The Roman Empire
Elagabalus, 218 – 222. Aureus 220, AV 6.70 g. IMP ANTONINVS PIVS AVG Laureate and cuirassed bust r., with drapery on l. shoulder. Rev. CONSERVATOR AVG Slow quadriga l., on which is the Stone of Emesa surmounted by eagle; in upper field l., star. C 16. BMC 198 and pl. 88, 19 (this obverse die). RIC 61. Mazzini 16 (this coin). Calicó 2987a (these dies).
Extremely rare and among the finest specimens known of this interesting and fascinating
issue. A very appealing portrait perfectly struck in high relief, good extremely fine
Comm. Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) Collection, sold by C. & E. Canessa, Naples, auction 28 June 1923, lot 464.
Ing. Giuseppe Mazzini (1883-1961) Collection.
Ex Münzen & Medaillen XV, 1955, 818.
Ferruccio Bolla (1911-1984) Collection, sold by Anton Tkalec AG and Astarte SA, Zürich, 28 February 2007, lot 72.
Few emperors are known almost exclusively for their peculiarities and perversions, but on the short list of qualified applicants, Elagabalus rises to the top. The 19th Century antiquarian S.W. Stevenson, ever a delight for his artfully delivered comments, did not fail to deliver in his summary of Elagabalus whom he called : "...the most cruel and infamous wretch that ever disgraced humanity and polluted a throne..." Elagabalus and his family had lived in Rome during the reign of Caracalla, who was rumored to have been Elagabalus' natural father. When Caracalla was murdered, his prefect and successor, Macrinus, recalled the family to their homeland of Syria. Upon arriving, Elagabalus assumed his role as hereditary priest of the Emesan sun-god Heliogabalus. For the Roman soldiers in the vicinity, who engaged in the common practice of solar worship, and who had fond memories of the slain Caracalla, Elagabalus was an ideal candidate for emperor. He soon was hailed emperor against Macrinus, who was defeated in a pitched battle just outside Antioch. Conservative Rome was introduced to their new emperor's eccentricities and religious fervor when they learned of his overland journey from Emesa to Rome, with a sacred meteorite in tow. The journey, which consumed a year or more, in this collection is depicted on one aureus which shows the sacred conical stone of Emesa - in all likelihood a meteorite - being transported in a chariot drawn by four horses. The stone usually is emblazoned with an eagle, which on the Rome piece is uncommonly bold.