Otacilia Severa, with Philip I and Philip II, Augusta, 244-249. Antoninianus (Silver, 22 mm, 3.77 g, 1 h), festive emission on the appointment of Philip II to Augustus. Rome, summer 247. M OTACIL SEVERA AVG Diademed and draped bust of Otacilia Severa set to right on crescent. Rev. IMPP PHILPPIIS (sic!) COSS Confronted laureate, draped and cuirassed busts of Philip I, on the left and seen from behind, and of Philip II, on the right and seen from front. British Museum 1975,1009.1 = RSC 2a = Münzen & Medaillen FPL 346, June 1973, 31 (same dies). Cohen -. Eauze -. Hunter -. RIC -. Of the highest rarity, the second and finest known example of this highly important dynastic issue. A beautiful, bright and slightly lustrous piece with two exceptional reverse portraits. Somewhat porous and with a minor flan fault and faint scratches on the reverse, otherwise, nearly extremely fine.
From the collection of a maître cuisinier, acquired before 2005.
Early on, Philip I sought to bolster his claim to the throne by propagating a dynastic foundation of his rule. There are conflicting reports of the emperor's age, with Malalas saying that he died at the age of 63, whereas the Chronicon Paschale records an age of death of 45. Either way, he clearly was an experienced man, which stood in stark constrast to his predecessor, Gordian III, whose youth had been a problem, as it put himself at the mercy of a powerful entourage of advisors, most notably the Praetorian Prefect Timesitheus, who even married off his daughter Tranquillina to the emperor. Philip I made his wife, Otacilia Severa, Augusta soon after his accession to the throne, and raised their approximately seven-year old son Philip to the rank of Caesar. The titles granted to the empress and the prince are indicative of their importance for the self-representation of the imperial family. In a patent revival of Severan tradition, Otacilia Severa was called Mater castrorum et senatus et patriae, and her role as Mater caesaris gave her much more prominence than her predecessor Tranquillina. Philip II, on the other hand, was presented to the public as nobilissimus Caesar and princeps iuventutis.
In 247, the then ten-year old Philip II held his first consulship, and in the summer of the same year, he not only became the junior Augustus, he also was the first Roman Caesar to become pontifex maximus, alongside his father. These momumental events were duly commemorated by a festive emission of dynastic coins and medallions, showing the portraits of father, mother and son in various obverse and reverse combinations (see Gnecchi II, pl. 108-110). In 1973, a previously unrecorded antoninianus from this series appeared on the market (Münzen & Medaillen AG FPL 346, June 1973, 31), in poor condition, showing, on the obverse, Otacilia Severa, whereas the reverse portrays her husband and her son. This coin was acquired two years later by the British Museum, where it was catalogued as reading IMPP PHILIPPVS COSS on the reverse (BM 1975,1009.1).
However, this is clearly a mistake, as the legend in fact reads IMPP PHILPPIIS COSS. This was already noted by the Münzen & Medaillen AG cataloguer, and it is now corroborated by the emergence of our coin, which is in much finer condition. The inscription is an abbreviation of imperatoribus Philippis consulibus, with the double P, I and G indicating the plural that is at the very heart of the coin's message: that there were now two imperatores, two Philippi, two augusti, and two consules, and the future of the dynasty and the empire therefore in safe hands. Such doubling of letters to indicate plurals are well known from late antiquity (note the extraordinary legend on lot 361 below, an exagium nummi reading DDD NNN AAAVVVGGG), but they are extremely unusual this early. Perhaps this also explains the spelling error of the confused engraver, who added a fourth I to the emperors' name to denote the plural, but erroneously omitted the second I.