Very rare Sestertius of Aquilia Severa

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Julius Germanicus, Nov 27, 2020.

  1. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    Just when I thought there would be hardly a chance to add new rulers to my Sestertius collection, I managed to acquire a great rarity: seemingly the only Sestertius of Aquilia Severa sold at auction in the past year!


    IVLIA AQVILIA SEVERA AVG – diademed and draped bust right
    CONCORDIA AVG – Concordia standing left, sacrificing over lighted altar and holding double cornucopiae, star in right field
    Sestertius, Rome mint, early 221 A.D.
    18.92 g / 30,0 mm / 12 h
    RIC IV 390 (Elagabalus), pl. VII.3 (same reverse die); Cohen 4 (same dies); BMCRE 433, plate 96.8 (same obverse die), Banti 4 (same obverse die), Sear RCV II, 7681 (same dies), Hunter 3, plate 41 (same dies), museum specimens from the same pair of dies also in Berlin und Oxford, and from the same obverse die in Firenze und Cambridge
    ex Roma Numismatics E-Sale 76, lot 1088, ex Zeno Pop collection


    Shortly after his repudiation of Julia Paula, Elagabalus, who at this point in his reign was shedding the influence of his grandmother Julia Maesa, in December 220 or more probably January 221 AD conceived the outrageous notion of marrying one of the Vestal Virgins, a representative of the most sacred religious order in Rome.

    IMG_20200711_193642.jpeg My self-designed Lego Vesta Temple

    Aquilia Severa, who received the name Julia upon her adoption into the royal family, was probably not much older than the teenage emperor. The Vestals were not only forbidden to marry, but under a solemn 30-year vow of chastity.

    Bildschirmfoto 2020-11-27 um 19.51.03.png
    "Heliogabalus takes the Vestal Virgin Aquilia Severa from the Temple of Vesta”. Drawing by Bartolomeo Pinelli 1829

    The marriage caused outrage and disgust amongst all levels of Roman society. Public opposition to the sacrilegious union became so vocal that Julia Maesa, the true architect of the Severan restoration, became alarmed and decided that desperate measures needed to be taken. Elagabalus was forced to repudiate his second wife in June 221, to adopt his moderate cousin Bassianus as Caesar Severus Alexander, and to marry the older and more acceptable Annia Faustina, a descendant of Marcus Aurelius and middle-aged mother of two, in the following month.

    The parallel marriage of the two gods was also repudiated, for Vesta became to be considered an unsuitable companion for the god Heliogabal. In a new celestial marriage the Emesan sun god was now paired with Venus Caelestis, as promoted on this Sestertius struck for Elagabalus´ mother Julia Soaemias:

    Bildschirmfoto 2020-11-27 um 20.32.50.png

    IVLIA SOAEMIAS AVG - diademed and draped bust of Julia Soaemias right
    VENVS CAELESTIS S C - Venus seated left, holding apple in extended right hand and resting on sceptre held in left, child standing right at her feet.
    Sestertius, Rome mint, 220 A.D
    17,78 gr / 30,2 mm
    RIC 406; BMCRE 378; Cohen 18; Banti 5, Sear 7725
    ex Peus E-Auction 8 (19.01.2019), lot 314

    The emperor´s marriage to Annia Faustina however was of even shorter duration, and Elagabalus left his third wife in December 221 and in the final months of his reign the deranged young autocrat helped seal his own fate by returning to Aquilia Severa.
    By this time he did not care for a celestial component any more.

    It would seem that in Aquilia Severa Elagabalus had found the one woman for whom he felt a genuine affection. The couple married for a second time and remained together until the emperor was murdered on March 11, 222.
    As the fate of Aquilia Severa was not recorded, it would seem that she escaped the gruesome end of her husband and her mother-in law.

    Coinage in the name of Aquilia Severa is considerably scarcer than that of Julia Paula.
    Sestertii in her name were struck with two obverse dies only, so few Romans will have had a chance to ever hold one in their hands even then.
    According to Curtis Clay´s die study 11 obverse dies were used for striking the Sestertii of Julia Paula, which would make sense regarding the lavish games held to celebrate the emperor´s first marriage and a corresponding widespread distribution of the image of the new Augusta to the general public.

    Elagabalus´ second wedding took place with much less pomp and obviously fewer donatives in the shape of these rare large bronzes.
    In my own die study I found a total of 6 Sestertius reverse dies for Aquilia Severa of which one showing the star on the left side of Concordia seems to be the earliest version, as this is where it is featured on 85% of Julia Paula´s Sestertii while it is placed right on 85 % of Aquilia Severa´s specimens.

    Please show your coins of any of Elagabalus´ wives! Anyone got a Sestertius?
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    That's a great addition, congrats.
    Julius Germanicus likes this.
  4. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    I have a copy of the "Sammlung Apostolo Zeno, [part] I, Römische Kaisermünzen" catalog of Dorotheum Wien, 6-10 June 1955 and here is the listing for coins of Aquileia Severa:


    Unfortunately, the coins in lot 1655 are not pictured.
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Wow! All I have is a denarius:

    Aquilia Severa denarius.jpg
    Julia Aquilia Severa, AD 220-222.
    Roman AR denarius; 3.18 gm, 19 mm, 6 h.
    Rome, AD 220-222.
    Obv: IVLIA AQVILIA SEVERA AVG, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: CONCORDIA, Concordia standing left, sacrificing with patera over altar and holding double cornucopiae; star in left field.
    Refs: RIC 225; BMCRE 336; Cohen 2; Thirion 476; RCV --; CRE 458.
  6. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    A wonderful coin and quite a tale.

    The 3rd century AD emperors certainly provided much useful material for historians and fiction writers over the ages.
    Julius Germanicus likes this.
  7. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    That is interesting! However the previous owner of my coin was not the Venetian poet, but an Austrian collector and dealer also named Zeno by pure coincidence.

    I would nevertheless like to see a picture of Apostolo Zenos Sestertius, as I have prepared a die study taking into account all published specimens (and some unpublished) with pictures available but do not seem to have that one registered yet.
    According to the Dorotheum catalogue the listed coin is "badly preserved", i.e. below fine, so in all probability it is not mine.

    On the other hand I have not found any older references for my coin yet so I´d be glad if someone here can offer any help!
  8. Alegandron

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

    Super Sestertius, @Julius Germanicus !

    RI Julia Aquilia Severa 220-222 CE AE 4th Wife Elagabalus
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2020
  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Great pick up @Julius Germanicus - a fine addition (and very rare) to your collection.
    Julius Germanicus likes this.
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