Julia Domna

'Emesa or Laodicea' Mint

The Syrian mint denarii of Julia Domna bearing the first obverse legend IVLIADO MNAAVG were not separated by traditional scholarship (Roman Imperial Coins Vol. IV and British Museum Catalog Vol. V). Even the line dividing the issues of Septimius from these two mints does not seem as certain today as it did once. For the purpose of this website coins (save one at the bottom of this page) with the second legend (IVLIA AVGVSTA) will be called 'Laodicea' and all first legend coins will remain together. More study is needed to determine if there were one, two or more mints operating during this period.

(Left) Early style denarius - early 194 AD - Venus, seen from the rear, holds apple & palm. The legend is VENERI VICTR as used at Rome for this type.
(Right) A few of Julia's early Syrian denarii, like this Boni Eventus, use types shared with Septimius. The Venus coins are much more common.
The above two denarii share the same obverse die. This die appears to be one of the first (if not the first) used for Julia at Emesa.

Using the same obverse die is the very rare VICTOR IVST AVG. The seated victory type is not reported for Septimius whose coins with the legend show Victory walking. This specimen is a die duplicate of the coin reported by Cohen in the Paris collection suggesting this may be the only reverse die of the type. Certainly there may be other reverse types with this legend or other dies just like this one. As new coins enter the market we have the opportunity to add to our knowledge of this series. I would like to hear from anyone having a VICTOR IVST AVG coin of any type. This coin was the subject of our page The Bride.

Two other reverses that were shared with Septimius were the Basket of Fruit and Crossed Corncopiae. Both use FELICIT TEMPOR or FELICITAS TEMPOR.

(Left) BONA SPES was shared with Septimius.
(Right) MONETA AVG here is spelled with the A while coins of this type of Septimius are abbreviated MONET AVG. Alexandria used this spelling but the style here seems proper for 'Emesa'.

Of the shared types the most popular is the crescent moon and seven stars which alludes to Septimius' belief in astrology. Was Julia selected to be his wife partially because her horoscope said she would marry a king? Note that the left coin shares obverse die with the Spes coin directly above it. The number of dies used for this entire coinage was small enough that links are frequently encountered. The significance of the two dots following the reverse legend is unclear. These may be officina marks.

Some dies (at least three!) misspell Julia IVLA - The exact date of these is unclear to me.

(Left) Later style denarii (195 AD?) with Venus is shown from back change the legend to VENER VICTOR
(Right) Venus also appears fully dressed from the front. She hold an apple and long staff. This type is generally abbreviated VENER VICT.

After most of this page had been posted, a coin became available that casts a question on the separation and dating of the 'Emesa' mint issues. This coin could be barbaric or unofficial (and therefore of no significance) but the style of the obverse portrait and the reverse Venus seems very similar to the Emesa coins (particularly the late version Venus from the back shown above). The obverse legend is IVLIA AVGVSTA which should date to 196 AD or after the closing of the 'Emesa' mint under traditional scholarship. Perhaps the closing date of this mint should be pushed back allowing this coin to be the last product of this series. However the use of the earlier legend VENERI VICTR adds weight to the theory that the coin is not official. My Questions page includes a coin of Caracalla as Caesar paired with an earlier looking 'Emesa' reverse. Is there a connection? Students whose opinions I value fail to see this as Eastern and may be right but I am still tending to consider this an official 'Emesa' product of great interest. Certainly more study is needed before this series will be understood.

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1999 Doug Smith