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Roman Empire

Ruler: Severus Alexander as Augustus
Reigned: Caesar 221-222 AD: Augustus 222-235 AD
Denomination: AR Denarius
Mint: Rome
Date of Issue: 230 AD
Obverse: Laureate bust right, slight drapery. "IMP. SEV. ALEXAND. AVG."
Reverse: Emperor in military dress standing left with right foot on helmet, holding globe in right hand and reversed spear in left. "VIRTVS AVG"
Reference: RSC 586a, RCVM 7938, RIC 226
Weight: 3.1 gms
Diameter: 19.7 mm
SEVERUS ALEXANDER (M. Aurelius Severus Alexander)

  • Severus Alexander, originally named Alexianus, was born about 208 AD, the son of Julia Mamaea and Gessius Marcianus.
  • In 222 AD, with Elagabalus growing more and more unpopular, Julia Maesa, his grandmother had him adopt his thirteen year old brother, Alexianus, as his heir.
  • Although Elagabalus gave Alexianus some power, he grew suspicious of him and planned to have him murdered.
  • The Praetorian Guard, who liked Alexianus, got wind of the plot and invited the boy, his mother Mamaea, and grandmother Maesa to the safety of their camp. The worried Elagabalus cut a deal.
  • Later Elagabalus had second thoughts and once more planned to kill his brother, but this time the Praetorian Guard had had enough. They proclaimed Alexianus emperor as Severus Alexander.
  • They searched the palace for Elagabalus and found him in the arms of his mother, Julia Soaemias in a palace privy. They were killed and their corpses dragged through the streets and thrown into the Tiber. (208 AD)
  • The reign of Alexander Severus began as a joint regency between his mother, Julia Mamaea and his grandmother, Julia Maesa.
  • The death of Maesa in 224 allowed Mamaea a free hand.
  • She reversed the religious excesses of Elagabalus, and restored the old gods. The black stone was sent back to Syria, and the Elagaballium on the Palatine Hill became the Temple of Jupiter Ultor (see coin reverse).
  • In 225, Mamaea arranged for Alexander to marry the daughter of a patrician family, Gnaea Seia Herennia Sallustia Orba Barbia Orbiana. But Mamaea became jealous of her and also the girl's father's power.
  • In 227 she had Orbiana exiled to North Africa and the father executed. Alexander did nothing.
  • Meanwhile, in the east, the Parthians had been relplaced by a new dynasty, the Sassanians, when Ardashir defeated his overlord, Artabanus, in 226. Ardashir then overran the Roman province of Mesopotamia, capturing the cities of Nisibis and Carrhae.
  • Alexander set out from Rome in the spring of 231, collecting troops along the Danube frontier, in spite of an attempted coup by troops of the Legio II "Traiana".
  • The assault on the Persians was launched in 232. Although there was some success the result was indecisive.
  • On returning to Rome, Alexander was informed that the Germans had breached the Rhine frontier in several places.
  • He gathered his forces along the Rhine frontier in 234 and crossed the Rhine into Germany.
  • He attempted to buy off the Germans, which did not go down very well with his troops. They decided to choose a new emperor, Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus, a Thracian.
  • In March 235, while in camp near Mainz, soldiers threw the purple imperial cloak over Maximinus's shoulders and declared him emperor.
  • The rebels immediately marched against Alexander, who was in camped at Vicus Britannicus (modern day Bretzenheim).
  • Like his brother before him, Alexander was found weeping and clinging to his mother. Both were killed.
  • Maximinus was the new emperor.

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