SYRIA, Seleucis and Pieria. Emesa. Uranius Antoninus, usurper, 253-254. Tetradrachm (Billon, 26 mm, 11.00 g, 1 h). AYTO K COYΛΠ ANTⲰNINOC CЄ Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Uranius Antoninus to right, seen from behind. Rev. ΔΗΜΑΡΧ ЄΞΟΥCΙΑC ΥΠΑ ΤΟ Β / S C Eagle with spread wings standing facing, head to right and holding wreath in beak. Prieur 1049. Very rare. Minor corrosion on the obverse, otherwise, very fine.
From a Swiss collection, formed before 2005.
H.-R. Baldus convincingly argued that Uranius Antoninus must be identical to Sampsigeramos, a high priest of the Emesan god Elagabalus whom we know from John Malalas, a 6th century Byzantine historian. Malalas reports that Sampsigeramos fought off a Sasanian offensive under Shahpur I and killed the enemy general, suggesting that the priest put together an ad-hoc force of local troops in a reaction to an imminent crisis. Fortunately, the usurpation of Sampsigeramos-Uranius Antoninus is securely dated to 253/4 through his local bronze coinage, which carries the year 565 of the Seleukid Era (see below, lot 1498), a year which saw a massive Sasanian offensive and, perhaps, even the plundering of Antiochia on the Orontes by Rome's greatest enemy. Whether Uranius Antoninus claimed empire-wide recognition is doubtful: while his bronze and silver coinage do carry the titles Imperator and Augustus (in Greek), his aurei do not and only provide his plain name. It is thus entirely possible that Sampsigeramos-Uranius was not a true usurper, but a particularly vigorous local nobleman stepping in to defend his homeland in a time of imperial absence. If this is true, he would be a precursor of Odaenathus of Palmyra, who would undertake the duty of fighting the Sasanid threat somewhat later, in the 260s, while Gallienus was occupied in the West. In any case, when Valerian I arrived in Syria in early 254 to reorganize Rome's Syrian Army, Uranius disappears from all historical sources, leaving the question unanswered as to whether he was executed by the emperor or permitted to return to his civil life.