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Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, better known as Caracalla, was the son of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna, born in 188 A.D. He was named Caesar in 196 and Augustus in 198. Shortly before his death, Severus advised his sons, "Agree with each other, give money to the soldiers and scorn all other men." But the brothers hated each other and soon Caracalla had Geta murdered and massacred thousands suspected of supporting him. Although a capable military commander, the actual running of the government was left to his mother. He gradually slipped more and more into paranoia and delusions of grandeur before being murdered on his way to an Eastern campaign aimed at fulfilling his belief that he was the reincarnation of Alexander the Great.
Also see ERIC - Caracalla
Banti, A. & L. Simonetti. Corpus Nummorum Romanorum. (Florence, 1972-1979).
Caliců, E.X. The Roman Avrei, Vol. II: From Didius Julianus to Constantius I, 193 AD - 335 AD. (Barcelona, 2003).
Mattingly, H.B., E.A. Sydenham & C.H.V. Sutherland. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol IV, From Pertinax to Uranius Antoninus. (London, 1986).
Mattingly, H. & R.A.G. Carson. Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, Vol. 6: Severus Alexander to Pupienus. (London, 1963).
Mouchmov, N.A. Le Tresor Numismatique De Reka-Devnia (Marcianopolis). (Sofia, 1934).
Robinson, A. Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet, University of Glasgow, Vol. III. Pertinax to Aemilian. (Oxford, 1977).
Seaby, H.A. & Sear, D.R. Roman Silver Coins, Volume III, Pertinax to Balbinus and Pupienus. (London, 1982).
Sear, D.R. Roman Coins and Their Values, Vol. II: The Accession of Nerva to the Overthrow of the Severan Dynasty AD 96 - AD 235. (London, 2002).
Vagi, David. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. (Sidney, 1999).
The title of FELIX now begins to appear on coins of Caracalla, and BRITannicus ceases, being succeeded by that of GERManicus, which he had adopted on account of pretend victories over the Germans. This year, or perhaps at the close of the year preceding, he went into Gaul, and after cruelly despoiling that province, he returned to Rome.
In 967 (A. D. 214), he entered on an expedition against the Alamanni, over whom he gained a victory on the banks of the maenus (river Mayne, in Germany). In this expedition it is stated, he made himself an object of ridicule even to barbarians. Declared Imperator III. he preceded into Dacia; thence into Thrace, and crossing the Hellespont, wintered at Nicomedia.
968 (A.D. 215). After gladiatorial shows, on his birthday, the 4th of April, ar Nicomedia, he went to Pisidian Antioch, with the intention of invading the Parthians, on some far fetched cause of quarrel. But they being seized with panic, and instantly complying with the demands of Caracalla, he proceeded to Alexandria, where he revenged himself for some railleries, by slaughtering twenty thousand of the inhabitants.
969 (A.D. 216). - Returning from Egypt to Antioch, Caracalla (who, four years before, had caused his wife Plautilla to be put to death), was "the meek and modest suitor" to ask in marriage the daughter of Artabanus, king of the Parthians. This request being refused, he crossed the Euphrates, invaded Media, took Arbela, and, after ravaging the whole region with fire and sword, returned to winter quarters in Edessa. Having inveigled Abagarus, king of the Osrhaeni, into conference, he loaded him with chains, and took possession of his kingdom..
970 (A. D. 217). - This year Caracalla prepared for war against the Parthians, who made their appearance with a large force, to avenge the aggression of the year preceding. On his way in Mesopotamia from Edessa to Carrhae, where he intended to have visited the celebrated temple dedicated to the Syrian god Lunus, he was assassinated by a soldier of his own bodyguard, named Martialis, at this instigation of Macrinus, the praetorian prefect on the 8th of April, in the 29th year of his age, during the celebration of Megalensian games.
As, in boyhood he displayed so much moderation, affability, and averseness to even the most just severity, all, who had known him at that period of life, were lost in astonishment at the monstrous cruelties of Caracalla's riper years. Spartian is of opinion that his previous character was but the result of an artful dissimulation, or a desire of resembling Alexander the Great, of whose defects, rather than merits, both of mind and body, he showed himself servile imitator. Even during his father's life time, he was unable wholly to conceal the natural ferocity of his disposition; and to rid himself of the sense of restraint and fear which the old emperor's authority imposed, he made frequent attempts, during the campaign in Britain, by instigating plots and tumults, to put an end to the life of Severus. And when at length all apprehension of parental punishment was removed, he showed at once his determination to kill his brother, which, as we have seen under the events of the year 965 (A. D. 212), he carried out with a cruelty that extended itself to every member of the unfortunate Geta's family. If to this we add the horrors of his massacre at Alexandria, perpetrated on the slightest possible provocation, we perceive clearly, that there were no relations, however sacred and religious, which he was not capable of violating by bloodshed. Finding the contents of the treasury insufficient to meet the demands of his cupidity, on account of this extravagant expenditure in public spectacles, and because it was matter of necessity to enrich his soldiers both in order to reconcile them to the murder of Geta, and to retain their services as a defense against attempts on his own person, - he attacked with impunity the properties of the citizens, openly asserting, that the wealth of the world belonged to him alone, as the dispenser of it to his faithful soldiers; and it is said, that, when his mother remonstrated with him on the costliness and frequency of his donatives, adding, that shortly no means, fair or foul, of raising money would be left to him - his reply was, " Be of good courage, mother; for so long as we retain this (pointing to his sword), money will always be forthcoming." He exhibited so many instances of perfidy in the presence of the whole world, that at last no one believed him, even on his oath, and he became an object of hatred and contempt to foreign nations, as well as to his own. After death, his body was burned, and bones brought to Rome, and deposited in the tomb of the Antonines. - See Eckhel, vii. 199, et seq.
