Caracalla, 198-217. Aureus (Gold, 20 mm, 7.28 g, 12 h), Rome, 199-200. ANTONINVS AVGVSTVS Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Caracalla to right. Rev. SEVERI PII AVG FIL Caracalla, laureate and in military attire, standing front, head to left, holding Victory on globe in his right hand and inverted spear in his left; at feet to left, Parthian captive seated left, wearing Phrygian cap and propping his head on his right hand in attitude of mourning. BMC 172 note = Cohen 589. Calicó 2818 (same reverse die). RIC 45 corr. (bust also cuirassed). A wonderful example, beautifully struck in high relief and with a magnificent portrait of fine style. Virtually as struck.
It has often been argued that the time of the Five Good Emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius) marked the zenith of the Roman Empire not least because they were, in the best interest of the res publica, diligently chosen as heirs of their predecessors by adoption - as opposed to the tyrant Commodus, Marcus Aurelius' son, who became the embodiment of boundless megalomania. However, only two of them, Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, were actually adopted as part of a broader plan, whereas Hadrian's claim to the throne was somewhat dubious at best and his own successor Antoninus Pius was only the second choice as a placeholder for Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius after Aelius had died on January 1, 138. The most important reason, however, as to why the second century up until Marcus Aurelius saw no imperial dynasties was quite simple: none of the emperors had an adult son. Roman culture and thought was deeply influenced by patriarchal family structures, in which the patria potestas, the power of the pater familias over all of the members of his family and household, was passed on to his son(s) only on the day of his death. Ancestral worship was one of the main elements of the sacra privata, the household cult, and dynastic thinking was thus deeply embedded in Roman society. It therefore comes as no surprise that even the philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius naturally viewed his son Commodus as his legitimate successor, a pattern also found under the true successors of the dynasty of Marcus Aurelius: the Severans. Despite the suffering of the Senatorial aristocracy under the tyrant Commodus, Septimius did not hesitate to propagate the rule of his own dynasty, as with this magnificent aureus, which proudly presents the eleven-year-old Caracalla as ‘son of the Augustus Severus Pius’ on its reverse. The coin was struck in 199-200, when the imperial family was campaigning in the East against the Parthians, and Caracalla is hence shown, despite his young age, in a victorious militaristic pose with a mourning Parthian captive at his feet. The message the type sent to the Roman audience was clear: the emperor Septimius Severus has a healthy and successful son, who will become his victorious successor once the pater familias passes the torch on to him.