One of the most popular issues of Septimius
Severus, which implies an optimum combination of numismatic attractive and
relative abundance - at least as far as denarius refers - is the one that carries
the reverse INDVLGENTIA AVGG IN CARTH. We will dedicate this post to know it a
In 197 AD, the Roman legions, headed by their
emperor, the african Septimius Severus, crowned a successful campaign against
the parthian empire with the capture and sacking of the enemy capital,
Ctesifonte. Thanks to this great victory the Roman Empire regained control of
the mesopotamian area, which had been very disputed since its first capture by
Rome, in Trajan's time, eighty years ago.
Concluded the fighting, Septimius Severus would
provisionally set aside the armor and would engage in extensive administrative
work aimed at reorganizing the entire Roman East, which, of course, included
framing the new Mesopotamian province within this political-economic framework.
Four long years passed thus, at the end of which the emperor considered that
his work had ended in Asia and decided to move to Egypt. It was in the early
months of 202 when Septimius Severus entered the great city of Alexandria: the
principal city of Roman Egypt and the second city of the time, only surpassed
by Rome in number of inhabitants.
During his stay in the great metropolis of the Nile, Septimius took several resolutions that affected the african area of the Empire. Among them we can highlight the demarcation of a new province: Numidia, whose territory until then belonged to the province of Africa. As a compensation to the affected province, Septimius provided with great largesse to its two main cities: Útica and the celebrated Carthage, capital of this province of Africa. The fact is that the emperor's generosity towards Carthage had to be especially prodigal to the point of being deserved of a monetary coinage by the Rome mint, which is none other than the one to which we have dedicated this entry. Let´s describe it below:
Obverse: SEVERVS PIVS AVG. Laureate bust of the emperor to right.
Reverse: INDVLGENTIA AVGG. Dea Caelestis in elaborate headdress riding right on lion, holding thunderbolt and scepter; below, water gushing from rocks left. Legend IN CARTH in exergue
Attached we can see a couple of copies of these issues, the first in the name of Septimius Severus and the second in the name of Caracalla.
The translation of the legend on the reverse has no greater mystery: The Emperors´ indulgence (generosity) (Avgg = Avgvstorvm) with Carthage. The reference to two emperors (Avgg) alludes to the young Antoninus "Caracalla": firstborn of Septimius Severus and his co-emperor since 198. Nor is it difficult to interpret the figure of the goddess Cibeles (named in this coin with one of its main appellatives: Dea Caelestis), the main protective deity of Carthage, nor the lion on which he rides: a well-known allegory of the province of Africa. Specifying a little more, it is believed that the model of the goddess Cibeles appearing in this coin was inspired by a statue of the goddess that stood on the central spine of the Circus Maximus of Rome.
The present coinage is dated by RIC IV in the second half of 203 or first half of 204: shortly after the return of Septimius Severus to Rome from Egypt. This type of reverse would also be coined in the name of Caracalla: at that time a 16 year old teenager as reflected in his issue. As for the propagandistic objective of these emissions, it is evident: to make known to the Roman world the imperial generosity towards the city of Carthage.
The known benefits received by Carthage from Septimius Severus and the young Caracalla were the concession of the Italic Right (Ius Italicum) - which exempted the city from much of the taxes to be paid - the right to organize a periodic festival and the construction of an odeon for musical performances. However some authors, based on the information provided by this issue, have suggested another benefit: the construction of a new aqueduct for the city. This thesis is based on the schematic presence of a stream of water flowing from a sort of boulder, just below the lion on which Cibeles rides. Considering that there are some precedents in the roman coinage where aqueducts of recent construction are represented in an approximately similar form, the severiano aqueduct hypothesis can be considered plausible.
The city of Carthage, very grateful of the generosity of its emperor, adopted the nickname of Septimiana in year 202. Since then many centuries have passed, but the memory of those events is still alive in this issue that we have just discussed.