Legionary Denarii of Septimius Severus


Eastern and Barbarous mints

Septimius Severus issued a series of coins honoring the legions that supported his assumption of the Purple. These were struck in 193 AD from the Rome mint and in 194 from the branch mints in the Eastern part of the Empire. The reverse legends all include TRP COS in exergue and have a surrounding legend naming the legion being honored. Several Rome mint varieties are scarce or rare; there are no common Eastern mint legionary coins. This page illustrates the Eastern mint varieties. Links at the bottom of the page lead to the Rome issues.

ALEXANDRIA MINT

IMP CAE L SEP SEV PERT AVG / LEG III IT AVI

IMP CAE L SEP SEV PERT AVG / LEG III IT AVG

Legionary coins of the Alexandria mint all honor Legion III Augusta which was stationed in north Africa and secured the city for Septimius in early 194 AD. Oddly, all coins include the letters 'IT' (Italica) as used on the Rome mint coins honoring a different legion: III Italica. The Alexandria die cutters must have seen a sample of the Rome coin but knew that the local legion was 'Augusta'. The result was a legend honoring a nonexistent legion: 'III Italica Augusta'. The first issue of these coins used the legend LEG III IT AVI (top) which was changed to LEG III IT AVG for the last legionary issue. The 'G' coins are much more rare and many of the few known have a small flan that clips much of the G. The sample coin shown here, despite its generally poor condition, is among the best examples of this rare variety due to the bold G. Alexandria legionary coins were included in the first issue dated to February to August 194 AD.

Both: IMP CAE L SEP SEV PERT AVG / LEG III IT AVI

Two other examples of the more common AVI variety illustrate an unfortunate reality of these coins. Most are on small flans and are missing a good part of the legends. The left coin can only be identified as AVI by its being from the same dies as better centered specimens. It seems most probable that the coin seen by Cohen listed as #263 was off center like the left coin (but also losing the O of COS). Cohen realized that the coin was different from #262 but did not know what was missing at the right. The right specimen shows a weak hint of the I but is identified with certainty as a die duplicate of the Arnold collection specimen. This exceptional coin was used erroneously to illustrate #262 in Seaby's Roman Silver Coins Vol. III page 30. Seaby editors selected a coin clearly reading III IT AVI to illustrate the III ITAL #262. Alexandrian eagles tend to have an arched back. There is a very rare legionary of this type used with an obverse of Julia Domna. I regret having no illustration to show.

'EMESA' MINT

The first legion honored by a Syrian legionary issue was VIII Augusta. These bear the short lived (at this mint) first obverse legend IMP CAE L SEP SEV PERT AVG and can be separated from the Rome issues only by style. Rare issues (right) of these included IICOS on the reverse die. This coin is a die duplicate of the doublestruck example in the British Museum which was listed as BMC 336. It is most interesting that the coin has both the II COS and TRP COS on the same side of the coin.

Both: IMP CAE L SEP SEV PERT AVG COS II / LEG XIIII GEM MV TRP COS

The above two coins are die duplicates but, since they are off center in opposite directions, serve to illustrate the full design better than a single coin. Again, most known examples are poorly struck and missing some part of the legend. Together, they illustrate the most common legionary type of the Syrian mint (called 'Emesa' for want of a certain location). The long head portrait style and E-V obverse legend split date the coins to the early part of 194 AD. Legion XIIII was the personal legion of Septimius and accompanied him to the East during his campaign against Pescennius Niger. They bear the obverse legend ending in COS II unique to this mint (or series of mints if 'Emesa' proves to be a traveling mint series as suspected). The reverse standards never show capricorns as commonly seen (but not always!!) at Rome. The eagles of 'Emesa' tend to have a pronounced hook to the beak.

Some workers quote a coin of this mint naming Legion XIII GEM MV. I have not seen a coin that certainly reads XIII. The poor example shown here (left above) has the two central I's closely spaced reading LEG X   I   II   I GEM MV. A poor strike or a little more wear could cause this to be read in error as XIII. On the right is an obverse variation where the II of COS II is placed beyond the point of the bust and runs into the legend starting with IMP. Between the II and the IMP there is something that almost looks like an erased II. I am not sure what to make of this. I would greatly appreciate receiving photos of other die varieties of these coins.

BARBAROUS COINS

(Left) IMP CAE L SEP SEV PERT AVG / AVG (LEG VIII) AVG
(Right) ( )MPFLISEPTIM ( )???? / LEG XIIII (GEMMV)? TRPCOS

The two coins above represent a class of coins that simply does not fit into the normal pattern of mints. They could be solid (not fourree) counterfeits or products of barbarian people on the fringes of the Empire. The left coin is made more difficult to read by the reverse being doublestruck with a 180 degree rotation between strikes. Only the right side was struck on each attempt so the coin shows almost no trace of the eagle. There are two standards but one is inverted with only the legend AVG showing on each side. The coin could be an early 'Emesa' LEG VIII AVG but I consider the style barbaric. I have seen a die duplicate that was struck normally confirming the LEG VIII AVG identification.

The right coin is more of a mystery. The style, particularly the eagle, is not like anything seen here. The obverse legend is unique and demonstrates a knowledge of the emperor by spelling out SEPTIM beyond the standard abbreviation. Both of these coins are most likely locally produced moneys of necessity. Other barbaric coins of Septimius are covered on a page of their own.

The following links lead to pages contain photographs of all of the Rome mint legionary types. To improve loading times they are split over several pages. Special thanks go to all those who helped me assemble these images.


Ahead to the next Legionary page

Rome mint:
Legions 1-2
Legions 3-8
Legions 11-13
Legion 14 Several varieties of the most common legion
Legions 22-30

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1997 - 2000 Doug Smith