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Joyful Arrival of the Emperor

The Emperor Commodus was murdered on December 31, 192, and the Empire faced another period of a civil war. His murderers put foward Pertinax, governor of Syria, as emperor. The Praetorian guard murdered Pertinax and Didius Julianus bought the throne. Didius Julianus was quickly dispatched by Septimius Severus, who then faced Pescennius Niger as rival for emperor.


After defeating Pescennius Niger, there remained only Clodius Albinus as a threat to Septimius Severus' sole reign as emperor. Here's a coin of Clodius Albinus from the time when he was Caesar to Septimius Severus:

Clodius Albinus, as Caesar, 193-195, AR Denarius (18mm, 3.6g), struck under Septimius Severus, Rome, 194-195

Obv: D CLOD SEPT ALBIN CAES, head of Clodius Albinus to right

Rev: MINER PACIF COS II, Minerva standing facing, head left, holding olive branch shield and spear Ref: Cohen 48; BMC 96ff; RIC 7


The date in which Septimius finally defeated Albinus was thought to be Feb 19, 197, and this was corrected not long ago by Curtis Clay in discussions with David Sear as the latter was working on an update in 2012 to his book Roman Coins and their Values.

Head of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211 CE) of the Serapis type. Greek marble (head) and green alabaster (bust, does not belong), probably posthumous. Capitoline Museum, Palazzo Nuovo, first floor, Hall of the Emperors. Image, via Wikimedia Commons, is used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


This coin is one of the first issued in Rome for Septimius Severus, in 193 AD, with a portrait that looks like a combination of Pertinax, Septimius and even a hint of Albinus. It is not unusual for early issues to resemble predecessors.

Septimius Severus (193-211) AR denarius, AD 193 (1st issue). Rome, 3.18g, 18mm.

Obv: IMP CAE L SEP SEV PERT AVG, laureate head of Septimius Severus right

Rev: VICT AVG TR P COS, Victory advancing left, holding wreath and palm

Ref: RIC 22; BMC 30; RSC 682


The inscription on this coin type, "ADVENTVI AVG FELICISSIMO", celebrates the joyful return of the emperor, Septimius Severus, to Rome as IMP VIII in AD 196. This coin provides evidence in Curtis Clay's argument that Albinus was defeated by Septimius severus on 19 Feb. 196 rather an earlier chronology that concluded that the date for this defeats was IMP VIIII, 19 Feb. 197.

"Albinus was defeated on the eleventh day before the Kalends of March."
- Historia Augusta, The Life of Septimius Severus, 10.6 

The earlier chronology came from the understanding of "space of three years" for the siege of Byzantium from Dio :

"Many, now, were the exploits and the experiences of the Byzantines, since for the entire space of three years they were besieged by the armaments of practically the whole world. I shall relate a few of the incidents that were in any way marvellous."
- Dio, Roman History, 74.12 

and that Severus was still in Mesopotamia when Byzantium fell:

Severus was so pleased at the capture of Byzantium that he blurted out the fact to his soldiers in Mesopotamia, where he was at the time: "We have taken Byzantium, too." He deprived the city of it independence and of its proud position as a state, and made it tributary, confiscating the property of the citizens. He granted the city and its territory to the Perinthians, and they, treating it like a village, visited every kind of insult upon it.
- Dio, Roman History, 74.13 

The siege of Byzantium starting in the summer of 193, so if it ended 3 years later that would have been summer of 196 and with Severus in Mesopotamia, he could not been in Gaul (Lugdunum) to defeat Albinus until Feb 197.


This coin was minted in Rome in AD 196 which could only be explained under the chronology above, if Severus dropped by Rome on his way to Gaul. But Herodian tells us that Severus headed straight for Gaul, and toward the fight with Albinus in Gaul:

"The emperor himself set out on the march, scorning heat and cold alike, and gave the army no respite for holidays or rest. Often when he was journeying through very high and very cold mountains, the emperor strode along bareheaded through rain and snow, setting an example of courage and constancy for his soldiers, who endured hardships not only from fear and from training but also in imitation of their emperor. Severus sent a general ahead with a unit of soldiers to seize the passes of the Alps and guard the approaches to Italy."
- Herodian, History of the Roman Empire, VI.8 

It seems unlikely that he would have returned to Rome on the way for a "joyful return".

There are no coins attesting a "return" of the emperor as IMP VIIII (AD 197).

Septimius Severus, 193-211, AR denarius (19 mm, 3.52g, 6h), Rome, AD 196.

Obv: L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP VIII Laureate head of Septimius Severus to right.

Rev: ADVENTVI AVG FELICISSIMO Septimius Severus on horseback to right, raising his right hand in salute.

Ref: BMC 151. Cohen 6. RIC 74.


