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Object Description
Title/Object Name
Ob: IMP(erator) ANTONINVS PIVS AVG(ustus) | Re: P(ontifex) M(aximus) TR(ibunicia) P(otestate) IIII CO(n)S(ul) III P(ater)P(atriae)
3rd century
221 CE
Portfolio / Series Title
Emperors of the Severan Dynasty
Diameter, 0.7874 In, 2 Cm
Weight, 0.0055 Pounds, 2.484 Grams
Elagabalus Ob: Bust of Elagabalus laureate, cuirassed, right. Re: Elagabalus sacrificing over lighted altar and holding sacrificial bowl and branch with star above.
Credit Line
Gift of Wilton Jaffee to the University of Colorado Classics Department (2003), Transfer, CU Art Museum, University of Colorado Boulder
On this denarius, Elagabalus appears slightly differently than his earlier portraits, which portrayed him as a youth. Instead, he borrows from his Severan predecessors, with shorter hair and a small beard. His expression is resolute, even severe, an apt illustration of the tone of his reign. Elagabalus was obsessed with the Emesan (modern Syria) sun god, Elah-Gabal, and instituted significant and repulsive changes to Rome’s religious traditions with abandon. Some of his offenses included staging a marriage of Elah-Gabal to the North African goddess Juno Caelestis, then by paralleling the bizarre contrivance by divorcing his own wife to take a Vestal Virgin in her place (an abhorrent affront to the sanctity of the role). He replaced the main god of Rome, Jupiter, with his eastern favorite, building two temples in honor of the deity – one in the imperial palace. On the reverse of this coin, note that while the motif of an emperor sacrificing as pontifex maximus (high priest) was common long before Elagabalus’ reign, it took on a new dimension of indiscretion due to his zealous promotion of the foreign cult. The star in the field implies divine inspiration. His bizarre antics would become too much for the senate, the people, and even his own family; his aunt would have Elagabalus and his mother murdered in 222 CE. KHK.
Object ID
RIC IV, 31, Part II, no. 46c.



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