Severina..possibly the 1st and only woman to rule classical Rome in her own name

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by gregarious, Jun 30, 2017.

  1. gregarious

    gregarious E Pluribus Unum

    Old habits die hard. As in my youth, i "collected" women..and it seems I'm doing so again in my old age(only a little differently:rolleyes:). i love them gals:)
    Empress Ulpia Severina joins the sewing circle in my collection today. i did get a little "off trek" there for a minute, but i'm back in black on ancient coins and artifacts. Severina was the wife of Emperor Aurelian,(emp.270-275) who ended the empires "crisis of the 3rd century", who's official titles included Restitutor Orbis and dominus et deus, 1st one to do so on official documents and rightly so.
    After Aurelians death in 275, there is evidence that Upia Severnia was sole ruler because there was not another male emperor installed until Tacitus and her coins appear to have continued to have been minted until that time. She was made Augusta no later than 274 and also held the titles of Pia and mater castrorum et senatus et patriae. For whatever reasons, there's only the mention of an interregnum after Aurelians death in the histories, and no mention of Severnia being sole ruler .Modern historians have had to piece their information on her solely from what we love, coins.

    Antoninianus of Empress Severnia stone walls Lucky Strike Flat Fifties tin Severina ant 010.JPG stone walls Lucky Strike Flat Fifties tin Severina ant 009.JPG
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  3. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    She was surely no Classical beauty judging from her coin portraits, but definitely an interesting personage for having been (possibly) the sole ruler of Rome for a time.

    She's on the reverse of this coin, together with Aurelian.

    aurelian as.jpg
    AE As. 7.1g, 24.5mm. Rome mint, Jan-Sep AD 275. RIC 80; Sear 11646; C 35; New RIC V online temp #1878. O: IMP AVRELIANVS AVG, laureate and cuirassed bust right. R: CONCORDIA AVG, Aurelian and Severina clasping hands, radiate bust of Sol between them; delta in exergue.
  4. gregarious

    gregarious E Pluribus Unum

    hmm... the obverses looks amazingly very similar on both yours and mine...other than the hairdo and crescent
  5. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I wonder why the wives (and children) of emperors were often engraved as the emperor's face with a female hairstyle? Did the engravers not have access to the person or some other engraving or bust? Was it for privacy or modesty? Was it considered a sign of power, to reinforce the woman's connection to the emperor?

    The Flavian dynasty in particular seemed to subscribe to this practice.

    Julia Titi (daughter of Titus, and later consort of his brother Domitian), images from CNG's archives:


    This marble bust portrays her much differently-- certainly more flattering, at least by modern standards. Image from wikipedia

    Domitia, wife of Domitian (coins from CNG's archives):



    Severina is treated the same way, often even shown with what seems to be a mustache! (coins from CNG's archives)

    I have one homely Alexandrian Severina. Its saving grace is that it is from her time of "sole reign" and it has an interested pedigree, having been collected by James Eaton, a professor, in the 1800s.

    EGYPT, Alexandria. Severina tetradrachm, regnal year 7. Dikaiosyne
  6. gregarious

    gregarious E Pluribus Unum

    very good point and questions very fine coins^^
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017
  7. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

  8. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Æ(S) Antoninianus
    O: SEVERINA AVG, Diademed and draped bust right on a crescent.
    R: PROVIDEN DEOR, Fides standing right holding two standards, facing Sol standing left holding globe in left and raising right, UXXT in ex.
    Ticinum mint
    RIC 9

    This coin may have been issued in connection with the introduction of the Sun Cult by Aurelian as the primary religion of the empire and Severina's appointment as its priestess.
    Sulla80, chrsmat71, Finn235 and 12 others like this.
  9. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian Supporter

    Yes, Severina is Aurelian with a wig. The answer to TIF's question, much as we may dislike it, is that they didn't care enough to portray empresses accurately. They certainly could have, it they wanted to, but the Roman Empire was a supremely patriarchal society - the emperor mattered, the empress not so much.
    gregarious and Alegandron like this.
  10. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Here's my Severina. Apologies in advance for the condition, from an uncleaned hoard. Very interesting woman to be sure!


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  11. Alegandron

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

    Cool Severina @gregarious !

    Here is my "Bodacious Babe" portrait of her...
    RI Severina Wife of Aurelian 274-275 CE BI22 Antoninianus 3.14g Rome mint Crescent Concordia RIC 317

    I had read similar articles about Augusta portraits. Amazing how some series of Augusta were more realistic to their looks, vs. other time periods' coinage being "lazy" in portraiture. It is a shame.

