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Superb Geta Sestertius

Geta (AD 209-211). Orichalcum sestertius (33mm, 28.80 gm, 12h).  Rome, AD 211. P SEPTIMIVS GETA PIVS AVG BRIT, laureate head of Geta right, lightly bearded / FORT RED P M TR P III COS II P P, Fortuna seated left, holding tiller in right hand and cornucopia cradled in left arm, wheel below chair, S C in exergue. RIC 166a. Very rare, and possessing an exceptional portrait. Warm deep brown patina. Choice Extremely Fine.

The younger son of the Emperor Septimius Severus, Publius Septimius Geta watched his brother Caracalla become the favored heir, while he was treated as something of a "spare." Geta was only 11 months younger than his brother and closely resembled his father's coloring and temperament. After Caracalla was named co-Augustus with his father in A.D. 198, Geta was made Caesar, or junior emperor, unintentionally highlighting his second-class status. This contributed to an intense sibling rivalry between Geta and Caracalla, which, after the boys reached their teens, threatened to tear the family and indeed the Empire apart. The situation became so intolerable that Severus, in AD 208, decided to take his sons on campaign with him to Britain to get them away from the tumult. Geta and his mother remained in York while Severus and Caracalla led the legions through a difficult slog in Scotland, where Caracalla began to exhibit increasingly violent, deranged behavior. Perhaps in response, in AD 209 Severus raised Geta to the rank of Augustus, and for the first time the Roman Empire had three theoretically coequal emperors. Soon Severus' health began to deteriorate; he died on February 4, AD 211, making one final plea for his sons to get along. It fell on deaf ears. Once installed in the palace, Geta and Caracalla built a partition dividing their suites and found themselves on opposite sides of every important policy issue. Government ground to a halt amid the bickering. In December of AD 211, Caracalla asked their mother Julia Domna to arrange a meeting where the brothers could reconcile. She did as requested, but when Geta entered the room, Caracalla was joined by two centurions who ambushed Geta and stabbed him to death as he sought refuge in the arms of his mother. A large bribe kept the Praetorians quiet, and a bloody purge rooted out all of Geta's supporters. Geta's name and image were scratched and hacked off records and monuments all over the empire. Though his own personality remains somewhat enigmatic, Geta has ever since enjoyed the reputation of a gentle prince butchered by a cruel monster. 

Geta's coin portraits show him as a younger and more genial version of his father, lacking Caracalla's brutish power. This attractive sestertius celebrates Geta's "fortunate return" from the British campaign, though the return and its aftermath were hardly fortunate for Geta or the empire.

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Auction Dates
April, 2013
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