Elagabalus, 218-222. Aureus (Gold, 21 mm, 7.40 g, 12 h), Rome , 218-219. IMP CAES M AVR ANTONINVS AVG, Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Elagabalus to right. Rev. FIDES MILITVM Elagabalus standing to right, laureate and in military dress, holding a transverse spear in his right hand and a standard in his left; to left, soldier standing right and holding a standard topped by a hand; to right, a soldier standing right, his head turned back towards the emperor, holding a standard and a shield. BMC 16 note. Calicó 2994. Cohen 42. RIC 76. Extremely rare. Beautifully toned, lustrous and most attractive. Virtually as struck.
Sold on behalf of a Swiss bank, originally from a collection acquired in the 1990s.
In many ways, the sober and elegant portrait of the youthful Elagabalus we see on this coin gives us a rather misleading idea of the emperor! This bust would have reminded the contemporary viewer of the young, beardless portraits of Caracalla of a decade before; or even those of the even younger Diadumenian of just a year or so ago. It shows no sign of the 'oriental decadence', a far cry from the 'North African' power and cruelty of the Severan Caracalla, that we know was part of the character of the almost purely Syrian Elagabalus, son of Julia Soaemias (daughter of Julia Maesa and sister of Julia Mamaea). Here he is portrayed with a draped and cuirassed bust as a Roman military leader on the obverse, and shown in full military dress, accompanied by two soldiers on the reverse. But when he arrived in Rome, publicly devoted to the Stone of Emisa, surrounded by eunuch priests and dancing priestesses, and soon began marrying and divorcing Vestal Virgins, enough rapidly became enough. His highly power conscious grandmother arranged for the Praetorians to kill him and his mother, and throw their bodies into the Tiber; thus leaving the throne to her other grandson, Severus Alexander.
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