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Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander was promoted from Caesar to Augustus after the murder of his cousin, Elagabalus. His reign was marked by great economic prosperity, and he enjoyed great success against the barbarian tribes. His mother Julia Mamaea was the real power in the empire, controlling her son's policies and even his personal life with great authority. Severus had an oratory where he prayed under the edict, written on the wall, "Do not unto others what you would not have done to yourself" and the images of various prophets including Mithras, Zoroaster, Abraham and Jesus. Mutinous soldiers led by Maximinus I murdered both Severus Alexander and his mother.
Severus Alexander, (Marcus Aurelius) a native of Phoenicia, adopted by Elagabalus (Heliogabalus). His Father’s name was Genesius Marcianus, and his mother's Julia Mamaea, and he received the surname of Alexander because he was born in a temple sacred to Alexander the Great. He was carefully educated and his mother paid particular attention to the development of his morals and character.
At the death of Elagabalus, who had been jealous of his virtues, Alexander, though only 14 years old, was proclaimed emperor. His nomination was approved by the universal shouts of the army and the congratulations of the senate. Not long after, the peace of the empire was disturbed by Persian incursions. Alexander marched into he east without delay, soon obtained a decisive victory and at his return to Rome was honored with a triumph.
He was a patron of literature, and he dedicated the hours of relaxation to the study of the best Greek and Latin historians, orators and poets. In the public schools which his liberality and the desire to encourage learning had founded, he often heard with pleasure and satisfaction the eloquent speeches and declamations of his subjects.
During his reign, the provinces were well supplied with provisions and Rome was embellished with many stately buildings and magnificent porticoes.
Those guilty of corruption or who robbed the public, even intimate friends of the emperor, were severly punished. The offices of the state which had before his reign been sold or occupied by favorites, were now bestowed based upon merit, and Alexander could boast that all his officers were men of trust and abilities.
The revolt of the Germans soon after called him away from the indolence of the capital. His expedition in Germany achieved some success, however, his virtues and amiable qualities were forgotten by the soldiers in the stern and sullen strictness of his discipline. His soldiers, fond of repose, murmured against his severity; their clamors fomented by the artifice of Maximinus. Alexander was murdered in his tent, in the midst of his camp, after a reign of 13 years, on or about the 18th of March 235 A.D. His mother Mamaea shared his fate, with all his friends. Maximus then punished all the soldiers involved in the murder, except himself, with immediate death.
Alexander has been admired for his many virtues, and every historian except Herodian is bold to assert, that if he had lived, the Roman Empire might have been freed from the tumults and abuses which continually disturbed her peace, and kept the lives of her emperors and senators in perpetual alarms.
TRP COS 222
TRP II 223
TRP III 224
TRP IIII 225
TRP V COS II 226
TRP VI 227
TRP VII 228
TRP VIII COS III 229
TRP VIIII 230
TRP X 231
TRP XI 232
TRP XII 233
TRP XIII 234 A.D.
TRP XIIII 235 A.D.
Gold medallion R8
Gold aureus S 6.3 grams1
Gold quinarius R8 3.25 grams1
Silver antoninianus Not issued. (tributes issued under Trajan Decius)
Silver denarius C 3.08 grams (33.8 - 50% silver)1
Silver quinarius R2
Brass medallion R2
As and Dupondius S
Note: The rarity scale here includes three main ratings from C (common), to S (scarce), to R (rare). Within each rating numbers from 1-10 are may be used to indicate increasing degrees of rarity with 1 the most common and 10 the least common.
