Septimius Severus’s Unique Way to Distract His Two Sons from Quarrelling

29 Dec 2017  Fri

Nowadays, parents have a hard time keeping their children from fighting during road trips. But the scenario in ancient times was quite different as Roman Emperor found a creative way to distract his two sons.

A circa A.D. 202 to 210 gold aureus issued by the ruler recalls the measures he took to keep his sons Caracalla and Geta from fighting. The boys were in their mid- to late teens. The coin highlights Baldwin of St. James’s New York City auction Jan. 14.

All three of the men appear on horses on the reverse of the aureus, raising their right hands. The obverse composition includes “a bold portrait” of Severus.

The reverse is sharply struck and shows quite clearly the individual facial features of each of the riders, according to the firm. “Closest to the viewer is Caracalla, cloaked and wearing a military breastplate, with boyish looks and a laureate crown. Next is Severus, with much facial hair and a laureate crown. Finally, there is Geta, young and slim, with smooth cheeks and lacking his crown. Each is posed with his arm extended as if receiving an ovation.”

The significance of the type here, though, is proclaimed in the legend VIRTVS AVGVSTORVM, or “bravery of the emperors.”

This relates to Severus’ campaigns in northern Britain after A.D. 209, where he took his wife and two sons to fight against the Caledonians of northern Britain.

He did that as there was a threat that from the people of the north, but the real reason is a constructive outlet for the near constant quarreling of his sons, according to the auction house.

He felt it would be better if they focused their attention on an enemy of Rome rather than each other, and in the process gain invaluable command experience. Based at Eboracum (modern York), Severus sent his sons to lead the troops.

He also used this opportunity to elevate Geta to the rank of Augustus. However, while in Britain Severus fell ill and died in A.D. 211, leaving behind two sons who were still inclined on eliminating one another.”

The coin is “virtually as struck and almost mint state, extremely rare and possibly the finest specimen known,” according to the firm.

It has an estimate of $24,000 to $30,000.

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