My favorite Roman portrait - Caracalla

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Finn235, Sep 14, 2018.

  1. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    One of my favorite things about Roman coins is the portraiture, which in the best of cases can be the next best thing to looting a marble bust from a museum. There are a lot of Roman portraits that I like, but this one of Caracalla takes the cake in my eyes.


    Caracalla, 211 - 217
    AR Denarius
    ANTONINVS PIVS AVG GERM, Laureate head right
    LIBERAL - AVG - VIIII, Liberalitas standing, holding cornucopiae and coin-counter

    Roman emperors were ambitious men. Some were benevolent, others tyrants. Whatever your leaning on this young man, it is hard to argue that Caracalla was anything less than personified malice at times: He murdered his own brother in front of their mother, and had Alexandrian citizens slaughtered en masse for what he perceived as compassion for the late Geta. He ordered the deaths of thousands, including the last living children of Marcus Aurelius.

    Self-styled after his idealized perception of Alexander the Great, he is said to have favored a near-permanent military scowl to assert his dominance over the legions under his command. This is well documented in most of his surviving busts, but is hit-and-miss on his coinage. Here, however, I feel the celator hit the nail on the head: Intense, focused gaze, wrinkled forehead, scrunched nose, drawn back upper lip--they all say "Away from me, scum!"

    Another picture in different lighting:


    Since this coin was minted to commemorate his 9th Liberalitas, I like to entertain the (baseless) conjecture that this obverse die may have been made by the best celator on hand to create a set of presentation pieces for the Emperor and his entourage. Or maybe the Senate to keep them in line!

    Feel free to share any coins you feel are relevant!
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Caracalla 198-217 A.D
    AR Tetradrachm
    Laodicea ad Mare, Seleucis and Pieria
    O: AYT K M A ANTΩNEINOC CEB, laureate head right.
    R: ∆HMAPX EΞ YΠATOC TO ∆, facing eagle, head left holding wreath in beak, star between legs.
    Prieur 1179

    Caracalla (198 - 217 A.D.)
    AR Denarius
    O: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG, Laureate head right.
    R: VOTA SVSCEPTA X, Caracalla standing left, sacrificing over altar.
    RIC IV 179, Cohen 689, BMCRE V 524

    Caracalla (198 - 217 A.D.)
    AR Antoninianus
    O: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG GERM, , radiate and cuirassed bust right.
    R: P M TR P XVIII COS IIII P P, Pluto seated left, extending right hand, holding vertical scepter in left; at his feet to left, Cerberus seated left, turning his three heads right.
    RIC IV 261c; RSC III 299a; BMCRE V 124
  4. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper Supporter

    I used to have a mean Caracalla portrait, but then I became a Caracalla appologist, so I sold it and got this sweet and innocent Caracala portrait instead.

    Caracalla Denarius 201AD As Sol Rector Orbis.jpg

    He was a sweet prince. Sure, he did probably mass-murder some people in Britania, and then carried out another mass-killing in Alexandria when the town's people made a joke at his expense, and was a bit of a paranoid schizophrenic, but did you see the killer baths he built in Rome? That there gives him a free pass for one or two accidental instances of mass-murder, right? :rolleyes:

    Last edited: Sep 14, 2018
    dlhill132, Ajax, zumbly and 15 others like this.
  5. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    Still can't take an ideal picture of this cool coin. Ex Warren Esty. Pretty imposing portrait.

    So here's one for the revisionist historians: If Caracalla didn't wack Geta, would Geta have eventually tried to wack Caracalla? Is the "Evil Caracalla and victimized Geta" simply a matter of timing, or is there good evidence that Caracalla was indeed substantially crueler than his brother? I don't know what the primary sources say.
  6. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    I agree Finn235, the portraiture of some of these Roman coins is absolutely fantastic and yours is no exception.
    Gary R. Wilson and TIF like this.
  7. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    I have no doubt that Geta was probably just as bad as his big brother! From what I read, the attempted murder spree from February - December 211 was a two way street. If anything, I've always been more of an Elagabalus apologist myself - He was eccentric, odd, and offensive, but he was also just a kid!
    R*L, Orfew, Gavin Richardson and 3 others like this.
  8. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    My best scowl-ey Caracalla:
    Imperial Rome
    Caracalla, r. 198-217 (215 A.D.)
    Rome Mint, AR Denarius, 19.52 mm x 3.43 grams
    Obv.: ANTONINVS PIVS AVG GERM, Laureate Head right
    Rev.: P M TR P XVIII COS IIII P P, Pax standing left, branch in right hand, long scepter vertical behind in left
    Ref.: RIC IV-1 Caracalla 268 p. 251
  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Cogito Ergo Sum

    Here's an antoninianus of Caracalla...similar furrowed brow, reverse Jove.

  10. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Cogito Ergo Sum

    And here's a bust from the Getty Museum...


    And by the way he was one of the worst emperor's - and was assassinated by a cavalry troop in Syria at the roadside as he went to relieve himself. Good riddance.
  11. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody...

    Bust of Caracalla on the Lugdunum museum.

