Featured Caracalla tetradrachm from the Prieur Collection- The meanest face in the Empire

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Shea19, Oct 20, 2019.

  1. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Here is a new Caracalla tetradrachm from the Michel Prieur collection that I won at a recent CNG auction. I think it just might be my favorite coin of the year so far, I absolutely LOVE this portrait. They took Caracalla’s usual angry scowl, dialed it up a few notches, and ended up with this:


    Caracalla, Phoenicia (Tyre), AR Tetradrachm (27mm, 15.23 g, 12h). Struck AD 213-215. Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / Eagle standing facing on club right, head and tail left, with wings spread, holding wreath in beak; murex shell between legs. Prieur 1550.
    CNG E-Auction 453, From the Michel Prieur Collection.

    In the portrait, he really looks like the archetype of a murderous tyrant (from “Central Casting”, as my mother would say). His angry mug takes up almost all of the 27mm flan, and his scowl is so intense that it looks like the letters in the legend tried to run away over the top of the coin (or maybe it’s just struck a little off center, I don’t know). Don't know if the photo does it justice, but the portrait really makes it look like he's ready to bite someone's head off.

    This portrait style is much different from another one I bought from the Tyre mint earlier this year. This one is almost caricature-like, but the one below is a more realistic look, and doesn’t feature his signature scowl that appears on most of his coins. Interesting that both of these are from the same mint. Can’t decide which I like better, but I really like these as a pair together.

    Caracalla, AR Tetradrachm, circa 208-212, Phoenicia (Tyre) mint, (27mm., 13.70g)
    Laureate head of Caracalla r./Rev. Eagle standing facing on club r., head and tail l., with wings spread, holding wreath in beak; between legs, murex shell. Prieur 1535.

    Of course, Caracalla didn’t just look like a murderous tyrant on his coins, he was in real life too. In addition to infamously having his little brother killed in their mother’s arms, he went on to slaughter 20,000 of Geta’s supporters, and was responsible for many other atrocities in Alexandria and throughout the empire. One of the most notorious men to ever wear the purple.

    (Marble bust of Caracalla, who did not crack a smile throughout his entire reign).

    I know that many of us have at least one example, so please post your coins of angry Caracalla (or any other Caracalla you’d like)!
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2019
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. TIF

    TIF Taking a break. Supporter

    What a perfect sneer on that first coin!

    I have a few provincials but they weren't purchased for the portraits, which vary from mildly constipated to ferocious.

    Here's an imperial from a large group lot bought in 2013. It's portrait is fairly bland, expression-wise:

    Caracalla, CE 198-217
    Rome, struck CE 215
    AR denarius, 19 mm, 3.8 gm
    Obv: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG GERM, laureate head right (looks like GURM instead of GERM)
    Rev: PM TRP XVIII COS IIII PP; Fides standing left holding two standards
    Ref: RIC 266, RSC 315, BMC 143
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2019
  4. Parthicus Maximus

    Parthicus Maximus Well-Known Member

    Very Nice tetradrachm @Shea19 Congrats!
    Shea19 likes this.
  5. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Though they are far away from artistic perfection, I find such "unusual" portraits fascinating and very much understand why you decided to buy this coin. It definitely causes you to have a closer look.

    Apart from the cruel sneer, what I find particularly puzzling about your tetradrachm is the anatomically impossible position of Caracalla's ear. It seems that "Kevin the intern" was also active at the Tyre mint.

    One can only hope that Caracalla never saw this engraver's work. I have a feeling that this emperor wouldn't have taken kindly to it.

    He used to be such a sweet child...

    Rom – Caracalla, denar, Imperii Felicitas.png
    Caracalla, Roman Empire, denarius, 196–198 AD, Rome mint. Obv: M AVR ANTON CAES PONTIF; bareheaded bust of Caracalla r. Rev: IMPERII FELICITAS; Caracalla, Felicitas standing l., holding caduceus and child. 18mm, 3.53g. Ref: RIC IV,1 Caracalla 9.

    ...but then things changed:

    Rom – Caracalla, denar, Providentia – neues foto.png
    Caracalla, Roman Empire, denarius, 210–213 AD, Rome mint. Obv: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG BRIT, laureate head of Caracalla r. Rev: PROVIDENTIAE DEORVM, Providence standing l., holding baton and scepter, globe at feet l. 19mm, 3.07g. Ref: RIC IV,1 Caracalla 227.

    Rom – Caracalla, Antoninian, Venus Victrix stehend.png
    Caracalla, Roman Empire, AR antoninianus, 213–217 AD, Rome mint. Obv: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG GERM; bust of Caracalla, radiate, draped, cuirassed, r. Rev: VENVS VICTRIX; Venus, draped, standing l., holding Victory in extended r. hand and spear in l. hand, leaning on shield. 23mm, 4.60g. Ref: RIC IV Caracalla 311C.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2019
  6. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    That is some portrait! I fear sometimes that we suffer today from bias in our sources with people painted too good or evil from bias as much as truth but Caracalla did seem to have personality shortcomings however we slice it. When young, Caracalla looks perfectly pleasant but then dad married him off to Plautilla and promoted his brother to equal rank. I suspect his desire for the death of his father for so many years contributed to his excesses when he finally became top dog.

    I prefer to think of the sweet child of 196 AD rather than the twenty years later version.
    rm6500xx0293.jpg rm6580fd0126.jpg

    Edit: O beat me to it so I'll trow in that between the young and old period Caracalla went through a phase as an awkward adolescent when portraits were less than impressive. At the same time Geta was a bit more handsome. This may not have helped.

