Bust of Empress Sallustia Orbiana, wife of Alexander Severus. Marble, 3rd century. H 23 cm (9 in.). Artist unknown. Musée du Louvre, Paris. Accession number: Ma 1054 (MR 538). Biography: We know very little about Orbiana, such as when she was born or any details about her early life. She was a daughter of a senator Lucius Seius Herennius Sallustius, and following Roman customs of naming children, she was named Gnaea Seia Herennia Sallustia Barbia Orbiana after her father's lineage. Although we don't know in what year she was born, she was probably in her teens when she entered into a marriage with the then sixteen-year-old Severus Alexander in AD 225, an arrangement orchestrated by Julia Mamaea, the emperor's mother. Oddly enough, although the history of Severus Alexander is recorded by Cassius Dio, Herodian, Zosimus, and Lampridius, and all of them mention at least one wife (Zosimus says Severus Alexander had three of them), none of them mention Orbiana by name. The Historia at one point gives his wife's name as Memmia, at another, citing Dexippus, it calls her simply Macrini filia (the daughter of Macrinus). Herodian does not name Alexander's wife at all. It is only through numismatic evidence that we know her name and that she was married to Severus Alexander. Supposedly, early historians and numismatists thought Orbiana was the wife of Trajan Decius until coins were discovered depicting Severus and Orbiana together.[2, 3] We know her full name from Alexandrian Tetradrachms bearing her complete name on the obverse inscription (e.g. Dattari 4452). Severus Alexander's marriage to Orbiana lasted but a few years, however. Historians report that Julia Mamaea grew jealous of Orbiana's increasing influence over her son and she had progressively less influence over him herself. To make matters worse for the hapless young empress, her father approached the praetorian guards to further his own designs on the throne. Mamaea dissolved the marriage in AD 227, and Orbiana and her father took refuge among the praetorians. Since this was a clear act of rebellion, Sallustius was executed on charges of high treason and Orbiana was banished to Libya.[1, 4] She becomes at this point lost to history and her subsequent fate is unknown. Coinage: Official imperial issues for circulation: All of the Roman Imperial coins appear to have been minted in Rome as a special marriage issue in AD 225, and pieces depicting Orbiana on the obverse and Concordia seated left on the reverse are found in all metals and denominations ranging from the aureus on down to the as, including the silver quinarius. I have two such coins in my collection. Orbiana, AD 225-227. Roman AR Denarius, 3.47 gm, 19.1 mm, Rome, AD 225. Obv: SALL BARBIA ORBIANA AVG, diademed and draped bust, r. Rev: CONCORDIA AVGG, Concordia enthroned l., holding patera and double cornucopiae. Refs: RIC 319; BMCRE 287-290; Cohen 1; RCV 8191. Orbiana, AD 225-227. Roman Æ as, 11.43 gm, 24.5 mm. Rome, AD 225. Obv: SALL BARBIA ORBIANA AVG, diademed and draped bust, r. Rev: CONCORDIA AVGVSTORVM SC, Concordia enthroned l., holding patera and double cornucopiae. Refs: RIC 656; BMCRE 297-298; Cohen 5; RCV 8195. In addition, a sestertius and a bronze medallion were issued with the reverse type of the emperor and empress standing facing each other and clasping hands. A variety of this coin depicts Severus Alexander holding a scroll in his left hand. An example from my own collection: Orbiana, AD 225-227. Roman orichalcum sestertius, 20.02 g, 28.6 mm, 12 h. Rome, AD 225. Obv: SALL BARBIA ORBIANA AVG, diademed and draped bust, right. Rev: CONCORDIA AVGVSTORVM S C, Severus Alexander, togate, standing right, holding scroll in left hand and clasping right hands with Orbiana, veiled and draped, standing left. Refs: RIC 657; BMCRE 301; Cohen 6; RCV 8194; Banti 3. Imperial commemorative medallions: In addition to these regular issues, rare medallions are described in silver and bronze