Elagabalus, 218-222. Aureus (Gold, 21 mm, 6.08 g, 1 h), Rome, 220. IMP ANTONINVS PIVS AVG Laureate and cuirassed bust of Elagabalus to right. Rev. P M TR P III COS III P P Elagabalus, laureate and togate, driving slow triumphal quadriga to left, holding olive branch in his raised right hand and scepter in his left; before him, the sun-god El-Gabal in the form of a star of six rays. BMC 183. Calicó 3013a. Cohen 171. RIC 35. A magnificent example of this prestigious issue, beautifully struck and very well preserved. Good extremely fine.
From a German collection, privately purchased from Leu in the 1980s (with original ticket).
Elagabalus, or Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, as was his imperial name (his birth name was Varius Avitus Bassianus), introduced into Rome the cult of the Emesan sun-god El-Gabal, whose high priest he had been since the age of fourteen and whose name he bears today. In 219, the teenage emperor arrived in the capital together with the black stone of his god (see above, lot 1647), which he placed in a new temple built on the Palatine. The outlandish rites of the unfamiliar eastern god and the curious and extravagant sexual habits of Elagabalus, whom we see on the reverse of this magnificent aureus arriving in Rome, caused great outrage in the capital and made him very unpopular. Eventually, Julia Maesa, the éminence grise who effectively run the empire, realized that her grandson's outrageous behavior made his rule untenable and began planning his replacement with another of her grandsons named Bassianus Alexianus. The foolish Elagabalus agreed to adopt his younger cousin in 221 and made him his Caesar, a decision which only accelerated his own downfall. The end came on 11 March 222, when mutinying soldiers stirred up by Bassianus' mother Julia Mamaea killed both Elagabalus and his mother Julia Soaemias, whose bodies were defiled and thrown into the Tiber river. Bassianus, on the other hand, succeeded to the throne under the name Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander, thus securing Severan rule in Rome until his own downfall in 235.