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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton XII, Lot: 750. Estimate $7500. 
Closing Date: Monday, 5 January 2009. 
Sold For $9000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Zenobia. Usurper, AD 268-272. Antoninianus (3.64 g, 6h). Antioch mint, 8th officina. 2nd emission, March-May AD 272. S ZЄNOBIA AVG, draped bust right, wearing stephane, set on crescent / IVNO REGINA, Juno standing left, holding patera in right hand and scepter in left; at feet to left, peacock standing left; star in left field. RIC V 2 corr. (no star); MIR 47, 360b/0; BN 1267a. EF, brown patina.

From the Gordon S. Parry Collection. Ex Triton III (1 December 1999), lot 1167.

The widow of Odenathus, the ruler of the rich eastern trade center Palmyra, and the mother and regent of Vabalathus, Septimia Zenobia became a powerful regional ruler in her own right. Granted de facto power in the East by the emperor Gallienus to counteract the Persian advance, Odenathus used the opportunity to establish his own separatist kingdom. When Odenathus was murderered in AD 267, Zenobia used the moment to advance her son Vabalathus. Since he was still in his minority, Zenobia took over as regent, using the position and the confusion following the death of Gallienus to establish her position between Rome and Persia and expand Palmyrene power. In AD 269 the Palmyrenes seized control of Egypt and, with it, the Roman grain supply. To bolster her position, Zenobia laid claims to an illustrious ancestry, including Cleopatra VII of Egypt and the legendary Dido of Carthage.

The emperor Aurelian recognized the threat posed by Zenobia and launched a campaign against her. In AD 272 Palmyra was sacked and both Zenobia and Vaballathus were captured as they tried to make their way to Persia. She was brought to Rome and paraded in Aurelian’s triumph in AD 274, bound in gold chains. According to later tradition, Aurelian, impressed by her beauty and dignity, later freed her, and granted her a villa in Tibur, where she spent the rest of her life.