Featured Mean, Nasty, Menacing Monarchs

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by kevin McGonigal, Jan 18, 2020.

  1. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Most of us on this site are interested in ancient history as well as coins. As we read about the people who wind up on those coins it becomes painfully obvious that most of them are not the kind of people we would like to have move in next door. Of course by the behavioral standards of that day, much of what they did would not have been reprehensible or at least, not as morally repugnant as we would see it.

    In your study of ancient history who would you consider to be the most nasty, brutish (but not short), vicious, dangerous, callous, malign, menacing monarch of ancient or medieval times and do you have a coin or two of such maleficent rulers?

    My choice may not immediately come to mind as one of those kind of rulers. it is the Roman emperor, Caracalla (198-217). I guess his murdering his little brother (Geta) by dragging him out of the arms of their mother to do so, does get one's attention. To make sure he did not take too much heat from that, he exterminated thousands of Geta's supporters, which rather got through to people not to mess with him. In addition to his murderous mayhem, he was a bit of an oddball character in that he so much admired another earlier monarch (responsible for more mass killing than he would accomplish), Alexander the Great, that he raised a legion of troops exactly equipped like Macedonian phalanxes that he took with him on his Parthian campaign.

    Here are a few images of Caracalla. The first is him as a young lad where he looks almost beatific but as you can see, that look did last very long. As a young man and now ruler, his face assumes a determined (to get his way) look. The last coin, an eastern tetradrachma of Antioch (actually, Sidon) his visage is absolutely a menacing one, satanic, perhaps his true nature. So, if you have a nasty ruler in mind, and maybe a coin or two of that ruler, tell us why you find him to be so and post a picture or two if you have them. IMG_1273[3161]menacing emperors obv.jpg IMG_1274[3165]menacing reverse.jpg
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  3. Robidoux Pass

    Robidoux Pass Well-Known Member

    Interesting theme. I look forward to the responses from the experts.
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  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Agree that Caracalla was evil. You've heard about the five good emperors? Well, these I consider to be the five bad ones:


    Caligula Corith Pegasus.jpg


    Nero and Poppeae.jpg


    Commodus Libertas Sestertius.jpg


    Caracalla PM TRP XX COS IIII PP Serapis Denarius.jpg


    Elagabalus P M TR P II COS II P P Fortuna Antoninianus.jpg
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
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  5. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    No question Elagabalus was an odd one, a spoiled brat raised to the Purple, but I don't think he managed to slaughter that many people. Probably he did not live long enough to accomplish that much in the assorted massacres department. I think the oddest part if his reign was his marriage to a Vestal Virgin, (Aquilia Severa),a quick divorce and then a couple years later he remarried, her again. IMG_1235[2975]empress obv.jpg IMG_1235[2975]empress obv.jpg IMG_1236[2973]empress rev.jpg
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  6. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

  7. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Oh, that's a hard choice. Few obvious candidates come to mind:

    Had half of the Roman aristocracy murdered, squandered most of the Roman state coffers, allegedly planned to raise his favorite horse to the rank of consul, and slept with his sisters. Suetonius also ascribes some memorable and telling one-liners to him, including "Let them hate me, as long as they fear me" (Oderint, dum metuant), and "Would that the Roman people had but one neck!" (Utinam populus Romanus unam cervicem haberet!).

    Rom – Caligula, As, Vesta (neues Foto).png
    Caligula, Roman Empire, As, 37–38 AD, Rome mint. Obv: C CAESAR GERMANICVS PON M TR POT, bare-headed head left. Rev: VESTA, Vesta seated left holding patera and sceptre. S–C. 28 mm, 10.18 g. Ref: RIC I Gaius Caligula 38.

    According to Dio Cassius, his reign marked the transition "from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust." Had various senators, his wife Crispina, and his sister Lucilla murdered. Suffered from serious megalomania: for example, he declared himself the new Romulus as well as the Roman Hercules, fought in staged gladiatorial fights, and named all (!) months of the year after himself.

    Rom – Commodus, Denarius (Liberalitas) .png
    Commodus, Roman Empire, denarius, 182 AD, Rome mint. Obv: M COMMOD[VS ANTON]INVS AVG, laureate head of Commodus right. Rev: LIB AVG V TR P VII IMP IIII COS III PP, Liberalitas standing left holding counting board and cornucopiae. 18mm, 2.24g. Ref: RIC III Commodus 36A.

    Upon asceending to the throne, he had his brother Geta along with an estimate of about 20.000 Roman subjects murdered. Frequently reacted to conflicts, turmoils, public discontent etc. with ordering massacres. Historian Edward Gibbon labelled him "the common enemy of mankind," which might not have been too far away from the truth.

    Rom – Caracalla, Antoninian, Venus Victrix stehend.png
    Caracalla, Roman Empire, AR antoninian, 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. Ex JAZ Numismatics, Ex Mat collection.

    Charles VI. "the Mad" of France
    Not malevolent per se, just a fully incapable nutter. His reign had devastating results, though: the English invaded without encountering much resistance worth mentioning and plundered their way through much of France. Charles reacted to this by naming the English royal family his successors...

    MA – Frankreich, Karl VI der Wahnsinnige, Gros Blanc guenar, 1389.jpg
    Kingdom of France, Charles VI "the Well Liked" or "the Mad," AR blanc guénar, 1389 AD, Tournai mint, 2nd emission. Obv: +KAROLVS FRANCORV REX; coat of arms. Rev: + SIT NOME DNI BENEDICTV, Cantoned cross with two crown and two lis in angles. "Secret dot" under 16th letter of legends. 27.5mm, 2.55g. Ref: Duplessy 377A. Ex Numis Collection; ex Orfew collection; ex AMCC 2, lot 332.
  8. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    Fun thread idea!
    Trying to avoid some of the obvious rascals, the Roman dictator Sulla comes to mind when it comes to bad hombres. Never a better friend nor a worse enemy (he killed them all and all of his friends enemies in a wild bout of prescriptions) lived than he:
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  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Caracalla, responsible for massacring the population of Alexandria because they had insulted him.