  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I love it, @Shea19 !! He really looks like a thug in that portrait!

    This is the meanest portrait of him that I can find among the specimens in my own collection:

    Caracalla INDVLG FECVNDAE Denarius.jpg
    Caracalla AD 198-217.
    Roman AR Denarius 3.37 g, 19.7 mm.
    Rome mint, AD 211.
    Obv: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG BRIT, laureate head, right.
    Rev: INDVLG FECVNDAE, Julia Domna as Indulgentia, wearing polos, seated left on cerule chair, extending right hand and holding scepter.
    Refs: RIC 214; BMCRE 73; RCV 6805.
  8. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    @Shea19 ...Great portrait!...Even the eagle looks scared!
    Here's my one and only.. 1-normal_CARACALLA.jpg
    Caracalla. AD 198-217. AR Denarius (3,48g). Rome mint. Struck AD 212-213.
    Obv-ANTONINVS PIVS AVG BRIT, Laureate head right.
    Rev-MONETA AVG, Moneta standing left, holding scales and cornucopia.
    RIC IV 224; RSC 165.
  9. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Shea19, That's a nasty looking scowl on Caracalla's face :nailbiting:! The recent Caracalla Tet I acquired doesn't look nearly as mean, pictured below.

    Prieur 1204 obv..JPG Prieur 1204 rev..JPG

    However the face on the Nero Tet I sold at a Heratige auction, pictured below, could give your Tet a run for the money :smuggrin:.

    Roman Syria & Phoenicia 036.jpg
  10. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Yeah, he is P.O.’d...

    RI Caracalla 198-217 AR Denarius MONETA
  11. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    @Shea19 - interesting coins to see side by side - I can see why you like the pairing. I don't have an angry or scowling Caracalla - only this somewhat contented-looking Caracalla
    Caracalla Moneta Blu.jpg
    Caracalla, AR Denarius, Rome, AD 210-213
    Obv: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG BRIT, laureate head right
    Rev: MONETA AVG, Moneta standing left, holding scales and cornucopiae
    Ref: RIC 224; RSC 165

    and this younger portrait that I easily mistake for his rival and ill-fated sibling:
    Caracalla Securit Orbis.jpg
    Caracalla, AR Denarius, Rome, circa AD 198-199, 18.5mm 3.35g
    Obv: IMP CAES M AVR ANTON AVG, laureate and draped bust right
    Rev: SECVRIT ORBIS, Securitas seated right on throne, resting head upon hand and holding scepter; lighted and garlanded altar to right
    Ref: RSC 571; RIC 22(a); BMC S118;
  12. Numisnewbiest

    Numisnewbiest Well-Known Member

    No Caracalla coins, but I thought this was pretty cool:

  13. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Caracalla 3.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG BRIT, laureate head right
    REVERSE: P M TR P XIIII COS III P P, Pax running left holding branch & scepter
    Struck at Rome, 211 AD
    3.11g, 18mm
    RIC 184, RSC 190, BMC 4
  14. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    caracallad24.JPG I like this coin becauce Caracalla looks a little pissed off. Denarius 213 A.D. Obv Head right laureate ANTONINVS PIVS FEL AVG Rv Moneta standing left. MONETA AVG. RIC 236 3,67 grms 19 mm
    shanxi, Spaniard, TheRed and 7 others like this.
  15. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Nice pickup, @Shea19! Both are excellent, but I really like the style of the second one.

    Here's the little cherub together with his beloved brother Geta.
    Julia Domna - Denarius Caracalla Geta 2576.jpg

    And from his last dated issue in 217, looking more like the "common enemy of mankind" described by Gibbon. I like how his furrowed brow is depicted on this one, with none of the very exaggerated forehead creases we see on some of his coins.
    Caracalla - Antoninianus Luna Bull Biga ex Kelly 2993.jpg
  16. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    "Mildly constipated to ferocious" :happy::happy::happy:

    Ha, yes, the ear is definitely a little out of place, but I think they were going for more of a caricature style with this one.

    Thanks. Yes, I agree. I think that I lot of the "bad" emperors probably were not nearly as bad as history has portrayed them (Nero in particular comes to mind). From everything I've read, I do think that Caracalla probably was as bad as he's remembered, although I think Geta probably was no saint himself.

    Love that Nero tet, wow!
    shanxi, TIF and Orielensis like this.
  17. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Trajan Decius

    Here's my antoninianus from the man who introduced the denomination...

    shanxi, Spaniard, Orielensis and 7 others like this.
  18. Svarog

    Svarog Well-Known Member

    @Al Kowsky here are a few of mine for your taste: Screen_Shot_2019-10-21_at_8-removebg-preview.png
    Screen_Shot_2019-10-21_at_8-removebg-preview copy.png IMG_3525.jpg Screen Shot 2018-01-21 at 6.42.29 PM.png
    shanxi, TIF, Spaniard and 8 others like this.
  19. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Svarog likes this.
  20. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Very nice coins! I have a Caracalla tetradrachm from Tyre, but somehow the pictures got missed when backing up to my new phone. I'll have to take more.

    In the meantime, this is the perfect excuse to dust off my #1 favorite Roman portrait in my collection!

    Shea19, shanxi, TIF and 7 others like this.
  21. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    some lovely additions around here

    Cute :

    Taking it seriously :

    Concerned : who's next ?

    shanxi, TIF, Spaniard and 8 others like this.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page