Featured The ballad of Pescennius and the rise of the Severan dynasty

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Ryro, Aug 11, 2020.

  1. Ryro

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

    Gaius Pescennius Niger Justus (Justus=The Just, was given to him on his claiming of the purple) was late. To many it appeared that he was THE guy to rule Rome...but he took his time.


    After Commodus (if Commodus isn't the reason we call the toilet the "commode" then it should be), the delusional scoundrel was to be murdered in his bath by one of his own strong men at the instigation of his inner circle including his own wife, death, things were good in Rome again.

    177-192 AD AE As 24-25 mm, 10.34 g, Rome, 192 AD.
    Obv. L AEL AVREL COMM AVG P FEL, Head to right, wearing lion skin headdress.
    Rev. HERCVL / ROMAN / AVGV / S C, Legend divided by club within laurel wreath.
    RIC III 644; C. 193; BMC 722.
    An interesting type. Fine to very fine. From: Auctiones GmbH

    Pertinax ascension to the throne was a given. With the old general garnering more respect and auctoritas then anyone in the mightiest empire the world would ever know.

    Denarius. IMP CAES P HELV PERTIN AVG, laureate head right / VOT DECEN TR P COS II, emperor sacrificing left, with patera held over tripod altar. RSC 56 RIC 13a, RSC 56, BMC 24
    From: numisland

    But just as Pescennius was late (don't worry we are getting there), Pertinax was cheap. That cheapness would result in the praetorian guard killing their ruler and selling the throne off to the highest bidder!
    When Pertinax's father in-law was outbid, by possibly the richest man in Rome at that time (a weasel by the name of Didius Julianus), something had to be done!
    The people of Rome called for a hero.

    (No. That hero would come along a couple millenia later.)

    The people of the East already knew who this was, as did the urban population of Rome. Pescennius sent news to Rome that their hero was on the way to save the day! One problem though. His messenger was intercepted by none other than Septimius Severus (insert face palm emoji right here, folks).


    Sadly, we don't know a ton about Pescennius Niger. We think he was born sometime between 135-140 CE. He was the first in a family of equestrians that stretched waaay back into Roman history to become a Senator. He commanded forces in Gaul to crush rebel uprisings and did so well that he was made a consul. From more success there he was made legate of Syria. He WAS ONE TOUGH HOMBRE, PERIOD (oh, wait, there the button is).

    As mentioned, when Julianus took over Pescennius nor Severus were going to let this rich boy who'd never led himself into a discount market led alone never leading an army into battle, rule over Rome! They were on a collision course...of course:nailbiting:
    However, whilst Pescennius was building his support in the east Ole Septy was already on his way to take Rome.
    Hindsight is 20/20, and even if Pescennius had charged straight to Rome like Alexander atop Bucephalus he may have still fallen faster than a 1 legged dancer at a gentleman's club on spray gun night:kiss::eek: As it was, Septimius Severus had more forces and now had Rome.


    Septimius Severus
    (193-211 AD). AR Denarius (19 mm, 3.20 g), Roma, 200 AD.
    Obv. SEVERVS AVG PART MAX, laureate head right.
    Rev. PM TR P VIII COS II PP, Victory advancing left, holding open wreath over shield set on low base.
    RIC 150. Nice portrait. Good very fine. Former: Auctiones GmbH

    Severus next move was bold. He set out from Rome eastward straight to his enemy.
    Septy was a very experienced general but also had some tact. He offered Pescennius a chance to leave and live. Go into exile and hand over your claim. Pescennius didn't bite.
    Severus put Byzantium, where Pescennius was holding up, under siege. The siege would lead to Pescennius retreating further and further back until in 194 CE, at the Battle of Issus, Pescennius would lose and after a quick retreat further east would lose his life.
    And so ends the tale of one of my favorite woulda beans during the year of the five emperors.

    During this time there was also a man named Clodius Albinus...

