Featured Elagabal - The sun god of Emesa

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Nov 25, 2020.

  1. Aestimare

    Aestimare Active Member

    @curtisclay, I guess you isolated the IMP ANTONINVS AVG antoniniani and denarii considering a die study that highlights no sharing dies with roman ones.

    Thank you very much for the details.

    Here’s my ex. Not original now : right star erased, left one clear and comet shaped.
    RIC 46
    2,98g 19,6mm 12h
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  3. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    Thank you for the info!

    One more question: do you think it is possible to date reverse dies according to the position of the star, i.e. left or right of the figure, at least on the Sestertii of the wives of Elagabalus?
    Would (for example) the fact that 85% of the Sestertii of Julia Paula show the star left and 85% of Aquilia Severa showing it right indicate that there was a trend to move the star to the right (because it was found to be a more appropriate position)?
    If so, could we not call the design of the two Paula dies with star right as "progressive" and date them later than the one dozen or so dies with star left which we then could call "conservative"?
    By Elagabalus´ second marriage most reverse dies (five) of Aquilia Severa were engraved with the star to the right already. Couldn´t that indicate that her rare Sestertii with star left (one reverse die only) should have been her earliest emission, soon to be replaced by the star right design?
    Aestimare likes this.
  4. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member


    Die links between Rome and the IMP ANTONINVS AVG branch mint cannot occur, because the obv. legends are always different, and whenever similar rev. types occur at both mints, they too differ from each other in some details of type and/or legend.

    Proof that the IMP ANTONINVS AVG antoniniani and denarii are from a different mint: first, they never have corresponding gold or bronze coins, whereas Rome-mint types generally do also appear in gold and bronze; second, any attempt to combine the type sequence of the IMP ANTONINVS AVG coins with that of Rome causes just problems and difficulties, a smooth fit is impossible.


    I think star placement was more or less random between early 220 and mid-221.

    If star left preceded star right as you propose, then that transition already occurred under Paula, who has mainly star left but also some star right on her sestertii. So Aquilia should have only the supposedly later star right, but that is not the case! She too has one sestertius die with star left, plus quite a few denarii with star left, e.g. BM 185-7 (pl. 89.1).
  5. Aestimare

    Aestimare Active Member


    I was surprised reading your statement that no IMP ANTONINVS AVG (RIC obv. legend n°3) reverses share similar reverses with roman mint denarii and antoniniani.

    Here are ex. with RIC rarity rates in order to establish, when they are not rare, they’re no hybrids (if RIC’s statements on the subject could be doubtful, what’s most unlikely – I precise there’s no corrigenda in this part of the volume). Reka Devnia numbers precise this rarity.





    RIC 16 (leg. 3 - C - RD 36 ex.) and RIC 13 (leg. 2 - C - RD 15 ex.) and RIC 15 (leg. 1 - S - RD 5 ex.). RIC note : “possibly of the mint Antioch.”

    RIC 17 (leg. 3 - C) and RIC 17 (leg. 5 - C) one RIC rarity rate for both but not congruent with RD’s (leg. 3 - RD 1 ex.) (leg. 5 - RD 18 ex.)

    RIC 19 (leg. 3 - C - RD 51 ex.) and RIC 20 (leg. 5 – C - RD 0 ex.)

    This illustration is more spoky:
    RIC 013 3,09g = ANS 1944.100.51891
    RIC 171A proche RIC 015 corr note 2,61g = British Museum 1924,0107.39
    Others = mine

    The rarity of the coins which could have contrary your theory show you were right (what will surprise nobody), as the mint problem of attribution of RIC 15, clearly eastern. Just RIC 13 remains a problem. But it’s a 218’s issue, not a 219’s.

    I’ve never seen the aureus RIC 33b IMP ANTONINVS AVG / P M TR P III COS III P P (Elagabalus seated on a curule chair) : A.S.F.N., 1886, p.112, n°84 :


    I personally visited the permanent exhibition of Lyon’s Museum, but I don’t remember to have seen this aureus.