1. Luis C. West, Gold and Silver Standards in the Roman Empire, Numismatic Notes and Monographs, #94, ANS, NY, 1941.
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1. References used by permission of SeverusAlexander.com
Roman Silver Coins Volume III by Seaby / Sear (RSC)
My favorite of all my references for its layout and completeness. As the title indicates, this reference is only for silver coinage. If you want to attribute silver coinage, denarii for example, this is the reference to use. Its listing is probably the most complete and lists problems found in other references, ancient copies, and other notable information. The preface is extremely short and the pictures are small and limited. $25
Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet, Volume III by Anne S. Robertson (Hunter)
This catalog of coinage of Severus Alexander is probably next to RIC and BMC for its coverage. It includes silver and bronze coins. The plates are extensive and very clear. Concordances to RIC, BMC, and Cohen. Expensive and tough to find. $230
Le Tresor Numismatique de Reka-Devnia by N. A. Mouchmov (Reka-Devnia)
This hoard report from 1934 in French is from the Marcianopolis (Bulgaria) and includes within it a listing of the types with legends and the frequencies of the coins within the hoard. The frequency is the key. It includes only silver coinage. Only ten coins are pictured. Concordance to Cohen. Very Expensive and near impossible to find as original. There are some copies available.
Description Historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire Romain by Henry Cohen (C)
While out of date and very lacking in pictures, this reference in French is considered the standard that many others came from. RSC's numbering is based upon Cohen. One great feature of this reference is that it is online for free at this site. Good coverage of Severus Alexander but many mistakes.
Ancient Coins of the Balkan Peninsula by Nikola Moushmov (Moushmov)
This reference also covers Moesia, Thrace, Dacia, Macedonia, and other areas. The original text was in Bulgarian but has been translated to English and put on the web. The web site reference also has coin pictures added into it. It has some typos and can be slow to get to at times but you can't beat the free price and being electronic. Good coverage of Severus Alexander.
Katalog Alexanderinischer Kaisermunzen der Sammlung des
Instits fur Altertumskunde der Universitat zu
This reference is an excellent source for identification of Alexandrian Tets of Severus Alexander. Each coin is pictured with extensive references sited. This is the first reference I go to identify my Alexandrian Tets. It is extensive in the coins listed but is written in German and also expensive and not easy to find. Around $100 if you can find it.
Severus Alexander and the Severan Women by Robert L. Cleve, PhD, is the most comprehensive work I've read on Severus Alexander and the women who guided his life. This is Professor Cleve's doctorial dissertation and can be found on various sites that you purchase dissertations. Highly recommended for anyone who really wants to better understand Severus Alexander better.
The Decadent Emperors also under the title The Young Emperors by George C. Brauer, Jr. is a super book covering more than just Severus Alexander. The chapters devoted to Severus Alexander read very well and provide a good amount of detail. Highly recommend.
The Severans by Michael Grant is another great book by a well know historian that covers the Severans quite well. It unfortunately doesn't have separate chapters on Severus Alexander but is worth getting. Recommend.
The Life of Alexander Severus by R. V. Hopkins is almost a 100 years old and many of the theories presented in this book have been disproved. It is though a great source of information on Severus Alexander and provides a different viewpoint on various issues. Recommend if you want to seriously study Severus Alexander. Hard to get but some companies that print out of print books may be able to print you a copy.
Anon, "Acts of Cecilia". Morse, T. D. C., trans. Smith, William and Wace, Henry, eds., A Dictionary of Christian Biography. John Murry, London. 1880. Vol. I, pp. 365-66.
Anon, "Acts of Urban" (paraphrased). Barmby, James, ed. Smith, William and Wace, Henry, eds., A Dictionary of Christian Biography. John Murry, London. 1880. Vol. IV, pp. 1063-64.
Anon, "Chronica Gallica". Mommsen, Theodore, ed., "Monumenta Germaniae Historica", Weidmann, Berlin. 1882. "Chronica Minora", Vol. I, p. 641.
Anon, "Chronicon ad AD 846 Pertinens". Chabot, L.-B., ed. "Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium", Scriptores Syri 4, Chronica Minora II, p. 145.
Anon, "Chronicon Paschale". Dindorf, Ludwig, ed. Weber, 1932. 253 Olympiad.
Anon, Suidas. Bekker, Immanuel, ed. Berlin, 1854. "Origen".
Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus Historia. Harles, ed. A. J. Valpy, London. 1829. XXIV.
