Saturday, 24 July 2010


So having graduated I took a bit of time out and now I'm getting back into things.

Spent all day listing new things on ebay so feel free to check out myworld on ebay....

Also I've started to dabble in Roman cooking techniques which I hope to document on here. I don't think my neighbours appreciated my first attempt at making Garum but now that the smell has cleared I think I am ready to really work my way through my copy of the "Apicius" or "De re coquinaria".

Anyway to finish with here's a few things I added to my online store....

Cn. Lentulus Clodianus AR Denarius 88BC

Obverse: Bust of Mars right wearing Corinthian helmet, seen from behind, holding spear and parazonium, the strap of which is visible over the right shoulder

Reverse: Victory in biga right, holding wreath and reins, CN LENTVL in ex.

3.82g 19mm Crawford 345/1; Sear 254.

Denarius of M. Aurelius Scaurus,L. Licinius Crassus and Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus 118 B.C.

Obverse: ROMA - M. AVRELI Head of Roma wearing winged Phrygian helmet; behind, mark of value *.

Reverse: SCAVRI / L. LIC. CN. DOM Naked, bearded warrior in biga r., holding shield, carnyx and reins in l. hand and hurling spear.

Cr. 282/1. Syd. 523. Seaby Aurelia 20. 3.76g, 20mm.

Ex CNG Electronic Auction 232. This coin was minted to celebrate the victories ofCn. Domitius Ahenobarbus which led to the founding of the first Roman Colony in Gaul "Narbo".

M. Volteius Mf. AR Denarius. 78 BC

Obverse: Laureate bust of Jupiter right

Reverse: Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus with closed doors; thunderbolt on pediment; M VOLTEI MF in ex

3.91g 19mm Volteia 1

Maximianus. 286-305 AD. Æ Follis

300-305 AD. Londinium mint

Obv: IMP C MAXIMIANVS P F AVG, laureate and cuirassed bust right

Rev: GENIO POPV-LI ROMANI, Genius standing left, holding patera and cornucopiae.

28mm, 11.09 g, 6h, RIC VI 6b

Good VF, dark brown patina, light roughness. Comes with CNG auction ticket.

From the Elliott-Kent Collection.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


I finished my dissertation so I will finally be able to branch out a little bit.

I will get a better outline of what I wrote up here soon but for now I want to shift focus and look at a few other things.

Over the coming months I want to look at

  • The reforms of Caracalla
  • The role of Julia Domna in Imperial Propaganda as a whole
  • Severus' relationship with the Senate
Basically I will still stick to the Severans but I want to branch out a bit.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The role of the Children....

Severus had two children and is supposed to have rejoiced on his deathbed for

"he was leaving two Antonini to rule the state with equal powerserein following the example of Pius, who left to the state Verus and Marcus Antoninus, his two sons by adoption; and that he rejoiced all the more, because, while Pius had left only adopted sons, he was leaving. sons of his own blood to rule the Roman state"

HA Severus 20.1-2

This makes it clear that Severus was attempting to create an heir of "Antoninity" about his dynasty but today I will look at how he prepared the ground throughout his reign by studying his treatment of the young Geta and Caracalla. I hope to show that Severus attempted to mirror the actions of Marcus Aurelius in the treatment of his children and their rise to power.

Caracalla played the dominant role, being the older of the two, and is treated in a manner that is notably similar to Marcus Aurelius' treatment of Commodus. Both children accompanied their fathers on campaign from an early age. We see Commodus presented as "GERM(anicus) SARM(armaticus)" on coinage while still Caesar

Aureus 175-176, AV 7.29 g.

Obv:"COMMODO CAES AVG FIL GERM SARM" Bare-headed, draped and cuirassed bust r.
Rev. PRINCI – PI IV – ENTVTIS Altar inscribed FORT / REDV / CI.

C 601. BMC M. Aurelius 652. RIC M. Aurelius 618. Calicó 2313

This coin was minted when Commodus could at most be 15 years old it is clear that these titles were as a result of accompanying his father on his campaigns and not as a result of his own actions. Caracalla is treated in a very similar manner; when he is declared "PART(icus) MAX(imus) on his coinage at the age of only 13, such as this denarius from 201AD

Caracalla Denarius.
Obv: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG, laureate draped bust right
Rev: PART MAX PONT TR P IIII, two Persians bound & seated back to back at base of trophy.

RIC 54b.

It is clear that Caracalla did little on this campaign except merely accompany his father and therefore it is an obvious example of Severus attempting to follow the example set by Marcus Aurelius, an example that would hopefully still be fresh in the mind of the troops.

Severus' treated Caracalla's political career again in a very similar fashion so that both the army and the senate would grow to recognise this new Antoninus. We see a pattern that would have been familiar to the mature senators, who had lived during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, with Severus entering his son Caracalla into the political sphere at a very young age and treating him again in a manner very similar to Commodus.

