(114) Antoninus ("Caracalla") - AV aureus, A.D. 215,
6.55 g. (inv. 91.201).
Obverse: Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Antoninus r.; ANTONINVS PIVS AVG(VSTVS) GERM(ANICVS): Antoninus Pius Augustus, conqueror of the Germans.
Reverse: Serapis standing l. wearing modius, scepter in l., r. raised.; P(ONTIFEX) M(AXIMVS) TR(IBVNICIA) P(OTESTATE) XVIIII CO(N)S(VL) IIII P(ATER) P(ATRIAE): Pontifex maximus, with tribunician power for the nineteenth time, consul for the fourth time, father of the country.
Provenance: Bank Leu, 1974.
Bibliography: H. Mattingly and E.A. Sydenham, The Roman Imperial Coinage IV.1: Pertinax to Geta (London 1936) 280.
Caracalla, so nicknamed by his troops for the Gallic cloak or caracallus that he wore, was born Julius Bassianus to Septimius Severus and Julia Domna in A.D. 188. When his father claimed adoption by Marcus Aurelius in A.D. 195, he changed his son's name to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, which remained his official name. He was made Caesar in A.D. 196 and Augustus in A.D. 198, the latter elevation coinciding with Severus' great victory over the Parthians (see no. 111). He ruled jointly with Severus until his death in A.D. 211 and then jointly with his brother, Geta, until he had him murdered in A.D. 212. He fought a series of campaigns on the German frontier, where he acquired his nickname and took the title Germanicus, and in the East, where he aspired to be the new Alexander. The greatest monument to his reign are the opulent Baths of Caracalla in Rome, dedicated in A.D. 216. Caracalla was popular with his troops, but his mental instability, his cruelty, and his hatred of the Senate resulted in a conspiracy, and he was murdered in A.D. 217.
Caracalla rejected the philosopher-like portraiture of the Antonines for the look of a military man. He is shown with short hair and a close-cropped beard, and in his later portraits a V-shaped furrow in his brow produces a scowl that reflects his cruel and violent nature. The type would serve as a model for the portraits of the soldier-emperors of the third century.
Caracalla's father, Severus, had identified himself with the Egyptian god Serapis, probably primarily for his African associations, and Caracalla continued to honor his cult. His usual attribute is the modius, the Roman grain measure, which he wears as a headdress symbolizing his connections with fertility.
All contents copyright (c) 1996.
All rights reserved.