An Excessively Rare and Exceptional Roman Gold Aureus of Severina, Wife of Aurelian

Severina, wife of Aurelian. Aureus, Ticinum 275, AV 6.36 g. SEVER – INA AVG Diademed and draped bust r., set on crescent. Rev. CONCOR – DIAE – MILITVM Concordia standing facing, head l., holding two military ensigns. C 6. RIC 2 corr. (Rome). RIC online 1559 (these dies). Göbl 79a. Estiot 79c. CBN 657 (these dies). Calicó 4063.

Exceedingly rare, among the finest of very few specimens known. A superb portrait of excellent style, virtually as struck and almost Fdc

For a woman so abundantly represented on coinage, little mention is made of Severina outside the realm of numismatics. A handful of inscriptions are known, most of which refer to her as the wife of Aurelian and assign to her the title Augusta, which she very likely earned in the fall of 274 at the time of Aurelian’s triumph for his defeat of Romano-Gallic and Palmyrene pretenders.

All literary references to Severina must be regarded with scepticism due to the late date and dubious nature of the sources. Despite reports in The Historia Augusta to the contrary, Severina’s origins were probably as humble as those of Aurelian. Her nomen Ulpia was common in the Balkans by this time due to the legacy of Trajan, and there is no reason to suspect any real connection to nobility in Spain.

Sadly, it is fair to say that beyond her being the wife of Aurelian and holding the title of Augusta from 274 to 275, nothing that we know about her can be held above suspicion.

The numismatic evidence uniformly supports the idea that she was hailed Augusta in 274, as all of her imperial coinage is of the type issued after Aurelian’s monetary reform, which is thought to have occurred in the early months of 274.

Furthermore, her coinage at Alexandria is limited to Aurelian’s years six and seven, thus to 274 and 275. The most difficult element of the numismatic evidence occurs in the period of Aurelian’s murder in October or November, 275.

The Historia Augusta provides an elaborate framework for this period, which includes a senate-ruled interregnum of perhaps six months between the murder of Aurelian and the assumption of power by his successor, Tacitus.

The notion of a rise in senatorial authority over the army at this moment in history has long been discarded as wishful thinking or revisionist thinking by the author of The Historia Augusta, but it is possible there was a period of sole rule by Severina after the death of her husband.

Close study of the coinages of all mints, and especially those of Antioch and Alexandria, suggest a larger volume of coinage was struck in the name of Severina than Aurelian just prior to the commencement of coinage for Tacitus. If we assume that analysis is correct, there would be no good explanation other than coinage was being struck solely in the name of Severina after her husband’s murder.

However, much about the coinage of this period remains to be sorted and we can only entertain this as a possibility. If true, it is probably best to regard her sole-reign as a carry-over period in a moment of transition rather than a senate-sponsored interregnum of the kind described in The Historia Augusta.


NAC114, 817

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