    Maximinus Thrax, because of his alleged cruelty, violence, and anathema towards the senatorial class. His only good attributes were matchless strength and ability to command the legions.



    Nero, whose cruelty and massacres were legendary, along with the accusation that he was responsible for the burning of Rome, during which he famously fiddled.


    Septimius Severus, an opportunist who vowed to revenge the death of Pertinax, cut a phony truce with Clodius Albinus, and then had him killed. Also, he defeated his rival Pescennius Niger in the East and severely punished any city that had supported him, including Byzantium. He famously told his sons upon his death "Enrich the soldiers, ignore all others" which became standard practice for the ephemeral rulers during the "crisis of the third century."



    Constantine the "Great." He had his wife boiled alive, killed his son Crispus, and wreaked havoc within his family. Baptized upon his deathbed, he hoped for forgiveness of his crimes before he could sin again.


    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
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  10. Alegandron

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

    I don't have the best example, but I do enjoy my Genghiz Khan...
    Killed off millions of Asians.

    Great Mongols, Genghis (Chingiz) Khan,
    AH 603-624/ AD 1206-1227,
    AE Jital (4.12gm, 2h),
    Ghazna type, undated, citing Genghis as Khaqan and
    citing on the reverse, the 'Abbasid caliph al-Nasir. O: 'adl / khaqan / al-a'zam("the Just and Supreme Khaqan" or "Just [coin] of the Supreme Khaqan"). R: al-Nasir / li-Din Allah / amir al-mu- / -minin ("al-Nasir li-Din Allah, commander of the faithful").
    SICA-9, 1008; Tye 329; Album 1969
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  11. Alegandron

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

    This guy killed off a lot of my Ancestors... millions according to his commentaries... Celts and Germans.

    We make him a historical hero...

    Julius Caesar and P. Sepullius Macer. Ar Denarius Jan. - March 44 BC, 19 mm. 4.1 gm. Obv: CAESAR – DICT PERPETVO Veiled and wreathed head of Caesar r. Rev: P·SEPVLLIVS – MACER Venus standing l., holding Victory and sceptre resting on star. B. Julia 50 and Sepullia 5. C. 39. Sydenham 1074a. Sear Imperators 107e. Crawford, 480/14
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  12. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    I think it was the German historian Jackob Burkhardt who observed that history is the "record of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind". How much more are we aware of these characters mentioned in this thread than say, an Antoninus Pius or a Nerva? Nothing to see here folks. Move along.
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  13. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Interesting that you mention him. There have been rulers who provoked war and conquest for preemptive defense, or assured access to vitally needed resources and of course, in self defense of the homeland. When Caesar invaded the Gaul of the "long haired ones", what was his predominant motive other than preservation of "dignitas" and aggrandizement of his "auctoritas". How many died that Caesar might be famous?
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  14. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    I think the Parthian king Phraates IV (38-2 BC) qualifies for both actual malevolence and for an evil-looking portrait (at least for certain of his coin types). Look at this face:
    Phraates IV drachm.jpg Phraates IV Laodicea.jpg
    Now, if I mention that he came to the throne by murdering his own father, then killed all 30 of his brothers (and their families) plus various nobles to prevent challenges to his rule, you'd probably say "That sounds about right." He was eventually killed by his wife (the former slave-girl Musa) and his son Phraatakes... but that is a story for another time (https://www.cointalk.com/threads/if...-dont-you-just-marry-her.350979/#post-3911792).
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  15. Alegandron

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

    Agreed. Vercingetorix is the real Hero. He tried to stop the Monster from the South. If you read more, even the Roman Senate was shocked by the number of slain. Caesar even justified his Gallic slaughter through vengeance of the Sack of Rome by the Celts...which was 350 years before his invasion!
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  16. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Sounds familiar.
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  17. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    I'm going to add a mean lady!....
    Didda Rani.... Kashmir 958-1003- Born in 924 to king Simharaja of Lohara. A beautiful woman who even when she was young and could walk was carried everywhere by a female called Valga. The exact reason for this is unclear but records show she was known as Charanhina (footless).
    She became one of the most ruthless rulers of Kashmir. Being clever and manipulative she ruled for more than 40 years, firstly as regent for her son, whom some say she killed (her own son!), and then as sole ruler until her death at the age of 79 in 1003.....She also mercilessly had her 3 grandsons tortured and killed.....This women had one goal and one goal only....To rule and no-one, even her own flesh and blood would stand in her way!
    normal_ddnew (1).jpg

    Diddarani 980-1003 AD
    Copper Kaserah or Punchshi 18mm (5.90gr)
    Obverse- Goddess Ardochsho/Lakshmi seated facing in half lotus position, with Nagari legend 'Sri to left 'didda' to right
    Reverse- Queen standing facing and sacrificing at altar holding trident, with Nagari legend 'Diva' bottom right
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  18. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    I guess there is a rough kind of justice in this life.
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  19. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Here is my favorite of Caracalla, who looks even meaner and nastier than usual in this portrait.

    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.
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  20. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    Great thread!

    I can add
    Pedro IV the Cruel of Aragon
    Charles I of Anjou (Had German Emperor Manfred beheaded) IMG_0690.JPG IMG_0693.JPG 06b5c0b704f413444042fcfd56f1a474.jpg bf1544bbb0ffc08988643b4625ca3887.jpg
  21. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    This coin, the tetra of Antioch was the coin that got me to thinking about this topic.
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