Aurelius Victor (attr), De Vita et Moribus Imperatorum Romanorum (The "Epitome"). Harles, ed., A. J. Valpy, London. 1829. XXIV.
Barhabaeus (Gregory abu'l Faraj), The Chronography of Gregory abu'l Faraj. Badge, Ernest A. Willis, ed., trans. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 1932. p. 55.
Cassiodorus Senator, Chronicon. Gamonet, Phillip, ed., n.p., 1809. "Alexander Mammeae, XXI."
"Chronographer of 354 AD". Mommsen, Theodore, ed., "Monumenta Germaniae Historica", Weidmann, Berlin. 1882. "Chronica Minora", Vol. I, p. 147. XVI.
Contantius VII Porphyrogenitus, De Insidiis. Cramer, John Anthony, ed., “Anecdota Graeca e Codd. Manuscriptis Bibliothecae Regiae Parisiensis”. Georg Olms Verlagsbuehlandlung, Hildesheim. 1967.
Dio Cassius, Roman History. Cary, Earnest, ed., trans. "Loeb Classical Library". Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA. c. 1955. LXXIX, 17.1-finis; fragment.
Eusebius, Chronicle (ed of Jerome). Migne, J. P., ed. "Patrologia Latina", vol. 27, Paris, 1846. AD 225-37.
Eusebius, Chronicorum Canonum. Schoene, Alfred, ed. Weidmann, Berlin. 1866. Olympiads CCL-CCLIII.
Eusebius, Church History. McGiffert, Arthur Cushman, ed., trans. "A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers", vol. 1. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI. VI. 21, 28.
Eutropius, Breviarum. Watson, John Selby, ed., trans. G Bull & Sons, Ltd.. c. 1910. VIII. 23.
Eutychius, Annals. Migne, J. P., ed. "Patrologia Graeca", vol. 61. Paris. 381-83.
Herodian, History. Whittaker, C. R., ed., trans. "Loeb Classical Library", Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA. c. 1920. V.7-VI.9.
Georgius Cedrenus, Historiarum Compendium. Dindorf, William, ed. "Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae", Bonn, 1829. vol. 1. 256 C-D.
Georgius Syncellus, Chronographia. Dindorf, William, ed. "Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae", Bonn, 1829. vol. 1. 211-15.
Ioannes Antiochenus. Muller, Carl, ed. "Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum" (Bibliotheque Graecque). Didot, Paris. 1848-1851. 140-141.
Ioannes Zonaras, Epitome Historiarum. Dindorf, Ludwig, ed. "Teubner Series", Leipzig, 1870. Vol. 3. XII. 15-16.
Jacob Edessen, "Chronicon". Chabot, L.-B., ed. "Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium", Scriptores Syri 4, Chronica Minora II, p. 212.
Jacques de Voragine, La Legende Dorée. M. G. B., trans. Librairie Garnier Freres, Paris, n.d. "Legend of Saint Thomas".
Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men. Richardson, Ernest Cushing, ed., trans. "A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers", vol. III. William B Eerdmans Publishing Comp., Grand Rapids MI. 1892. LIV.
Jordanes, The Gothic History [Getica]. Mierow, Charles Christopher, ed., trans. Barnes & Noble, Inc., New York, 1960. XV.
Jordanes, Romana. Mommsen, Theodor, ed. "Momumenta Germaniae Historica", Weidmann, Berlin, 1882. "Alexander Mammaeae".
Julian, The Ceasars. Wright, Wilmer Cave, ed., trans. "Loeb Classical Library", Macmillan Company, New York. c. 1913. 313. A.
Julius Africannus, Cestoi (fragment). Greenfell, Bernard P. and Hunt, Arthur S., eds. The Oxyrinchus Papryi, III, no. 412. Horace Hart, Oxford. 1903. Pp. 36-41.
Nicephorus Callistus, Ecclesiastical History. Migne, J. P., ed. "Patrologia Graeca", vol. 145, Paris. 366.
Ordericus Vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy. Forester, Thomas, ed., trans. Henry G Bohn, London. 1853. I.23, II. 81.
