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Research Coins: Feature Auction


A Posthumous Plautilla

Triton XXII, Lot: 758. Estimate $1000.
Sold for $2250. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

MESOPOTAMIA, Edessa. Elagabalus, with Plautilla. AD 218-222. AR Tetradrachm (24mm, 13.31 g, 6h). AVT K M AV CЄ ANTωNЄINOC CЄ, laureate and cuirassed bust of Elagabalus left, with large shield over shoulder / ΦOVΛVIA ΠΛA[VTIΛA] AVΓOVCTA, draped bust of Plautilla right. Prieur 1729 (this coin illustrated); Bellinger 156 (Severus Alexander?). VF, toned, porosity. Extremely rare, 1 of only 2 cited by Prieur (the other in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin).

From the Michel Prieur Collection. Ex Giessener Münzhandlung 44 (3 April 1989), lot 497.

This fascinating coin depicts Fulvia Plautilla, the wife of Caracalla, which is particularly surprising considering that she was exiled by her husband in AD 205 and killed in 211! Under Elagabalus, tetradrachm production became largely centralized either at the mint of Antioch or Emesa. The exception appears to be in Mesopotamia; the frontier province enjoyed a considerable amount of freedom in coin production, striking extremely rare Greek legend tetradrachms (Prieur 1724ff) and Latin legend aurei (Leu 42, lot 373) for the emperor. As Elagabalus claimed to be the illegitimate son of Caracalla and his cousin Julia Soaemias, many of these coins stress the continuity of the Severan line. For example, Prieur 1730 depicts a bust of Septimius Severus on the reverse and designates him the emperor’s grandfather, another tetradrachm (CNG 103, lot 602) names Septimius Severus his grandfather and Caracalla his father, and the aforementioned Leu aureus describes Caracalla as PAT[ER]. So what to make of Plautilla on this coin? Although it does not explicitly name Plautilla “mother,” it fits nicely in the (pseudo?) Edessan dynastic series. It would seem to reflect a rumor that Elagabalus was the legitimate son of Caracalla and Plautilla, a rumor that is unrecorded in the historical sources.

Bellinger thought the obverse depicted Severus Alexander, but the obverse legend would seem to preclude this. The presence of CЄ[OVHPROC] on the obverse was most likely intended to further underscore the continuity of the Severan line.