(113) Septimius Severus - AV aureus, A.D. 196, 7.12 g. (inv. 91.200).
Obverse: Draped bust of Julia Domna r.; IVLIA AVGVSTA: Julia Augusta.
Reverse: Diana Lucifera standing l., holding torch; DIANA LVCIFERA: Diana Lucifera.
Provenance: Bank Leu, 1972.
Bibliography: H. Mattingly and E.A. Sydenham, The Roman Imperial Coinage IV.1: Pertinax to Geta (London 1936) 548.
Julia Domna, the daughter of the high priest of the Sun at Emesa in Syria, married Septimius Severus in about A.D. 185, while he was a governor in Gaul. Severus, a notoriously superstitious man, chose her on the basis of her horoscope, which predicted that she would marry a king. Julia Domna had two sons, Antoninus (Caracalla) and Geta, who would eventually attain the rank of Augustus, and two daughters. She was something of an intellectual who had philosophers among her circle at court. She also travelled with her husband on his campaigns and received unusual honors as empress. Like Faustina the Younger (see no. 105), she was given the title Mater Castrorum, Mother of the Camps. To this were added the unprecedented titles Mater Senatus and Mater Patriae, Mother of the Senate and Mother of the Country.
After the death of Severus, Julia Domna continued to receive honors from her sons, and even after Antoninus had his younger brother murdered in her arms, she continued to support him, accompanying him on his last campaign to the East. After Antoninus was assassinated, she committed suicide in A.D. 217. She was deified by her great-nephew, Elagabalus.
Julia Domna's portraits are noted for her distinctive hairstyle, a mass of hair falling in waves from its central part, then caught in a braided bun at the back; the hair is so heavy and stiff that it is likely to have been a wig. On the reverse of this coin she is associated with Diana Lucifera, the moon goddess and bearer of light.
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