Magnificent Macrinus AureusROMAN EMPIRE. Macrinus (AD 217-218). AV aureus (20mm, 6.81 gm, 6h). Rome, AD 218. IMP M OPEL SEV MACRINVS AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Macrinus right, seen from back / LIBERALITAS AVG, Macrinus and Diadumenian seated left on platform in curule chairs, Dacian bodyguard standing behind holding falx, Liberalitas standing before holding coin scoop and abacus, small figure of citizens ascending stairs before to receive largesse. RIC 79. BMCRE 71 (this coin). Cohen 43. Extremely rare. A magnificent specimen, struck in high relief from dies of fine style and fully lustrous. Choice extremely fine.
Ex Metropolitan Museum of Art I (Sotheby's , 10 November 1972), lot 154; from the J. H. Durkee Bequest (1899).
Though not strictly speaking a Judaean-related coin, the brief reign of Macrinus took place entirely in neighboring province of Syria. Macrinus was born in Caesarea in Mauritania around the year 165. Though he is described as a dark-skinned Moor, his family was upper middle-class and he received a literary education that enabled him to rise high as a bureaucrat in the imperial service during the reign of Septimius Severus. Caracalla made Macrinus praetorian prefect, an equestrian post second only to the emperor in executive power. In AD 216, Macrinus accompanied Caracalla to the east on a campaign against the Parthians. While the emperor was visiting a temple near Carrhae, Macrinus learned that a letter implicating him in a plot was about to be delivered to Caracalla. Acting quickly, he arranged for Caracalla to be murdered by one of his own bodyguards. Macrinus proclaimed his innocence and, while not everyone was convinced, he was still able to have the army leadership proclaim him emperor on April 11, AD 217. He also raised his 10-year-old son, Diadumenian, to the rank of Caesar. The Senate in Rome was delighted to be rid of the hated Caracalla, and while they looked down on Macrinus as an upstart parvenu, they were willing to give him a chance. Hoping to disengage the army and return to Rome, Macrinus tried to patch up a peace agreement with the Parthians, but sensing weakness, they massed their armies and forced Macrinus to grant them large bribes and reparations. To the Roman soldiers, this smelled like defeat, and Macrinus worsened matters by revoking the large pay increase Caracalla had granted them. The discontent persuaded Caracalla's wealthy and influential aunt, Julia Maesa, to take a stab at returning the Severan dynasty to power. She bribed the Roman garrison of Emesa in Syria to proclaim her 13-year-old grandson, Elagabalus, as emperor on May 15, AD 218. Macrinus did not at first take the revolt seriously, but when other soldiers joined in, he marshaled his loyal legions and met the rebels at a village near Antioch on June 8. With his troops on the verge of victory, Macrinus suddenly lost heart and fled the field. His disgusted soldiers switched sides and declared their support for Elagabalus. Disguised as a courier, Macrinus traveled across Asia Minor and nearly made it to Europe, but he was captured in Chalcedon and summarily executed. His son met a similar fate en route to exile in Parthia.
Gold coins of Macrinus are exceedingly rare. This remarkable gold aureus bears a fine portrait of Macrinus wearing a long beard in imitation of his idol, Marcus Aurelius. The reverse depicts Macrinus presiding over a cash distribution the citizenry in an effort to improve his popularity. If he had instead issued more gold to his soldiers, his reign might have lasted longer.
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