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Pescennius Niger was declared emperor by his troops after the murder of Pertinax. Septimius Severus, after consolidating his own forces and taking Rome, marched upon Niger and defeated him three times. After a fourth in a final defeat at Issus, Niger fled towards Parthia but was overtaken and executed.
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Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.
Pescennius Niger (Caius) was descended from a family that originally belonged to Aquinum (now Aquino). His parents, Annius Fuscus and Lampridia were middle class. After holding various military commands, he was made Consul by Commodus, and at length was appointed commander of the Syrian army. On the death of Pertinax, and the degrading purchase of the empire by Didius Julianus, the troops of Niger invested him with the purple (A.D.193).
He was a man familiar with every important branch of public affairs, eminently skilled as a military commander, and a great disciplinarian; but he was also ill-tempered and an unbridled womanizer.
Septimius Severus declared him a public enemy, marched against him, and routed his forces in several engagements. Niger finally took refuge at Antioch, where, in A.D.195, while trying to conceal himself, he was discovered by some of Severus' soldiers and put to death. He was 58 years old.
The extreme rarity of Pescennius Niger's coins is a fact known to all numismatists. Some two hundred years ago, Eckhel, in his animadversio on the Roman coins of this brief reign, wrote:-
"All the medals of Pescennius, even those wrought after the manner of the Roman mint, are certainly of foreign fabric, and were doubtless struck at Antioch, that being the capital city of the region in which he fixed the seat of his temperory government. For at the time when he usurped the purple in the East, Didius Julianus, and, presently after, Severus held possession of Rome, by whom, although the Senate and people might have been well affected to his cause, either he was not acknowledged as an associate in the empire, or what happened at a later period, he was denounced as an enemy. This is the reason why no brass coins of Pescennius struck by order of the Senate (ex S. C.) are extant; and if you happen to light upon any pretending to be such, you may condemn them at once as unworthy of credit. As, however, the gold and silver coinage belonged of right to the emperors, and as, in whatever part of the world they seized upon the Imperial scepter, it was their practice to coin money instantly in token of their power (a palpable instance of which we see in the case of Vespasian), so following the same example Pescennius issued gold and silver coins stamped with his image."
After remarking that a hitherto unique gold coin of Pescennius Niger with the inscription CONCORDIA had been found, and that all the rest bearing latin legends were silver and of the greatest rarity, and consequently of the highest price, Eckhel concluded his animadversio by saying "Be it observed that all these coins are of very inferior workmanship, the letters of the inscription often vilely distorted ans disjointed, whence their foreign origin may at once be inferred; a circumstance to be borne in mind, lest on account of the ill-favouredness of their appearance we should undeservedly impute a spurious origin to the medal itself."
Legends are - IMP CAES PESC NIGER IVST or IVSTVS. - IMP CAES C PESCEN NIG IVS AVG.
His bronze coins (Greek Imperials) have Greek legends; and, although there are many types, all are very rare.
The unique gold coin, mentioned above, was formerly in the collection of the King of France. It had been considered dubious by many medalists on account of the title "Pater Patriae" which it bears on the reverse, a title which Niger could not have received from the Senate of Rome. Unfortunately the coin was lost when the collection was plundered during the French revolution and has, in all probability, been melted down.
The only colonial coins struck for Niger, during his brief one and a half year reign, were those of Caesarea and Aelia Capitolina, which indicate that his authority did not extend much beyond Syria and Palestine.