    So proud to say I have a coin of this rare emperor. I'd been searching for a few years, as I do love his story, and now I've one to share:

    PESCENNIUS NIGER (A.D. 193-194)
    Denarius, Ag, A.D. 193-194, Antioch mint
    Antioch mint, 2,57 gr, 18 mm
    Av: [IMP] CAES C PESC - NIGER IVSTI A[V], laureate head of Niger right.
    Rv: INVICTO IMPERAT, trophy and arms.
    RIC 34b; C -
    Ex: Savoca

    Please share your coins of PESCENNIUS (and yes, I may just be talking to @dougsmit unless some of my CT buddies has a surprise up their sleeves), anybody mentioned above, your favorite wouldabeens or anything you feel.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
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  3. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    I've got none to share but wanted to say that you did another great write up and have some pretty awesome coins :)
    Ryro likes this.
  4. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    Pescennius Niger. AR Denarius (18mm; 3.00 gm; 12h). Antioch, 193-194 AD. Obv: IMP CΛES C PESC NIGER IVST ΛVG, laureate head right. Rev: I VSTITI Λ ΛVG, Justitia standing left, holding scales and cornucopia. RIC IV 45c
    galba68, GeorgeM, DonnaML and 12 others like this.
  5. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    Pertinax. 193 AD. AR Denarius (18mm; 3.38 gm; 6h). Rome mint. Obv: Laureate head right. Rev: Pertinax standing left, holding roll and sacrificing out of patera over tripod to left. RIC IV 13a; RSC 56
    Finn235, Alegandron, DonnaML and 11 others like this.
  6. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Epic thread and nice catch! I'd love to have a Pescennius Niger someday.
    galba68 and Ryro like this.
  7. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I showed my best one over on some Victory thread yesterday and my worst but most rare one too many times. PeteB showed one like my IVSTITIA but nicer (but I call that style Caesarea instead of Antioch). That leaves the Minerva which is from the earlier period before they added COS II to the obverse legend. I wish funds allowed me to give PN the attention I give to the coins of Septimius Severus struck during their 'disagreement' over who was going to save Rome. Had PN won, we would have been spared Caracalla and Elagabalus. Sorry, Rome, you lost.
    Septimius was known to 'borrow' types previously used by Pescennius. The coin below is equally rare with the one above but much cheaper.
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  8. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

    Awesome write-up!

    This totally reminds me of (including catchy song of course):

    No coins of PN himself, or DJ for that matter. Pertinax and CA I do have:
    (Dougsmit once noted that this coin probably was struck in an Eastern mint, not Rome. I have to update the description!)

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  9. maridvnvm

    maridvnvm Well-Known Member

    Nice pick up @Ryro . Note that the reverse legend is INVISTO IMPERATOR and not INVICTO IMPERAT.

    This can be confirmed by what appears to be a double die match. In which case your obverse legend is a little different too.

  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    It may be stretching the matter but not too far: It is almost unusual to find two coins of Pescennius Niger that are exactly the same in spelling or where they stopped because they ran out of room unless those two coins are die duplicates. That mint was simply not good at planning ahead and using a dictionary. There are thousands of coins of PN that are very rare (lets say 1-10 examples) but rather few that are known in any great quantity. One explanation for this has been suggested that Septimius Severus looked unfavorably on people who had any quantity of PN coins so many were destroyed. The great Reka Devnia hoard had none. This could mean all were stolen before the hoard was published but it also could mean that they simply did not circulate. I have not seen the specialized works on PN but wonder if that question is addressed.
    My oddball BONI EVINTVS is below. How many have you seen?
  11. Alegandron

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

    Nice, @Ryro , awesome snare!

    Nary a one myself, but here are some other players.


    Clodius Albinus 193-197 CE
    AR Denarius
    ROMAE AETERNAE Roma seated


    RI Didius Julianus 193 CE - 9 weeks - AE Sestertius
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  12. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..being able to find & purchase ANY coins of PN, Didius or Pertinax..is a great feat in my book...:)
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  13. Alegandron

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


    Roman Empire -
    Pertinax (193 A.D.)
    AE sestertius. Rome mint, 19,60 grs. 28 mm
    IMP (CAES P HELV - PERTINAX AVG) Head, laureate, to right..
    Rev: LAETITIA TE -MPORVM COS II / S - C Laetitia standing l. holding wreath and sceptre.
    Ref: RIC 17. C. 21.
    galba68, Johndakerftw, PeteB and 3 others like this.
  14. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Nice coins all!

    I finally added my first Pescennius Niger earlier this year, a nice BONI EVENTVS type
    Pescennius Niger denarius boni eventvs.jpg

    Then I spotted this one and put in a "Wouldn't it be silly if I actually won it" bid - and won it
    FORTVNAE REDVCI. Much rougher, but a better style portrait
    Pescennius Niger denarius fortvnae redvci.jpg

    And just for fun, here's the whole 193 AD lineup, minus Pertinax's family
    Year of five emperors denarius set.jpg
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