Paulus Orosius, The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans. Deferrari, Roy J., ed., trans. "Fathers of the Church", vol. 50. Catholic University of America Press, Inc., Washington DC. c. 1964. VII. 18-19.
Petrus Patricius, in Constantius VII Porphyrogenitus, De Legationibus Romanorum ad Gentes. Mommsen, Theodore, ed., "Monumenta Germaniae Historica", Weidmann, Berlin. 1882. Vol. V, p. 666-667. 9.
Polemius Silvius, "Nomina Omnium Principum Romanorum". Mommsen, Theodore, ed., "Monumenta Germaniae Historica", Weidmann, Berlin. 1882. "Chronica Minora", Vol. I, p. 521.
Prosperus Tironis, Epitoma Chronicon. Mommsen, Theodore, ed., "Monumenta Germaniae Historica", Weidmann, Berlin. 1882. "Chronica Minora", Vol. I, p. 436. CXCV.
Pseudoisidore, Historia. Mommsen, Theodore, ed., "Monumenta Germaniae Historica", Weidmann, Berlin. 1882. "Chronica Minora", Vol. II, p. 381. 7.
Rufius Festus, Breviarum. Eadie, J. W., ed., Athlone Press, University of London. c. 1967. XXII.
Symeon Logothetes (wrongly attr. Leo Grammaticus), Chronicle. Cramer, John Anthony, ed., “Anecdota Graeca e Codd. Manuscriptis Bibliothecae Regiae Parisiensis”. Georg Olms Verlagsbuehlandlung, Hildesheim. 1967.
Vincent of Lerins, The Commitories. Morris, Rudolph E., ed., trans. "The Fathers of the Church", vol. VII. Fathers of the Church, Inc., New York. c. 1949. 17.
Zosimus, Historia Nova. Buchanan, James J. and Davis, Harold L., eds., trans. Trinity University Press, San Antonio TX. c. 1967. !. 11-13.
Synesius of Cyrene, "Letters". Fitzgerald, Augustine, ed., trans. Oxford University Press, Oxford. c. 1926. 50
Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.
In 229, he was consul for the third time. His colleague for the year was the celebrated Roman historian, Dion Cassius.
During Severus Alexander's reign, the Parthian king Artabanes IV was killed by Artaxerxes, who made himself king. In response to the hostile progress of Artaxerxes against the Romans, in A.D. 231 Severus Alexander led a formidable army into the east. In a great battle Alexander defeated Artaxerxes and drove him back from the frontiers of Rome. He returned to Rome, where he received a triumph for his victory over the Persians. He also received the title Pivs in the same year.
In 235, he engaged in a successful campaign against the Germans, who had take advantage of his absence in the east to ravage the Gallic provinces. This was his last achievement.
After a reign of 13 years, a band of factious soldier instigated by the Thracian savage, general Maximinus, slew Alexander and his mother in 235 A.D. He was 27. His death was universally deplored as that of the father of his country, the friend of his subjects, a consummate general with as much glory as any of his predecessors, and on of the most just and generous of princes. The honors of consecration were awarded to him by the Senate, and a festival was instituted to his honor, which continued to be celebrated down to the reign of Constantine.
Alexander was the first Emperor who positively favored the Christians, with whose moral precepts he seems to have been acquainted; for he caused to be inscribed over his palace gate, the golden rule of the Gospel - "Do as you would be done by." (Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri non feceris.)
Alexander had three wives. The name of the first is not known, the second was called Memmia; that last Barbia Orbiana is the only wife for whom there are coins. He does not appear to have left any children.
The coins of Severus Alexander are very numerous. Some pieces represent him with Julia Mamaea, and with Orbiana. His aurei and denarii are very common, his sestertii, asses and dupondii are also common. His gold, silver and brass medallions are of the highest rarity. On these he is styled M. AVR. ALEXANDER. - IMP C. M. SEVERVS ALEXAND. PIVS AVGVSTVS (sometimes P.P.). The cut at the head of his biographical notice is from a silver denarius.