    The irregular gold quinarius RIC 163b as Mattingly & al. stated it soon in 1938, is not relevant, though the 5 ex. available on ACsearch are clearly barbarous, what wasn’t mentioned by these authors. Whatever the degree of “barbarousness”, RIC 163b can’t be considered.

    The Lyon’s aureus should “get out of his hiding place” so that we could go further.
    I imagine you think about Nicomedia, as a branch mint, as Mattingly & al. formulated soon this very attractive hypothesis for some year 219 strikes. If the IMP ANTONINVS AVG series characterized this branch mint, I can’t see how one could avoid a die study.

    To say thank you to everyone on CT, and especially you Sir Clay for the time you spent to explain me and us your reasoning, here’s a rare Aquilia sestertius with left star, belonging to a friend of mine:


    RIC 389 o1r1 23,45g 29,9mm 1h

    Here are the 4 RIC 389 that I know:

    ses RIC 389 o1r1 17,22g = Rauch Auction 97 14.04.2015 Lot 638

    ses RIC 389 o1r1 19,08g = British Museum R.16124

    ses RIC 389 o1r1 20,57g = ANS 1952.142.169

    ses RIC 389 o1r1 23,45g = friend

    I didn’t include the Heritage ex., from different dies:


    HA 2019 August 18 Ancient Coin Selections from the Morris Collection, Part II Monthly Online Auction #271933 / Lot #35334

    What do you think about it ? My feeling is clearly bad.
    PS: don't hesitate to correct my language. Thank you.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2020
  6. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member


    In my die study of the Sestertii of Aquilia Severa I could locate a total of 9 specimens of RIC 389 (compared to 58 of RIC 390), all from the same reverse die (RV 1), 6 of those from the more common obverse die (AV 1, including your friend´s coin) and 3 from the other known Sestertius obverse (AV 2).
    The ex-Heritage coin you show is from neither of these dies, so it does not look like an authentic Sestertius to me, but could be an AE As. What is the weight?
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2020
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  7. Aestimare

    Aestimare Active Member

    Good question Julius Germanicus . Heritage doesn't mention the weight. An as could effectively be possible.
    9 specimen of RIC 289 ! I have to work harder !
    Thank you for these statistics Julius, and completed with the die job. Those are precious informations on volume and duration of the issues. When do you write your own book on the period ?
  8. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member


    RIC 33, obv. leg. 3: I strongly suspect this is just a misread or misprinted obv. leg. 5.

    RIC 17, obv. leg. 3: I'll believe in this variant when I see an actual specimen, not before. You illustrate one above, but as you write it is just an "imaginary coin", fabricated by joining the obv. picture of your RIC 16-3 with the rev. picture of your RIC 17-5.

    RIC 16, obv. leg. 3: This coin indeed exists, I was forgetting about it. You illustrate your specimen above. BMC 92-93 has two specimens, though neither is illustrated in the plates. Eauze hoard 296 contained three specimens, one illustrated on pl. 19.

    But would it help much if a die study of these IMP ANTONINVS AVG denarii did or didn't show shared rev. dies with the corresponding Rome-mint denarii bearing Elagabalus' long IMP CAES obv. legend? One couldn't compare rev. dies with Rome-mint denarii showing Elagabalus' next obv. legend, IMP CAES ANTONINVS AVG, for these oddly appear not to exist, though there are corresponding Rome-mint antoniniani with the TR P II Roma-seated rev. type and that obv. legend.

    Would the presence or absence of such die links help with the problem of how to insert the IMP ANTONINVS AVG type sequence into the Rome-mint type sequence, which clearly both began earlier and ended later? Or would it affect the argument that the IMP ANTONINVS AVG coins seem to have been produced by a branch mint, since none of their types were also struck in bronze or gold?
    Aestimare and Julius Germanicus like this.
  9. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    I checked. It is only 27 mm and struck with As dies, so it is definitively an As.
    (Curtis, this is the Morris coin that I questioned to be genuine, but now we know what it is!)

