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Extremely Rare Zenobia Antoninianus

783317. Sold For $7500

Zenobia. Usurper, AD 268-272. Antoninianus (21mm, 3.02 g, 12h). Antioch mint. 2nd emission, AD 272. S ZENOBIA AVG, draped bust right, wearing stephane, set on crescent / IVNO R E GINA, Juno standing left, holding patera and scepter; at feet, peacock standing left with head right; star in left field. RIC V 2 corr. (no star); Carson, Zenobia 4; BN 1267a (same obv. die); MIR 47, 360b/0. Good VF, toned, minor roughness. Extremely rare; Estiot (BN) cites only ten examples.

The widow of Odenathus, the ruler of the rich eastern trade center Palmyra, and the mother and regent of Vaballathus, 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 Vaballathus. Since he was still in his minority, Zenobia took over as regent, using the position and the confusion following the death of Gallienus to offset 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 began to lay claims to an illustrious ancestry, including Cleopatra VII of Egypt and the legendary Dido of Carthage.

The emperor Aurelian recognized the immediate danger of Zenobia and vigorously campaigned 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.