The Roman Empire

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Roman Empire, Page 9 = CRISIS II

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Kohaku

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This new "Journal Entry" provides an update on the 9th Page of my NGC Ancient Custom Set entitles "The Roman Empire".

This Page is 82% complete (12 coins out of 15 slots).  Two of the twelve coins are pending my detailed Owner’s Comments.

Here is a link to the Collection…

https://coins.www.collectors-society.com/wcm/CoinCustomSetGallery.aspx?s=16365

Here is the synopsis for the Page, entitled "CRISIS II”…

The Crisis of the Third Century intensifies as numerous Augusti fall by the hands of their own disaffected troops; a new record of six Emperors in one year (238 AD) is established.

.The follow are comments on the coins I choose for this Page and why…

 

Elagabalus.  This denarius, with a grade of Ch MS *, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5, features one the Roman Empire’s most decadent and frivolous rulers of all time, and that's saying something.  While he certainly wasn’t Rome’s first transgender Emperor, he was probably the most flamboyant.  Honestly, I don’t want to give away too much here in case you don’t know much about Elagabalus, but as a teaser for you to check out my Owner’s Comments here is an excerpt that explains why I choose this particular coin…“The reverse of this coin proudly presents MARS VICTOR, heroic and nude, donning a gloriously crested helmet, brandishing a fierce-looking spear, and nonchalantly carrying a military trophy atop his shoulder. The numismatic juxtaposition of Mars and Elagabalus is quintessential Roman propaganda; it is difficult to imagine a more dissimilar pairing…”

 

This slot is a denarius featuring Julia Cornelia Paula, first wife of Elagabalus.  This coin graded Ch AU, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 4/5.  This coin is one of many in the collection that I choose for its irony, if not for tragicomic relief.  Specifically, the reverse features Concordia, the Roman goddess personifying related concepts such as concord, agreement, and harmony, accompanied by an inscription signifying the same. On Roman coins, Concordia was often employed to convey concord of the Emperor with his subjects, and/or, more importantly, with the Roman military. In this instance, the exact intent is not certain; probably, it refers to concord of the new imperial couple and their extended families. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately - depending on perspective – Julia Cornelia Paula lost her title soon thereafter as Elagabalus found his first wife not ‘bodily suited’ for him, so he divorced her in favor of…

 

Julia Aquilia Severa, a vestal virgin, who, as such, was sworn to celibacy.  In a reign filled with outrageous follies, Elagabalus’ decision to carry out Rome’s first-ever imperial-celestial double-wedding (in parallel, the Syrian sun god Heliogabal married Vesta, Rome’s virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family) ranks among the most over-the-top.  One can only imagine the outrage both parings must have caused to the average Roman. This denarius graded CH XF, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 3/5.  I still need to post my Owner’s Comments for this coin.

 

This interesting ancient bronze features Elagabalus’ third wife, Annia Faustina.  This coin graded VF, Strike = 4/5, Surface = 3/5.  Perhaps the Emperor was trying to appear a bit more conventional in his choice of an Empress, after all, Annia Faustina hailed from Antonine lineage from both sides of her family.  Alas, things didn’t really work out, since Elagabalus’ true desires apparently swung in other directions.  Of particular interest is this coin’s reverse which appears to commemorate the Actian games.  These quadrennial Olympic games were established by Augustus (actually, he was re-instating what was an earlier, Greek tradition) to commemorate his 31 BC defeat of Mark Antony at Actium.  Assuming Augustus held the first such gala around 27 BC, the year 221 AD (this coin’s strike) not only marked Annia's tenure as Augusta, but also the 64th anniversary of the Actian Games.

 

This slot features a high grade (MS*, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5) denarius struck in the name of Julia Mamaea, yet another powerful women of the Emesean clan.  She apparently convinced her nephew Elagabalus to name her son (hence, his cousin) Severus Alexander as Caesar.  The latter’s ascension was hastened not long thereafter, thanks to murderous Praetorian Guards.  I choose this coin also for an ironic reverse, featuring Concordia, (see above).  Julia Mamaea helped her son rule over Rome, to the point that many started to doubt their latest Emperor’s abilities.  As one can imagine, such growing unpopularity ultimately led to the demise of both mother and son.  Lacking any more males of the line, the mother-and-son’s fall marked the end of the Severan dynasty.

