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    Elagabalus: Strange Interlude

    Elagabalus (AD 218-222). AV aureus (20mm, 6.40 gm, 12h).  Rome, AD 219. IMP CAES ANTONINVS AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Elagabalus right, seen from front / PONTIF MAX TR P II COS II P P, Roma seated left, holding in right hand small figure of Victory, and in left hand vertical scepter, shield by her side. RIC 25 (R). BMCRE 90-91. Cohen 229. Calicó 3023a (this coin illustrated). Rare. Cleanly struck and perfectly centered on a round flan. NGC (photo-certificate) Choice XF 5/5 - 3/5, Fine Style.

    From The Andre Constantine Dimitriadis Collection. Ex Stack's (New York, 3-4 December 1996), lot 336. 

    Without doubt, the four-year reign of Elagabalus stands as the strangest interlude in all Roman history. His rise to power was engineered by his grandmother, Julia Maesa, the sister of the powerful Roman Empress Julia Domna. Maesa, determined to restore the Severan-Emesan dynasty to power, seized upon her 13-year-old grandson, Varius Avitus Bassianus, as the means. The boy, who was the hereditary high priest of the god Elagabal, greatly resembled a young Caracalla, and Maesa had it put about to the soldiers that he was the emperor's natural son and true successor. That, plus a liberal sprinkling of gold, induced the troops to revolt and proclaim Avitus (now renamed Antoninus, but widely known as Elagabalus after his god) as emperor. Improbably, Macrinus was defeated and killed, and Elagabalus and his retinue made their way to Rome, where the people greeted their new ruler with mixed bafflement, amusement, and horror. Elagabalus was also what would today be called transgendered and totally committed to the orgiastic rites of his cult. He married three times in rapid succession, including a scandalous union with a Vestal Virgin. The populace and soldiery soon became disgusted with this un-Roman behavior. Maesa finally decided that he must be replaced to save the dynasty. She persuaded Elagabalus to adopt his more docile cousin Alexander as Caesar, then cooly arranged for the Praetorians to murder their oddball emperor along with his mother, Julia Soaemias, in March, AD 222. 

    All Roman gold coins from the Dimitriadis Collection have been issued a photo-certificate by NGC. These may be sent in for encapsulation after the auction at the request of the buyer, free of charge. Please e-mail if you would like to utilize this option.

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    April, 2014
    10th-16th Thursday-Wednesday
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