Didia Clara Last Coin ------------------ Next Coin Clodius Albinus

Roman Empire

Ruler: Pescennius Niger
Reigned: April/May 193 - spring/summer 194 AD
Denomination: AR Denarius/Drachm
Mint: Caesarea
Date of Issue:
Obverse: Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right: "IMP. CAES. C. PESC. NIGER IVST. AVG."
Reverse: Modius with grain ears: "ΔΗΜΑΡXΙ ΕΞΟ VΠΑΤΟC"
Reference: RIC -; RSC -; Sydenham -; Buttrey, "The Denarii of Pescennius Niger," The Presidents Address, NumChron 1992, p. xix, fig. 6 (same dies)
Weight: 2.46 gms
Diameter: 18.4 mm
Comment: When Pescennius was proclaimed emperor by his troops in AD 193, he knew his reign as emperor would not be peaceful. He quickly set out to issue huge sums of denarii in his name to pay his troops and to win the loyalty of others. To do this, like so many before him, Pescennius reduced the fineness of his denarii to a point that they were equivalent to the Caesarean drachm. This coin provides a direct link to these events, combining a denarius obverse die and a drachm reverse die. This coin also presents clear evidence that both Antioch and Caesarea struck coins for Pescennius


Born at Aquinum in Latium, either late in the reign of Hadrian or early in that of Antoninus Pius,Gaius Pescennius Niger Iustus was from of an equestrian family. Pursuing a military career, he achieved some distinction in a minor campaign in Dacia in the 180s and served as consul in 190,the same year which saw the first consulship of Septimius Severus. This was followed by the important governorship of Syria, the post which he occupied at the time of the murder of Pertinax in late March of 193 AD. Niger was popular in Rome and the citizens even drafted a plea to him to return and avenge the murder of Pertinax and the disgraceful elevation of Didius Julianus. However his distance from Rome and the existence of rival claimants prevented Niger from moving decisively to secure the throne. Although probably proclaimed by his troops as early as April, his only course of action was to consolidate his power base in the East and await the inevitable trial of strength with Septimius Severus who, being much closer to Italy, soon made himself master of the capital. The conflict was not long delayed and Severus, having secured the loyalty of the other claimant Clodius Albinus by granting him the title of Caesar, advanced against Niger in summer of 193. The eastern emperor was worsted in a series of engagements in Thrace and north-western Asia Minor and Severus now clearly possessed the upper hand in the contest for supremacy. Withdrawing to the East, Niger assumed a second consulship at Antioch at the beginning of the new year and prepared for a final battle to decide the issue. This took place in A spring of 194 at Issus in southeastern Cilicia, a Site made famous by Alexander the Great's victory over Darius III of Persia 527 years before. Severus broke the power of Niger in this engagement the eastern emperor losing as many as 20,000 of his men. He determined to flee to Parthia to seek refuge at the Arsacid court, but before he could escape he was captured and executed by agents of Severus.

As he had no access to the minting establishment in the capital Niger's coinage was, perforce all produced in the East, a situation reminiscent of the early phase of Vespasian's reign a century and a quarter before when a number of eastern provincial mints were utilized for the production of Roman currency. Niger's capital was the great Syrian metropolis of Antioch on the Orontes and undoubtedly this was his principal minting centre, but the products of other mints (Caesarea in Cappadocia and Alexandria in Egypt) have also been identified through recent research (now 'The Mints of Pescennius Niger' by Roger Bland, Andrew Burnett, and Simon Bendall, in Num Chron. 147, 1987, pp. 65-83 and plates 10-13). The legacy of all this was a prolongation of coin production in the East for almost a decade, as Severus found it useful to have these facilities available during his extensive eastern wars in the years following the elimination of Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus.

Taken from 'Roman Coins and their Values II' David R Sear

Back to main page