MINTAGES OF CARACALLA
On his coins Caracalla is styled M. AVRELIUS ANTONINVS, or M. AVR. ANTON. CAES. - IMP. M. AVR. ANTONIN. - IMP. C. or CAES. ANTONINUS - M. AVR. ANTONINUS PIVS AVG. - ANTONINVS PIVS AVG. BRITanicus. - ANTININVS PIVS FELIX AVG. - ANTONINVS PIVS AVG. GERManicus. - DIVVS ANTONINUS MAGNVS. - On the reverses occur P. or PARThicus - MAX. or MAXIMVS - also RECTOR ORBIS.
The medallions and gold coins of this emperor are of considerable rarity; so are the small brass; but the denarii, together with large and middle brass, are for the most part common.
- His first brass, however even with common reverses, when in very fine preservation, bring high pieces. From the commencement of his reign the silver is found to be nor pure but mixed with brass. His brass coinage of cities and colonies is abundant. That portion ot the roman mintages which give to Caracalla the name of "Great" are very rear, the epithet being found only on his consecrations - for, notwithstanding " his atrocious career of folly and barbarity (as Captain Smyth observes), this execrable ' Man of Blood' received the honors of deification, by command of the soldiers."
After Caracalla, another, and if possible still greater disgrace to the name of the emperor, Elagabalus, profaned (by his own assumption of it) the title of M. AVRELIUS ANTONINUS. There is in consequence sometimes a difficulty to distinguish the coins of those to princes. It may not, therefore, be unacceptable, especially to the tyro, if the following rules are here cited for ascertaining the point, as concisely given by the learned and accurate author of Lecons Elementaires de Numismatique Romaine: -
1st. The head without crown, and the title of Caesar alone, can belong only to Caracalla, since Elagabalus was at once created Augustus.
2nd. The dignity of Pontifex (without the epithet of MAX.) with which Caracalla was invested during the life time of his father, cannot be appropriated to Elagabalus, who was always Pontifex Maximus.
3rd. A very infantile head, or one strongly bearded; and the titles PART. MAX. BRIT. GERM. suit only only with Caracalla. The same remark applies to the epithet AVGG. in the legends of certain reverses; seeing that he reigned simultaneously during several years either with his father, or with his brother; whilst we know Elagabalus never had any colleague.
4th and lastly. Caracalla, in his 5th tribunate, (the epoch when he perished), was consul for the first time. Therefore every record of the tribunitian power marked by a number exceeding V. can apply only to the son of Severus, etc.
The following are among the rarest and most remarkable reverses: -
GOLD AND SILVER MEDALLIONS.- TR. P. XVIII. COS. IIII. The moon (or Diana) in a car drawn by two bulls. (gold, valued by Mionnet at 400 fr.) - VENVS VICTRIX, holding a victriola and hasta, (gold valued by Mionnet at 400 fr.) - Young beardless head of Caracalla laureated, with reverse of VICTORIA AVGVSTA. (Silver, valued at 200 fr.)
GOLD of common size. - ADVENTVS. Three figures on horseback. - FELICITAS SAECVLI. Severus seated between his two sons. (Valued by Mionnet at 200 fr.) - LAETITIA TEMPORVM. Galley, cars, and animals. - PLAVTILLAE AVGVSTAE. Head of the empress. - TR. P. XIII. COS. IIII. Several figures sacrificing. - TR. P. XVII. COS. IIII. The circus, with chariots. - P. SEPT. GETA CAES. etc. Bare head of Geta. - Obverse. Bust of Caracalla. (a very fine specimen of this rare type, in a high state of preservation, brought £11 at Pembroke sale). - AVGVSTI COS. Severus and Caracalla seated on an estrade, and two figures standing. - CONCORDIAE AETERNAE. Heads of Severus and Julia Domna. - CONCORDIA FELIX. Severus and Plautilla joining hands. - COS. LVDOS. SAECVL. FEC. The four Seasons. - P. M. TR. P. XVIII. etc. Esculapius in a temple; two figures sacrificing at an altar. (Brought £16 16s. at the Thomas sale). - VICTORIAE BRIT. Victory seated on bucklers, with palm and shield. (A very fine specimen brought £16 at Thomas sale).
SILVER. - Head of Plautilla, as in gold. - AETERNIT. IMPERI. Heads of severus and Caracalla. - ARCVS AVGG. Arch of Severus. (See engraving, p. 78). - CONCORDIAE. Heads of Severus and Julia. - DIVO. ANTONINO MAGNO. Consecration medal. - IMP. ET CAESAR. Three figures seated. - LIBERALITAS. Two emperors seated, two figures standing. - Heads of Caracalla and Geta.
BRASS MEDALLIONS. - CONCORDIAE AVG. Caracalla and Geta, each crowned by Victory. (Valued by Mionnet at 200 fr.) - IMP. II. COS. IIII. Emperor in a quadriga. - TR. P. XVI. IMP. II. COS. IIII. Grand circus, in which are an obelisk and chariot races. - SEVERI. AVG. PH. PIL. Sacrificial instruments. (Valued by Mionet at 250 fr.)-TRAIECTVS. Emperor and soldiers crossing a river on a bridge of boats.
FIRST BRASS. -DIVO. ANTONINO MAGNO. Bare head. - Rev. CONSECRATIO. Funeral pile. - COS. LVD. SAEC. FEC. A sacrifice: six figures. - PONTIF. Caracalla and Geta, with three soldiers. - SAECVLARIA SACRA. Several figures sacrificing. - VIRTVS AVGG. The emperor standing near a trophy. - AEQVITATI PVBLICAE. The three Monetae. - Pontiff. etc. Severus and Caracalla. - COS. III.