MARCIANOPOLIS Elagabalus 218-222 AD pentassarion


MOESIA INFERIOR, MARCIANOPOLIS, Elagabalus, 218-222 AD, pentassarion, no date, Obverse: laureate bust R, AVT K M AVΡH ANTΩNEINOC, Reverse: Hermes standing L holding purse & caducaeus, YΠ IOYΛ ANT CEΛEYKOY MAΡKIANOΠOΛITΩN, bronze, 25mm, 7.81g, SGI-nl, Moushmov-657, parts of legends obscure, nice patina, VG-F

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Elagabal was the local sun god in the city of Emesa. The son of a prominent Arab family there became high priest as a child. The child was a cousin to the Roman Emperor Caracalla, who was assassinated and replaced by Macrinus, who was assassinated in a coup arranged by the boy’s grandmother, Julia Maesa. The boy then became Roman Emperor and took the name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, but there were already Emperors with those names, it’s confusing, we refer to him by the name of the god he worshipped. The kid’s conduct was scandalous and politically damaging in several ways and he was assassinated in another plot fomented by the same grandmother who put him on the throne in the first place.

Marcianopolis was in what is now Bulgaria, not far from the Black Sea coast. It was conquered by Roman Emperor Trajan at the start of the 2nd century AD and remained in the Roman, and then the Byzantine Empire, before being destroyed by the Avars in 615 AD.

Moesia was a region spread over southern Romania, Kosovo, and Serbia, and northern North Macedonia and Bulgaria. The Romans conquered the region during the late Republic, to protect their holdings in Macedonia to the south. That was their operating principle: extend their territories to protect what they already had. Like all other attempts at world conquest, it failed due to lack of resources. In Moesia, during the 3rd century AD, a number of cities issued large, well made bronze coins. Marcianopolis is now the Bulgarian town of Devnya. Elagabalus was a notably wierd Emperor whose personal characteristics interfered with governance. Julia Maesa was his grandmother, and a political person whose activities eventually brought her boy to the throne.

The Romans, as they were building their empire, preferred to let the local coinage arrangements remain in place. As they developed their political system into the Cult of Personality that was the Empire, they started putting imperial portraits on the local coins. Later, as the Empire began to shrink, they preferred to centralize their coinage operations, eliminating local control. There were also allied and client states, some of which, at times, issued coins celebrating the alliance or subservience. The main catalog reference for these coins on this web site is Greek Imperial Coins and their Values, by David Sear.

Ancient Coins includes Greek and Roman coins and those of neighbors and successors, geographically from Morocco and Spain all the way to Afghanistan. Date ranges for these begin with the world’s earliest coins of the 8th century BC to, in an extreme case, the end of Byzantine Empire, 1453 AD.