  12. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper Supporter

    I object to that statement. He was not one of the worst emperors. If Caracalla heard you say that, I'm sure he'd invite you to soak with him and a few of his praetorian guards in the caldarium of his bathhouse, and have some wine and bread.

    Baths of Caracalla.jpg

    Unfortunately you might have suffered heatstroke or drowned in 4 feet of water, or choked on the bread, or gotten a little accidental food poisoning, or suffered some unfortunate and totally unforseen accident, but I'm sure the great emperor would have done everything possible to save least that's what my history book would say (Hey, Caracalla pays well, so I'll spin the story any which way he wants).:p:rolleyes:

    Caracalla Serapis.jpg

    Here is the coin I sold. See, not a huge frowny face, so the guy was good! Anyway, I bet you Augustus killed far more people with his proscriptions, but you don't hear anyone complaining.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2018
  13. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Cogito Ergo Sum

    Hahaha!!! Touche @Sallent
  14. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Great examples, everyone. I'd really like a "frowny" Caracalla, but my bottom-feeding has only gotten my youthful portraits. Here is a recent denarius with a chip I got cheap:

    Caracalla - Den Trophy & Parthians Aug 2018 (3).JPG

    Caracalla Denarius
    (202 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    ANTONINVS PIVS AVG, laureate and draped bust right / PART MAX PON TRP V COS two Parthians bound & seated back to back at base of trophy.
    RIC 65; RSC 179a.
    (2.57 grams / 18 mm)
  15. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    @Finn235 that certainly is the epitome of his trademark scowl.

    I'm generally not attuned to seeking out fine portraits but certainly enjoy it when a reverse type I like also has a good portrait.

    This is probably the only coin I bought primarily for the portrait, or at least in equal part to the lovely reverse. Lucilla looks like a porcelain doll on this coin :) (literally, although the other way around; see the second image :D).

    Empress CE 163-169, wife of Lucius Verus
    AR denarius, 19 mm, 3.25 gm
    Obv: LVCILLA AVGVSTA; draped bust right
    Rev: PVDICITIA; Pudicitia, veiled, standing left, with right hand preparing to draw a veil across her face (or had she just drawn the veil off her face?), left hand at side
    Ref: RIC III 780
    Another of my favorite portraits is on this Alexandrian bronze of Domitian. I bought it for so many reasons. The great portrait was icing on the cake :).

    EGYPT, Alexandria. Domitian. Regnal year 10, CE 90/91. Æ diobol (25mm, 10.86 g, 12h). AVT KAICAP ΔΟ ΜΙΤ CEB ΓΕΡΜ, laureate head right / Agathodaemon serpent, wearing the skhent crown (emblematic of upper and lower Egypt), on horseback galloping left; L I (date) below. Köln –; Dattari (Savio) –; K&G 24.109; RPC II 2585; SNG Copenhagen 214; Emmett 277.10 (R5).
    Ex Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection
    Ex West Coast/Lloyd Beauchaine Collection (Classical Numismatic Group 41, 19 March 1997), lot 1110
    Ex Classical Numismatic Review Vol. XVI, No. 1 (January 1991), lot 31
    Ex Numismatic Fine Arts Fall Mail Bid Sale (18 October 1990), lot 2365

    Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 39 (this coin)
    Obverse illustrated in Emmett as the header for the Domitian section, p. 24 (this coin)
    Fully illustrated in Emmett, p. 26 (this coin, discussing the unusual reverse).
  16. Gary R. Wilson

    Gary R. Wilson Well-Known Member

    Yeah, a very depraved, sexually sick individual who would give Caligula a run for the money in depravity. But kids will be kids. :)
  17. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    One of the few coins I have purchased for portrait only. AA_Ant_Pius.jpg
    Antoninus Pius Sestertius, Apollini holding patera and Lyre.
  18. Gary R. Wilson

    Gary R. Wilson Well-Known Member

    I received this coin recently. I also like Caracalla's menacing look. I wonder if he practiced making faces in a mirror like Caligula did?

  19. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    I can get very smitten with a Roman coin portrait (not to make it weird - sorry). A while back I got this "unidentified" LRB that turned out to the Constantine Chlorus as Augustus, which are a bit scarce. It's not just the portrait - I really fancied those green deposits all over it.

    Constantine Chlorus as Aug Aug 2018 (3).JPG

    Constantius I Chlorus as Aug.
    (struck by Maximinus Daia)
    Æ Post-reform radiate
    (305-306 A.D.) Alexandria

    IMP C CONSTANTIVS P F AVG, Radiate, draped, cuir. bust rt. / CONCORDIA MILITVM, Constantius r. receiving Victory from Jupiter l., Δ /ALE.
    RIC VI Alexandria 59a.
    (3.68 grams / 20 mm)
  20. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Wonderful coins of Caracalla all.

    I do not have any coins of Caracalla. I do have a great portrait of Domitian with that distinctive nose. This is an early issue, probably minted in the first few weeks of his rule. The celators gave him a nose job on subsequent coins.

    DOM new.jpg
  21. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

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