Commodus received the "toga virilis" on the Danube fronteir, as Marcus Aurelius prepared to leave for the East (HA Marcus Aurelius 22.12). The HA says that commodus received this honour the same year as he was raised to Caesar, during the consulship of Piso and Julianus, making it 175AD (HA Commodus 12.1-3). This would mean that Commodus was only 14 when he received the honour.

Caracalla also received his toga following a campaign with his father. The Historia Augusta claims that he received it while in Antioch prior to being made co consul with his father in 202AD at the young age of 13 (HA Sev 16.8). He was also raised to Caesar at the age of 8 and was full Augustus and co emperor by the age of 10, as seen on this denarii from 198-199AD

Caracalla Denarius. 198-199 AD.
Obv:IMP CAES M AVR ANTON AVG, laureate, draped & cuirassed bust right
Rev: FELICITAS AVGG, Felicitas standing left, holding caduceus & cornucopiae.
RIC IV.1 Caracalla 18

It is clear that Severus was following the Antonine model for the rise of Caracalla to power as he introduced his son to both into the military and political spheres at a very early age.

Had it merely been the norm to raise a child to the purple in this manner one would have expected to see a similar treatment of Geta, as he was only one year younger. Yet this was not the case.

The young Geta does not share his fathers military glory, as Caracalla did, but instead only receives his own coinage when he is raised to Caesar in 198AD. One would therefore assume that he was to be the junior partner in the imperial pairing; however Severus raises Geta to co-Augustus in 209AD.

Surely this points to a political motive?

The fact that Severus wished Geta to be an equal partner to his elder brother in the end suggests that Severus was attempting to highlight the treatment of the youthful Caracalla. This idea is supported by the fact that Geta is presented in a form first found in inscriptions relating to Marcus Aurelius' younger son Annius Verus. Both children are referred to as their mothers son, Geta being son of Julia (ILS 459) and Annius being son of Faustina (ILS 386). This is not standard practice and is first found in dedications to Annius Verus, so it must therefor be for political reasons.

Essentially I hope to have explained (I did write this blog in several parts so it may be very patchy) that Severus used his children as a political tool to present his family in a manner similar to that of the recent members of the Antonine house. He did so by carefully introducing his successor to the military and senate at a very young age in a fashion similar to the treatment of Commodus. He also held back from raising his younger son to Augustus to highlight the treatment of Caracalla while still using him as a mirror of young Annius Verus.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Grooming the Entire Family....

Severus did not stop after announcing himself to be the son of Marcus Aurelius and renaming his son Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. He continued to promote himself and the entire Imperial house as a continuation of the Antonine Dynasty. The adoption played an extremely important part in Severus' propaganda campaign following Albinus' defeat in 198AD and today I will avoid attempting to understand why and instead look solely at how Severus promoted this new idea through his family.

Severus himself did not stop at declaring himself "DIVI M(arcus) PII F(ilii)" he continued to adjust his life to appear more "Antonine". Severus' propaganda machine spread the tale of a dream in which:

"When he was about to marry Julia, Faustina, the wife of Marcus, prepared their nuptial chamber in the temple of Venus near the palace" (Dio 75.3.1)

This is not only significant as Faustina appears to behave as if she has accepted the couple into her family by preparing their nuptial chamber but also due to the temple in which she sets it up. The temple of Venus on the Palatine was particularly significant to Marcus Aurelius and Faustina as silver cult statues were erected in their honor inside (Dio 72.31.1). Therefore by arranging the nuptial chamber inside Faustina was clearly emphasising the family bond.

The dream however could not however serve on its own so Severus promotes other qualities associated with his Aurelian predecessors. In 198AD, following the war with Albinus, Severus embarked on a second Parthian campaign. Many deemed this unnecessary and merely Severus thirsting for glory but he received the title "PARTHICUS MAXIMUS" for his exploits. It appears on his coinage alongside IMP XI from 198AD.

Septimius Severus Denarius. 199 AD. L SEPT SEV AVG IMP XI PART MAX, laureate head right / AEQVITATI AVGG, Aequitas standing left, holding scales & cornucopiae. RIC 122c, RSC 21.

The significance of this is that Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus also received the honour of being Parthicus Maximus for their Parthian campaign in 165-166AD. This was Severus' crown and glory and meant that he could drop the title Pertinax, for he had served his purpose and the impetus was on presenting a direct line from Marcus to Severus. Severus emphasised the link by going on to drop many of his titles to become purely "SEVERUS AVG PART MAX" from 200AD. This clearly showed that Severus was emulating his great "ancestors" actions and was truly a member for the gens Aurelia.

Finally Severus settled upon the title "SEVERUS PIVS AVG" on the obverse of his coinage. A name that not only nominally remind the viewer of the great "ANTONINVS PIVS", Severus' adoptive grandfather, but clearly set Septimius as a man suited to the humble line of "good emperors"

I will continue with the treatment of Julia Domna and Severus' two sons Geta and Caracalla tomorrow.

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.