    YUP! My Severina is the "TWIN Sister" of her husband in my examples of Aurelian...
    RI Vabalathus 271-272 CE and Aurelian.jpg
    RI Vabalathus 271-272 CE and Aurelian

    RI Aurelian 270-275 CE AE Ant Concordia-Milit.jpg
    RI Aurelian 270-275 CE AE Ant Concordia-Milit

    RI Aurelian 270-275 CE AE Ant receiving Globe from Jupiter.jpg
    RI Aurelian 270-275 CE AE Ant receiving Globe from Jupiter
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  12. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    This denarius dates from 274-5. I don't know why these (and Aurelian's) aren't more popular, as among the last denarii issued. Usually available on the cheap!

    Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 2.09.31 PM.png
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  13. Smojo

    Smojo dreamliner

    Not the best photo but as the OP says the only Empress to rule in her "own rights" was suggested because of this coin (so I read on FORVM anyway) because the coin suggests it was after Aurelius death and the reverse military standards is not a reverse for an empress and also suggests she had a strong relationship with the military.
    Severina-Concordia(military standards)[RIC V4].jpg
    I'm curious now and never really thought about it until TIF mentioned it. I surely would not my wife portrayed in a manly fashion. I would have to question what the public was thinking about.
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  14. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Mabe because engravers were cowards courtiers !

    Sabina/Hadrian is another example of the same

    Sometimes Severina is even wearing a mustache (at least she looks like she is) !!! :D

    Severina, AE Denarius Rome mint, 5 th officina, AD 274-275.
    SEVERINA AVG, draped and diademed bust right.
    VENVS FELIX, Venus standing left, holding seated figure and sceptre. Є at exergue.
    2.46 gr, 19-20 mm
    RIC V 1 # 6, RCV # 11710, C # 14

  15. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Severina's hairstyle and portraiture is very much mint-dependent. Compare, for example, this one from the Serdica mint. The portrait style is quite pleasing from this mint. Her hair is wavy and plaited in the back, similar to her predecessors, Otacilia Severa, Herennia Etruscilla, and Cornelia Salonina.

    Severina Serdica CONCORDIA AVGG antoninianus.jpg
    Severina, AD 270-275
    Roman billon antoninianus; 4.01 g, 24.2 mm
    Serdica, issue 8, AD 274-275
    Obv: SEVERINA AVG, diademed and draped bust right on crescent
    Rev: CONCORDIA AVGG, emperor and empress clasping hands, * in field between them; KA Δ in exergue
    Refs: RIC 16; MER/RIC temp no 2827; RCV 11703; Cohen 2
  16. gregarious

    gregarious E Pluribus Unum

    the difference of the do on the bust of the Op coin is what i found interesting about it, but yeah, most of the coins show like do's on the gals.
  17. jorglueke

    jorglueke Member

    I think Zenobia had her own style, it certainly wasn't Vaballathus or Aurelian [​IMG]
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  18. jorglueke

    jorglueke Member

    If she did it was only for a few weeks, and it was probably with consent of the Senate while they deliberated before choosing Tacitus. And there's no evidence she had or used any Imperial power. If she was truly Empress why would she abdicate for Tacitus?
    Joseph_8314 likes this.
  19. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    Severina. Augusta, 270-275 AD. Antoninianus (22mm). Ticinium mint, 2nd officina. 5th emission of Aurelian, September-November 275 AD. Obv: Diad. and draped bust right, set on crescent. Rev: Fides standing left, holding signum set on ground in each hand; SXXT. RIC V 8; BN 662.
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  20. jorglueke

    jorglueke Member

    To me the bigger mystery is why was Aurelian assassinated with no plan for a successor? There was enough of a conspiracy to pass a damnatio memorium. Then when Tacitus arrived he lifted it and deified Aurelian. Could it all have been a big act to assuage the population? Could Severina have been involved?
  21. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Reviving this thread of Severina with a handsome portrait of the empress. This celator was also fairly heavy handed on the mustache.
    Severina Concordia.jpg
    Ulpia Severina, Æ Antoninianus, Rome, AD 275 (the year Aurelian was murdered)
    Obv: SEVERINA AVG, diademed and draped bust right, on crescent
    Rev: CONCORDIAE MILITVM, Concordia standing left with a standard in each hand; Z in right field; XXIR in exergue
    Size: 22mm, 4.59g
    Ref: RCV 11705
    Here's an interesting article in the Celator Mar 2006 on the question of her interregnum rule. This coin shows "Severina (or possibly the goddess Concordia) standing facing with two military standards. The reverse motif underlining the harmony with the military is most remarkable for a women and not known on coinage for any other empress."

    David Sear writes in RCV: The numismatic evidence makes it quite clear that issues in her name continued for some time after Aurelian's death, though the precise length of this "interregnum" period is much disputed by scholars...t now seems likely that the new emperor's proclamation took place less than two months after his predecessor's murder"
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