Numismatic and History Discussions > Roman Provincial Coins

Great Severan Games of Brotherly Love at Nicaea

(1/2) > >>

Despite their worn condition, I was pleased to get the following two coins of Julia Domna at Nicaea from Automan's countermark collection:

1.  IOVLIA - CEBACTH, draped bust r., oval countermark of Victory standing r., holding out wreath, on her neck.  Rev:  CEOVHPEIA FILADELFEIA, in exergue NIKAIEWN, togate figures of Caracalla and Geta clasping r. hands above prize wreath on table.  30 mm, 15.32 gr, axis 1 o'cl.  This type unpublished for Julia, RG pl. 79.27 has the same type on a coin of Caracalla of the same size.

2.  Same obv. die, same countermark in similar position, though from a different punch.  Rev:  ANTWNINOC [AVG GETAC KAI FILADELFEIA], in exergue NIKAIEWN, laureate head of Caracalla facing bare head of Geta.  30-31 mm, 20.37 gr, axis 7 o'cl.  From the same dies as a previously unique coin in Paris, RG pl. 77.13, which is much finer and shows the full legends.

These Great Severan Games of Brotherly Love, as they are called on RG pl. 76.10, connected with a Holy Contest, IEPOC AGWN, RG pl. 76.11, are commemorated on a large series of coins at Nicaea, in which the figures of the emperors themselves assume unusual prominence.  Apart from Caracalla and Geta clasping hands over the prize table (the first coin above), we find individual standing figues of the emperors, togate, holding eagle-tipped scepters and prize crowns, and a type of Caracalla riding in a quadriga of horses, again togate and holding prize crown and scepter.

Is it possible that the emperors actually attended these games, on the occasion of a visit to Nicaea in c. summer-autumn 198 when they supervised the construction of siege engines for their second attempt to capture the city of Hatra in Mesopotamia?

Septimius captured Ctesiphon in Jan. 198, and on that occasion made Caracalla Augustus and Geta Caesar.  The Nicaeans, by adding the adjective "of brotherly love" to their Severan Games, were hoping for harmony between the two recently promoted imperial heirs.  After unsuccessfully besieging Hatra on his way back to Syria, Septimius decided to attack that city again, "having first got ready a large store of food and prepared many siege engines," as Dio states.  Some of those engines, Dio informs us, were made by his fellow countryman Priscus of Nicaea; Priscus' engines were the only ones the enemy was unable to burn during the second siege, which also failed.  The PROFECT AVGG FEL type of Septimius' coinage seems to date the second expedition against Hatra to the early months of 199.

Now Dio does not say that Priscus' engines were constructed at Nicaea, his native city, nor that Septimius journeyed there to supervise their construction.  But apart from Septimius' possible personal attendance at the Severan Games of Brotherly Love at Nicaea, there is one other indication for his possible presence in western Asia Minor in 198: the small issue of silver cistophori, the last coins of that series and the only ones to be produced since the reign of Hadrian, for Septimius, Julia Domna, Caracalla as young Augustus, and Geta as Caesar.  Stylistically, these cistophori are very similar to the Nicaean coins that commemorate the Severan Games of Brotherly Love; the cistophori take over some rev. types from Nicaean coins, namely that of three standards with legend horizontally between the standards, and that of inscription within laurel wreath; and one of Septimius' cistophori is dated TR P VI, that is 198.  An imperial visit is not needed for the production of cistophori, but would certainly provide a suitable occasion; Septimius would have needed much local money to pay for food and accommodations for his family and court, the siege engines, gifts, and so on.

But would it make sense to construct siege engines in Bithynia for an expedition hundreds of miles away in Mesopotamia?  Apparently yes: Dio informs us that while Caracalla wintered at Nicomedia in 214/5, "he built two very large engines for the Armenian and Parthian wars, so constructed that he could take them apart and carry them in ships to Syria."

The images of the coins are Automan's, from the Forvm Countermark Gallery.


In RG 1/3, 397, there's a further helpful note on the various names given to the Severeian Games in Nicaea:

[Edit 10/19/08: A closely related AE32, Julia Domna / AGWNOTHESIA NIKAIEON:]

Smaller change connected with the Severeian Games at,, and,

along with the following, all unpublished, I think (the third being sold online, Geta, "Bare head left / Prize urn"):

AE 18, Sept. Severus Laureate head r., SEOUHROS AUGOUS / Prize-urn, CEOUHREIA NIKAIEWN (cf. larger denom. RG 1/3 443.357)

AE 16, Caracalla Laureate head l., ANTWNINOC [AU]G[OU]S / Prize-urn, CEOUHREIA NIKAIEWN

AE 16, Geta Bare head l., GETAS KAISAR / Prize-urn, CEOUHREIA NIKAIEWN

More small change (Caracalla prize-urns) and one not-so-small type (a Septimius Severus wreath-motto, SEOYHREIA P'ILADELP'EIA NIKAIEWN), the first specimen mine (14mm, 1.72g) and the the others from [DEAD LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN] and [DEAD LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

Susan M:
Hi, I'm new here. Just wanted to share my Severus Olympic prize urn coin. It's not worth much according to Edgar Owens. About $20. But still pretty neat. I'm sure I have over cleaned it but I'm new so just learning. Not sure about posting photos here so this will be a test to see if I can do it right :)

This is a very old thread to be resurrected but your coin appears to be Severus Alexander.   


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version