 

Severus Alexander.  This breathtaking denarius graded Gem MS, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5.  On balance, Severus Alexander was a relatively “good”, if not ultimately effective, Emperor.  His lack of pomp and circumstance and down-to-earth ruling style appears somewhat reminiscent of Marcus Aurelius.  My favorite historical account of Severus Alexander is that he had his personal motto engraved throughout featuring Fides, the Roman goddess of trust and good faith. Clearly, the coin was meant to advertise, or at least promote, trust and faith in Rome's military forces.  Not a very successful attempt at propaganda, considering the Severus Alexander and his mother were killed by their own forces.

 

For this next slot I choose yet another denarius featuring Severus Alexander; this coin graded MS, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5.  I call it a denarius, although technically it is an ancient forgery (silver plated).  But you might not know it is fake looking at the coin, the artistry and materials of construction remarkable resemble an official issue.  I could not help the chance in my Owner’s Comments to discuss about the history of counterfeiting (which, not surprisingly, vastly pre-dates this coin) and to provide my own fabricated – yet plausible – history of this particular imitative coin.     

 

Orbiana. This slot needs to be filled.

 

Maximinus.  This coin is a denarius graded MS, Strike = 5/5. Surface = 5/5.  I choose this coin for its particularly fine style - indeed, it eared a Fine Style designation from NGC, a rarity among ancient Roman coins.  I also choose the coin for its reverse, again featuring Maximinus, replete with military standards, emphasizing his military prowess.  After all, Maximinus was the quintessential “barracks Emperor,” meaning that he rose within the military to prominence – even achieving the ultimate (self) promotion to Rome’s Emperor.  This coin’s fine style is somewhat in contrast to Maximinus’ historical reputation – some probably had a hard time telling him apart from his barbarian foes.  You have to love the hyperbole around Maximinus, he reportedly was 8.5 feet tall and could singlehandedly pull an ox cart, i.e., literally he was as strong as an ox.  As a model barracks Emperor, he ultimately was murdered by some of his own troops.  

 

Paulina. This slot needs to be filled.

 

This slot comprises an ancient bronze featuring Maximus, son of Maximinus.  Although of relatively modest grade, Ch VF, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 3/5, this coin is pleasing to me.  It was struck in Troas, Alexandria, and the design invokes a sense of that city’s Hellenistic roots.  The Troad (surrounding fertile plains covering northwest Asia Minor from Mount Ida to the Dardanelle Strait and the Aegean Sea) was very important to the ancient Romans. In my Owner’s Comments, I discuss the Troad’s significance, and also I could not resist the opportunity to contrast father and son.  To me, this coin not only represents its own point in history, but also seemingly has a nexus to Rome’s founding as well as the fall of the Empire.  I hope you are intrigued, if so, please read my Owner’s Comments for this coin.  I think this is probably my favorite essay among all my Owners' Comments.

 

Gordian I. This slot is an ancient bronze featuring the elder Gordian, who reigned with his son only weeks as part of the “Year of the six Emperors.” This coin graded Ch XF*, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5 (a very respectable grade for its type).  I still need to provide my Owner’s Comments for this coin.

 

Gordian II. This slot needs to be filled.

 

This denarius features yet another short-tenured Emperor who became one of those six Emperors in 238 AD, namely Pupienus.  This striking denarius graded MS*, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 5/5, and it also earned an NGC Fine Style designation.  Pupienus co-ruled with Balbinus.  The two were assigned the (arguably unenviable) purple after the Senate held a committee meeting to discuss how to deal with the by-then-out-of-favor Maximinus (the latter was most displeased regarding the Senate’s acknowledgement of the Gordian’s uprising).  I choose this coin in part for its fine style.  I took the opportunity to write ‘parallel’ Owner’s Comments for Pupienus and Balbinus.  If you want to see what I mean by that, please read my Owner’s Comments.

 

This denarius features yet another short-tenured Emperor who became one of those six Emperors in 238 AD, namely Balbinus.  Struck upon a large flan, this denarius graded Ch AU, Strike = 5/5, Surface = 4/5, and it also earned an NGC Fine Style designation.  Balbinus co-ruled with Pupienus.  The two were assigned the (arguably unenviable) purple after the Senate held a committee meeting to discuss how to deal with the by-then-out-of-favor Maximinus (the latter was most displeased regarding the Senate’s acknowledgement of the Gordian’s uprising).  I choose this coin in part for its fine style.  I took the opportunity to write ‘parallel’ Owner’s Comments” for Balbinus and Pupienus.  If you want to see what I mean by that, please read my Owner’s Comments.

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Another part of a great , well defined and well researched collection.

Hopefully we are not entering a period with parallels to this part of Roman history.

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On 12/12/2017 at 3:43 PM, rmw said:

Hopefully we are not entering a period with parallels to this part of Roman history.

rmw: I shudder at that thought - often!

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