    You will find one (ex Vierordt and Marinetti collections, A. Schulman 1923) pictured as plate coin in Banti (I Grandi Bronzi Imperiali, Vol. IV-2, P.46 No.3), one (ex Cpt. Sandes Collection) in the MK Berlin, and one in the KHM Vienna (No. RÖ 42519). The others are in private collections.

    Thanks! But that honour would have to go to Curtis Clay who has been working on the Severan Coinage like no one else.
    The die studies that I do are mainly stimulated by the rarer Sestertii in my collection and I have no clue about statistics on other denominations whatsoever :)
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2020
    Aestimare likes this.
  10. Aestimare

    Aestimare Active Member

    I’m very grateful you tried to follow my questioning, while I surely digressed. I apologize.
    Thank you too for your commentary on my illustration. I indeed didn’t explain my “imaginary coins” were built artificially associating two different coins, and their photos were always foggy, opaque. One picture is worth a thousand words.

    I would be very pleased to read the results of your research, when the time comes.

    @ Julius Germanicus,
    thank you too for your researches, on the as and on the sestertii unknown to me, and to have re-attributed to Caesar, what is Caesar’s. I mean the honors to Curtis Clay…
    Your collection's delightful.
  11. Amit Vyas

    Amit Vyas Well-Known Member

    Amazing thread.

    Towards the end of last year, I broke a long-standing personal “jinx”, finally “winning” a “horned” Elagabalus type showing the emperor sacrificing on the reverse. Given how abundant these are, I am surprised it took this long. Now, within a short span of time, I have 3, with 2 more in transit! One of these shows traces of a star eradicated from the left field (mentioned earlier in the thread), while another shows a clear spherical object behind the rays, giving the “star” appear more like a meteor hurtling downwards. I will take and post images when I have these specimens in hand.

    Do we have details of the ritual depicted on the reverse? On some coins, the emperor seems to be staring intently into a small “club” held in a rather peculiar position in front of his face, while on others he is either casually holding the club held facing upwards along the side of his body, or a branch facing downwards. It would be interesting to know the significance of these objects and their specific positions in the ritual.
  12. Amit Vyas

    Amit Vyas Well-Known Member

    Adding my specimen, showing the spot where the “star” was erased from the left field. I need to make a better image when the weather improves.

    Roman Empire: Elagabalus (8 June 218-11 March 222), AR Denarius, Rome mint, 221-222 AD, Ex Harlan J Berk, RIC 131, RSC 246, BMC 225, Sear 7542 (2.50 g, 19.73 mm)

    Obverse: IMP ANTONINVS PIVS AVG. Laureate, horned, draped bust right.

    Reverse: SACERD DEI SOLIS ELAGAB. Elagabalus in Syrian religious dress standing right, holding a club upright in the left hand and sacrificing from a patera over a lit altar from the right. Star in right field.

  13. Amit Vyas

    Amit Vyas Well-Known Member

    Adding another specimen. On this one, we can clearly see a spherical object behind the rays of the "star".

    Elagabalus (8 June 218-11 March 222), AR Denarius, Rome mint, 221-222 AD, RIC IV.2#146, RCV II#7549, Cohen#276, RSC#276, BMC RE#232 (2.61 g)

    Obverse: Bust of Elagabalus, horned, laureate, draped, right. IMP ANTONINVS PIVS AVG

    Reverse: Elagabalus, in Syrian priestly robes, standing left, sacrificing out of patera in right hand over tripod, holding branch downwards in left hand; in left field, star. SVMMVS SACERDOS AVG

    eparch, PeteB, Jochen1 and 5 others like this.
  14. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    What a gorgeous example! And yes, there's definitely a spherical object behind the star. What do you think it's supposed to be?
  15. Amit Vyas

    Amit Vyas Well-Known Member

    I think the "star" has to be a representation of the the Sun god Elagabal, which was worshipped as the meteorite "stone of Emesa".
    Roman Collector and DonnaML like this.
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