Both of these next two coins were issued as (VIII) and (VIIII) and on both of these coins the right hand legend is off-flan on the obverse so without a die match I don't have a definite date for this coin. The revised chronology from Clay places all of these coins in the spring of 197. The MVNIFICENTIA and PROFECTIO types relate to one games and one departure, which took place about the same time as the new imperatorial acclamation, IMP VIIII, reached Rome.

Septimius Severus; 193-211 AD, Rome, 197 AD, Denarius, 2.88g. BM-224, C-349 (3 Fr.), RIC 82 or RIC 100.

Obv: L SEPT SEV PERT - [AVG IMP VIIII or VIII] Head laureate right

Rev: MVNIFICENTIA AVG Elephant walking right


For the opposite of "ADVENTVS AVG"- here's a "PROFECTIO AVG" announcing departure of Septimius Severus in 197 for his campaign against the Parthians.

Roman Imperial Coins, Septimius Severus (AD 193-211), AR denarius (3.21g, 17mm)

Obv: L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP VIIII, laureate head right.

Rev: PROFECTIO AVG, Septimius Severus on horseback walking right, holding spear.

Ref: RIC 494 (Laodicea mint - how it was listed in auction) or RIC 106 (I think this coin is Rome mint)


The revised chronology, from Curtis Clay, recognizes that "the entire space of three years" can mean "a full 2 years and into a third" as it is used by ancient writers. This resolves a conflict with the coins, and Herodian. For additional evidence and a more thorough overview of the chronology see C. Clay's notes on Forum Ancient Coins.


The dating of the second and earlier of these two coins with Caracalla as Caesar is also in conflict with the earlier 197 AD timeline. It would be hard to explain the legend and timing of Caracalla's elevation to Caesar.

"As for Albinus, Severus at once declared him a public foe, and likewise those who, in their letters to him or replies to his letters, had expressed themselves as favorably inclined to him. As he was advancing against Albinus, moreover, and had reached Viminacium​ on his march, he gave his elder son Bassianus the name Aurelius Antoninus​ and the title of Caesar,​ in order to destroy whatever hopes of succeeding to the throne his brother Geta had conceived."
- Historia Augusta, The Life of Septimius Severus, 10.1 

Caracalla as Caesar, AD 196-198, AR denarius, Rome mint, struck AD 196-198

Obv: M AVR ANTON-CAES PONTIF, bare headed, draped bust of Caracalla right, seen from behind

Rev: [DESTINATO IMPERAT], priestly implements: lituus, apex, bucranium, simpulum

Ref: RIC IV 6


Caracalla as Caesar, AD 196-198, AR denarius, Rome mint, struck AD 196

Obv: M AVR ANTONINVS CAES, bareheaded, draped, and cuirassed bust right

Rev: SEVERI AVG PII FIL, Priestly implements: lituus, cultellus, capis, simpulum, and aspergillum

Ref: RIC IV 4


Septimius Severus' return was perhaps not so "joyful", as he took vengeance on senators and others who supported his rivals:

"Countless persons who had sided with Albinus were put to death,​ among them numerous leading men and many distinguished women, and all their goods were confiscated and went to swell the public treasury. Many nobles of the Gauls and Spains were also put to death at this time. Finally, he gave his soldiers sums of money such as no emperor had ever given before. As a result of these confiscations, he left his sons a fortune greater than any other emperor had left to his heirs, for he had made a large part of the gold in the Gauls, Spains, and Italy imperial property."
- Historia Augusta, Life of Septimius Severus, 12.1 

Herodian tells a similar story:

Severus went into the senate house and, mounting the imperial throne, launched a bitter attack upon the friends of (Clodius) Albinus, producing secret letters of theirs which he had found among the man's private correspondence. He blamed some for the extravagant gifts they had sent to Albinus, and brought other charges against the rest, complaining about the friendship of the men of the East for (Pescennius) Niger and the support of the men of the West for Albinus. Then, without warning, he put to death all the eminent senators of that day, together with those men in the provinces who were noted for ancestry or wealth, pretending that he was avenging himself upon his enemies, when the truth was that he was driven by an insatiable lust for money; no other emperor was ever so greedy for gold."
-Herodian, History of the Roman Empire, VIII.6

There are two other ADVENTUS types celebrating the return of the emperor to Rome. This one from ~202 AD celebrates Septimius Severus' return to Rome after war with the Parthians that ultimately resulting in the annexation of Mesopotamia for the Empire.

Roman Imperial, Septimius Severus, 193-211, AR denarius, Rome, minted AD 201-202

Obv: SEVERVS PIVS AVG, laureate head of Septimius Severus to right.

Rev: ADVENT AVGG Emperor riding on horse prancing to left, raising his right hand in salute and holding spear in his left; in front, soldier moving left, his head turned back to right, holding horse's reins with his right hand and a vexillum in his left

Ref: BMC 304. Cohen 1. RIC 248.

An ADVENTVS AVGVSTI type was minted at the beginning of the year for Septimius and both his sons. These coins anticipated his return from Britain, but Septimius Severus died before he made it back to Rome (February 4, 211).


References:

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