Silver Denarius. 3.79g, 19.6mm
MINTED: Rome mint, AD 206
REF: RIC 83; Cohen 424
OBVERSE: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG, laureate head right.
REVERSE: PONTIF TR P XIII COS II, Mars in military dress, standing left, resting right hand on shield and holding spear.
Good Very Fine. Toned. A strong youthful portrait of Caracalla. The detail of Mars's belt buckle - looking like a large sunflower - is unusual and rather interesting.
Ex E.E. Clain-Stefanelli Collection
Elvira Eliza Clain-Stefanelli (1914-2001) was born in Romania, and during World War II, she and her husband Vladimir were sent by the Gestapo to Buchenwald concentration camp. They survived their 3-year imprisonment and when the war was over, moved to Italy, where they worked in the numismatic trade. In 1951, they moved to the United States, where their knowledge and passion for numismatics led to them becoming curators of National Numismatics Collection at the Smithsonian. Together, they were also authors of numerous important reference works and curated an excellent personal collection of coins.
Born Lucius Septimius Bassianus, the son of emperor Septimius Severus was later given the name Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus when his father sought to associate his family with that of the revered 2nd century emperor, Antoninus Pius. More commonly known as Caracalla (after a type of Germanic cloak that he habitually wore), the 22nd emperor of the Roman Empire was almost nothing like the enlightened Antonine rulers that he was named for, and is best remembered for his numerous ruthless and bloodthirsty acts.
Ancient sources like Herodian and Cassius Dio tell us that Caracalla successfully engineered the execution of his father-in-law, the powerful commander of the Imperial guard, Plautianus, in 205, that he later even tried to kill his own father, the emperor. Caracalla also had his own wife Plautilla, whom he loathed, exiled and subsequently strangled. His father's will had made him and his younger brother Geta co-emperors in 211, but before the end of the year, Caracalla managed to have his brother murdered in the arms of their mother, Julia Domna, and forbade her to mourn his death.
Caracalla was obsessed with emulating the achievements of Alexander the Great, whom he idolised, and he consciously cultivated a martial, soldierly persona. While the members Senate hated and feared him for his ruthlessness, Caracalla won the favour of the army with donatives, salary increases, and by acting as if he were one of them. In 217, while preparing for a huge invasion of Parthia, Caracalla was assassinated near the eastern city of Carrhae, probably on the orders the Praetorian Prefect Macrinus, who thereafter seized the throne for himself.
Most of Caracalla's adult portraits on coins show a scowling, almost brutish visage of the emperor that the 18th century historian Edward Gibbon called "the common enemy of mankind".
CARACALLA . AD 198-217 . Denarius . "Mars" . Ex Clain-Stefanelli Collection
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