Septimius Severus, 193-211. Medallion (Bimetallic, 32 mm, 26.05 g, 12 h), Rome, 208. L SEPT SEVERVS PIVS AVG Laureate head of Septimius Severus to right, with aegis on his left shoulder. Rev. P M TR P XVI / COS III P P // S - C Monumental arched and roofed bridge spanning river; five figures crossing bridge; on either side, monumental entrance gate with three arched openings between four Corinthian columns; on each roof, the three emperors in a facing quadriga led by standing figures on each side; below the bridge, small boat rowing to left in the waves. BMC -. Banti -, cf. 115 = Cohen 521 = Froehner p. 158 = Gnecchi II, p. 75, 22 and 94, 1 (differing obverse and without S - C on the reverse. This coin is a Renaissance copy, however). BM 1993.0404.139 var. = Schweizerischer Bankverein 6 (1980), 134 var. = Schweizerischer Bankverein 28 (1991), 611 var. (differing bust type, not bimetallic, and tooled). Classical Numismatic Group E-Auction 170 (2007), 260 var. (differing obverse and not bimetallic). Of the highest rarity, the second and finest known example, and the first with this bust type and as a bimetallic medallion. A wonderful piece, beautifully struck and with lovely riverine surfaces. Minor corrosion spot on the reverse, otherwise, good very fine.
The bridge depicted on this wonderful bimetallic medallion is originally derived from the depiction on Trajan's famous sestertii, thought to represent the bridge constructed by the famous architect Apollodorus of Damascus. The type should be seen in the context of Septimius' invasion of Scotland, throughout which the Roman forces likely built a bridge across the Firth of Forth. The campaign started in 208, the year our medallion was struck, but the heavy resistance of the local population and the difficult terrain steadily caused the Roman forces to dwindle away. Cassius Dio reports that Septimius actually reached the nothern tip of the British Isles, but this is almost certainly an exaggeration. The Romans only had a rudimentary idea of the complicated geography of Scotland, and the fact that Dio paints a picture of Septimius studying the movements of the sun and the length of the days and nights in summer and winter at the northern headland (Cass. Dio 77.13.3) is not to be taken literally. It is, instead, an allegory for Septimius expanding the boundaries of the Empire to the 'end of the world' and may, in fact, be a reference to Pytheas, who famously circumnavigated Britain in the 4th century BC before reaching ultima thule and studying the astronomical phenomena of the North. In any case, the annexation of Scotland by the Romans, if ever anticipated, proved to be impracticable. Septimius died in Eburacum (York) on 4 February 211 and the Romans consequently withdrew their troops to the reinforced vallum Hadriani.