be after that but before his his IMP VII, which appears on coins from the end of summer 195ad.

So essentially this coin could only have been minted during a few months of Summer 195ad.


Obv:SEVERVS PIVS AVG, laureate head right
:LIBERALITAS AVG VI, Liberalitas standing left with coin counter & cornucopiae

Severus' Imperial title here lacks any datable evidence, no TRP, no COS and no IMP. It is however still a datable to within a relatively short period through the reverse legend "
LIBERALITAS AVG VI", as this legend celebrates Severus' 6th imperial largess or congiarium, which we can date to 208ad menaing that without checking any other sources this coin could be dated to between January 208AD and Severus' death in February 211AD.

Roman milestone from St. Margarethen Austria
(CIL III 5714, CIL III 11834):

Imp(erator) Cae(sar)
L(ucius) Sep(timius) Severus
Pius Per(tinax) Augu(stus) Ar
ab(icus) Adiab(enicus) Parthicus max(imus) pon(tifex)
trib(unicia) po(testate) VIIII Im(perator) VII
c(o)n(sul) II p(ater) p(atriae) pro
c(o)n(sul) et imp(erator) Caes(ar)
Mar(cus) Aurelius
Pius Aug(ustus) trib(unicia) pot(estate)
IIII proco(n)s(ul)
a T(eurnia) m(ilia) p(assuum)

In English that is (roughly):

Imperator Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus, victor over the Arabs, Victor over the Adiabene, greatest victor over the Parthians, Pontifex, with tribunician's power for the 9th time, acclaimed imperator 7 times, consul twice, father of the fatherland and with proconsular power. Also Imperator Marcus Aurelius Pius Augustus, with tribunician's Power for the 4th time and proconsular power.

28 Roman miles to Teurnia

Looking at the most exact dating evidence, namely the tribunicians power, we see Caracalla is TRP IIII and Severus TRP VIIII. This means that this milestone dates to 201ad.

The trouble with milestones is that many provincial engravers can make mistakes with titles so one must always check every title and ensure that the latest title is taken as the teminus post quem, even if another title could confuse you.

Here one could easily look at the IM(P) VII and assume that this milestone was erected before Severus' eighth imperial acclamation dating it to Autumn 195ad but this cannot be true given the later dates of the tribunican's power and the title PARTHICUS MAX.

Well anyway that is it for today, I hope its useful to someone.