Septimius Severus, with Julia Domna, Caracalla, and Geta, 193-211.
Aureus (Gold, 20 mm, 7.19 g, 6 h), Rome, 201. SEVERVS PIVS AVG P M TR P VIIII Laureate head of Septimius Severus to right. Rev.
FELICITAS / SAECVLI Draped bust of Julia Domna, facing, between laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Caracalla to right, on the left, and bare-headed, draped and cuirassed bust of Geta to left, on the right. BMC 255 corr. (bust of Geta draped only). Calicó 2589b. Cohen 1. RIC 175. Very rare. A beautiful example of this highly important dynastic issue, with an incredibly charming reverse composition. Slightly rough and with light repairs to the small scratches on Septimius' and Caracalla's cheek, and to a cut on Julia Domna's portrait, otherwise,
good very fine.
Ex Künker 288, 13 March 2017, 679 (slightly repaired since).
Among the most celebrated of Septimius Severus' coin types is no doubt this one, showing all four members of the imperial family. After emerging victorious from the civil wars against Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus (193-196/7), and the campaigns against the Parthian Empire (195-198), by 201, Severus was the undisputed master of the Roman world. That year saw a large output of 'dynastic types' celebrating the imperial family, a cornerstone of the emperor's claim to legitimacy.
Although the Empire had no formal rules for succession, a relic of the Republican façade put up by Augustus as Rome's first emperor, tacitly, power always passed to a natural son if the emperor had one. Most blessed Severus appeared to be to have not one but two sons! The composition of the coin type, father Severus on the obverse, mother Domna on the reverse, with their two sons flanking and facing her, symbolizes the unity of the imperial family (see also the famed Berlin Tondo, a painted panel created in Egypt around this time), which was consciously modelled after that of Marcus Aurelius, whom Severus had posthumously adopted as his father. The reverse legend, which translates as 'the good fortune of the age', expresses the hope that a secure succession would avert the evils of civil strife.
Despite the harmony of the composition, reality would turn out quite different. Already during his lifetime, Severus' sons quarrelled amongst themselves, and when the emperor passed away in Eboracum (York) in 211, they were quickly at each other's throats, Caracalla having Geta murdered in their mother's arms in December 211. After Caracalla met his own demise in 217 at the hands of Macrinus, Domna, no doubt devastated by the loss of nearly all those dear to her, took her own life, adding no small touch of tragedy to this fascinating coin type.