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Author Topic: Caracalla and the river gods: who are they?  (Read 4376 times)

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Offline silvernut

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Caracalla and the river gods: who are they?
« on: September 15, 2008, 06:18:32 pm »
I recently aquired these two denarii, of the same type but with different reverse legend. The first one, RIC 96, dated of 207 AD, whilst the second one, RIC 175, undated, issued between 206 and 210 AD.

Now, I've seen many interpretations of the type, from the rivers Tigris and Euphrates and a Mesopotamia, to the Danube and two captives. FORVM's catalog holds a specimen of RIC 96, interpreted as the rivers Tyne and Eden and the female figure representing Britannia. But as I understand it, the Severans didn't leave Rome for Britain until early 208 AD, thus, FORVM's version might seem problematic (unless they were, somehow, vowing to the British river gods in advance!). It could well fit, however, with the undated RIC 175, but wouldn't it seem more likely that both types refer to the same river gods? If so, I doubt that they could be British rivers... But, of course, other rivers might also seem inexplicable. I guess we could always leave it as RIC: "to l., river-god, to r., two reclining figures"...

Any ideas? Thanks!

Regards,
Ignasi

Offline silvernut

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Re: Caracalla and the river gods: who are they?
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2008, 07:57:22 am »
Yes, the antetype was this type of Trajan sestertius. That's probably why Caracalla's types are sometimes referred to as Mesopotamia and the gods of Tigris and Euphrates. But I'm not sure this is the right interpretation for the denarii.

Regards,
Ignasi

Offline curtislclay

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Re: Caracalla and the river gods: who are they?
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2008, 09:30:07 pm »
R. Ziegler sees evidence in provincial coinages of Asia Minor for troop movements from the Danube to Syria c. 206-7 AD, and there is inscriptional evidence too that trouble was brewing again with the Parthians around that time.

According to Ziegler, the victory and military coin types of 207, in particular the rivergod type of Caracalla and the PACATOR ORBIS type, bust of Sol, of Septimius and Caracalla, probably reflect Roman successes in coping with this new trouble.  Whether Caracalla actually traveled to Syria to direct the operations remains uncertain; the types might suggest so, but we can't be sure that they are not merely recalling the emperors' successful Parthian expedition of ten years earlier.

The two river gods at Caracalla's feet in the VIRTVS AVGG type must be the Tigris and the Euphrates, as on the Trajanic model.  The third figure in Trajan's type is Armenia wearing her characteristic tall tiara, in Caracalla's type it will be Mesopotamia or a Parthian captive.

It can hardly be doubted that Caracalla's VIRTVS AVGG type was struck in 207, just like the dated denarii that show the same rev. type and a portrait of just the same age on the obverse.  Both types surely belong to the same issue, the scarcer version with descriptive legend (8 spec. in Reka Devnia hoard) perhaps being struck first, followed by the commoner version with dated legend (22 spec. in the hoard).

I doubt that it is more than chance that multiple specimens of these two types seem to have been emerging lately.  Any hoard that might be responsible would of course not have contained just these two types, but many other contemporary and near contemporary types too, of both Caracalla and the other members of the Severan family.
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Curtis Clay

Offline silvernut

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Re: Caracalla and the river gods: who are they?
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2008, 03:17:59 am »
Thank you Curtis. I did suspect that the VIRTVS type was probably struck in 207 AD or thereabouts, based on the similarity of portraiture and type.

Regards,
Ignasi

Offline silvernut

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Re: Caracalla and the river gods: who are they?
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2008, 05:00:42 pm »
By the way, on a last note, I've had the opportunity of consulting RIC again tonight and I see that they do suggest that Caracalla was in Britain in 207 AD preparing the British campaign, which seems a bit far-fetched...

Regards,
Ignasi

 

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