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    Unpublished Stone of Emesa Antoninianus in Frontal View

    Elagabalus (AD 218-222). AR antoninianus (23mm, 5.65 gm, 12h). NGC Choice XF★ 5/5 - 4/5. Rome, late AD 219-early AD 220. IMP ANTONINVS PIVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust of Elagabalus right, seen from behind / CON-SERVA-TOR AVG, Elagabalus standing facing, head left, sacrificing out of patera in right hand over lighted altar, cypress (?) branch in left hand; behind him, spread quadriga facing on which is the conical stone of Emesa decorated with eagle facing with spread wings, head left with wreath in beak, umbrella on either side. RIC -. Cohen -. BMC -. Apparently unique and unpublished. An historically important and fascinating issue with an innovative reverse design. Three known specimens, one in Vienna, one in the Ganz hoard and this coin.

    From the Morris Collection. Ex Numismatica Ars Classica, Auction 29 (11 May 2005), lot 596.

    This previously unknown, coin is important in three respects - first, its reverse is a famous historical type rendered in a previously unknown composition; second, its obverse inscription is seemingly unknown for this emperor's antoniniani; third, and perhaps most important of all, it could be the earliest representation of the frontal chariot motif in Imperial art. The scene is rendered in three planes: the emperor, the horses, and the stone and umbrellas. This presentation improves immeasurably over the known stone-in-quadriga issues, which depict the quadriga in profile and omit Elagabalus altogether. The inscription CONSERVATOR AVG describes the Emesan sun-god as the preserver or defender of the young emperor. When the conical black stone was conducted within Rome, Elagabalus walked backward before the chariot that bore it, unwilling to divert his eyes from his god. If the ancient sources can be trusted, the young emperor was not dressed in the Roman tunic we see here, but in sacerdotal robes of purple silk, ornamented with gold and precious stones. We are told he wore a tiara, bracelets and necklaces and painted his cheeks and the area above his eyes. This must have transfixed spectators, who also experienced the smell of incense, the crash of cymbals, the sound of flutes, and the cryptic chants of Syrian priests and priestesses. Gnecchi and Tonybee had considered the facing quadriga to have debuted in Imperial art on the medallions of Severus Alexander's fourth tribunician, dateable to AD 225. Since this facing quadriga predates that by five years, it represents the most advanced iconographic imagination of the day. For these reasons we might presume it was struck to commemorate an actual event, and was not merely a generic continuation of the stone-in-quadriga issues of AD 218-219. There were three likely occasions for a commemorative of this type: the entry of Elagabalus into Rome in the summer of AD 219; the deposition/dedication of the stone in a temple on the Palatine sometime in AD 220 or AD 221; or the annual transference of the stone at midsummer from the Palatine temple to a new temple on the eastern edge of the suburbs of Rome beginning in the summer of AD 221 or AD 222. Clearly, the last of these is not a possibility. Historians disagree as to when Elagabalus arrived in Rome, with estimates ranging from spring to September of AD 219. The entourage sailed to Nicomedia, where they wintered, presumably awaiting the arrival of the stone. They left Nicomedia sometime in AD 219, with the recent consensus being that they left in May and likely arrived in Rome in July. Though it is tempting to associate this coin with that formal entry, it is unlikely since July (or even September) seems too early for the introduction of this obverse inscription. Thus our attention should shift to ceremonies associated with the formal deposition or dedication of the stone in the Elagaballium, a temple on the north-eastern corner of the Palatine that apparently was ready for dedication in AD 220, and which appeared on a now-lost medallion struck in AD 221. This was a large and magnificent temple, and Hill has made a convincing argument that it was none other than the temple long-dedicated to Jupiter, improved by the addition of propylaea and then re-dedicated to Heliogabalus. This would be in line with the new emperor's policy of supplanting Jupiter with Heliogabalus. This new dedication did not last long, however, for in AD 224 Elagabalus' cousin and successor, Severus Alexander, restored it to Jupiter Victor.


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    January, 2019
    6th-7th Sunday-Monday
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