depicting Severus Alexander and Orbiana, or the Imperial couple along with Julia Mamaea. The existence of some of these coins is doubtful. Mattingly and Sydenham unequivocally state there are "no genuine coins known" depicting Severus Alexander and Orbiana without Mamaea. A silver medallion of antoninianus size depicting Julia Mamaea on the obverse and the confronted busts of Severus Alexander and Orbiana on the reverse is known from two examples. As noted above, medallions such as this formed the first historical evidence that Orbiana was the name of Severus Alexander's wife. This was sold at auction by Tkalec. Julia Mamaea, AD 222-235. Roman AR Medallion, 5.39 g, 12h. Rome, AD 225. Obv: IVLIA MAMAEA AVG MAT AVGVSTI, diademed and draped bust left. Rev: IMP SEV ALEXANDER SALL BARBIA ORBIANA AVG, laureate and draped bust of Severus Alexander right; laureate and diademed bust of Orbiana left. Refs: Gnecchi p 47, 1, pl. 23, 5 (these dies). Unofficial and counterfeit issues: In addition, a number of hybrids and fourrées are cited by Cohen and listed in BMCRE6. A variety of reverse types appear on these unofficial and/or counterfeit issues: FECVND AVGVSTAE (reverse of Mamaea), MINERVA VICTRIX (reverse of Caracalla), PROPAGO IMPERI (reverse of Plautilla), PVDICITIA (reverse of Maesa), SAECVLI FELICITAS (reverse of Maesa), and VENVS GENETRIX, both seated and standing (reverses of Mamaea). Here is a fourrée from my collection, which bears the FECVND AVGVSTAE reverse type of Julia Mamaea. Orbiana, AD 225-227. Roman fourrée denarius, 2.45 gm, 18.7 mm. AD 232?? Obv: SALL BARBIA ORBIANA AVG, diademed and draped bust, r. Rev: FECVND AVGVSTAE, Fecunditas seated l., reaching out to child. Ref: Reverse of a denarius of Julia Mamaea, RIC 332, issued in AD 232. This is a hybrid denarius in the British Museum Collection, BMCRE 987. It bears the Felicitas standing left reverse of Julia Maesa (Cohen 45). Provincial bronze coinage: In addition to these official coins and medallions and hybrids and fourrées of the imperial series, a number of provincial mints issued coins depicting Orbiana. Carson notes issues from the following provincial mints: Trapezus, Creteia (Flaviopolis), Prusa ad Olympum, Cyme, Ephesus, Apollonis, Hierocaesareia, Stectorium, Side, Carallia, Colybrassus, and Flaviopolis (Cilicia). Several coins were issued by the mint in Alexandria. This coin, for example (Paul-Francis Jacquier auction 38, lot 257, Sept. 13, 2013) bears Orbiana's complete name. As noted above, it is only from such coins that we know Orbiana's full name. Orbiana, AD 225-227. Roman provincial billon tetradrachm, 13.17 g. Egypt, Alexandria, AD 226/7. Obv: ΓN CЄ ЄPЄN CAΛΛ BAP OPBIANH CЄB, diademed and draped bust, right. Rev: Eagle standing left, head right, wings closed, holding wreath in beak, L before; S behind. Refs: Dattari 4452; Milne 3008; Geissen 2499. ~~~ Notes: 1. Carson, Robert A. G.. Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum. Vol. VI: Severus Alexander to Balbinus and Pupienus, British Museum, 1962, p. 62. 2. Akerman, John Yonge. A Numismatic Manual. Effingham Wilson, 1832, p. 188, n. 2. 3. Vagi, David L. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, c. 82 B.C.- A.D. 480. Vol. 1, Coin World, 1999, p. 309. 4. Hopkins, R. V. Nind. The Life of Alexander Severus. The University Press, 1907, pp. 57-58. 5. Carson, op. cit., p. 61. 6. Cohen 7 (Paris). 7. Carson, op. cit., pp. 143-44, citing Gnecchi and Cohen. 8. Mattingly, Harold and Sydenham, Edward A. The Roman imperial coinage, vol. 4, Part 1: Pertinax to Geta. London, Spink, 1936, p. 96. 9. Ancient Art & Numismatics. “R551 An Excessively Rare and Important Roman Silver Medallion of Julia Mamaea, Mother of Severus Alexander (222-235 C.E.), with Confronted Busts of Her Son and Daughter-in-Law Orbiana on the Reverse, One of Two Known.” Flickr, 26 Dec. 2011, www.flickr.com/photos/antiquitiesproject/6576383429. 10. Carson, op. cit. p. 211. 11. Ibid, pp. 10-15.