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    Vabalathus as Augustus

    Vabalathus, Eastern usurper (AD 270-272). BI antoninianus (21mm, 3.31 gm, 5h). NGC VF 4/5 - 4/5. Antioch, March-May AD 272. IM C VHABALATHVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust of Vabalathus right / VICTORIA AVG, Victory advancing left, holding wreath and palm; star to left. RIC V 6. BN 1267. RCV 11728. Very rare! Dark brown patina with earthen fields.

    The youth with the formidable name Lucius Julius Aurelius Septimius Vabalathus Athenodorus was probably born in AD 256 or 257 to Odenathus, king of the Arabian caravan city of Palmyra, a Syrian city-state allied with Rome. During the Persian wars of the mid-third century, Odenathus took charge of Rome's Eastern defenses and inflicted several defeats on the hitherto invincible Persian armies. The Roman Emperor Gallienus delegated control of Syria and Egypt to Odenathus until he was murdered in a family quarrel in AD 267. His formidable wife Zenobia took control of Palmyra as regent for her son Vabalathus. But when the Romans tried to reassert direct control over the East, Zenobia sent the Palmyran camel cavalry into Asia Minor and Egypt in AD 268 and 269, de facto creating a rival Palmyran Empire. When Aurelian became emperor in AD 270, he at first gave tacit recognition to the Palmyran regime, but in AD 272 he marched east to crush the rebels. Aurelian defeated Zenobia's armies and forced her and Vabalathus to take refuge in Palmyra, which he besieged. The queen then attempted to seek help from the Persians, but Roman cavalry overtook and captured her. She and Zenobia and Vabalathus were taken to Rome to walk in chains in Aurelian's triumphal parade. Zenobia was allowed to settle into a comfortable retirement in Italy, but the final fate of Vabalathus is unrecorded. 

    On this rare billon antoninianus, probably struck at Antioch, Vabalathus claims the Roman title of Augustus, although by this time he and his mother were in full revolt against Rome. Even if they had beaten Aurelian, Zenobia and Vabalathus would have likely ruled their new Eastern Empire on the Roman model, using the well-entrenched bureaucracy already in place. The reverse image of Victory probably alludes to the quick conquests enjoyed by the Palmyran regime before Aurelian's arrival.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2018
    7th-8th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 6
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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