AV aureus (21mm, 6.70 gm, 12h). Marks, brushed. Rome, AD 222-228. IMP C M AVR SEV-ALEXAND AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of youthful Severus Alexander right, seen from front / IOVI CONSE-R-VATORI, Jupiter standing facing, head left, nude but for chlamys over left shoulder, and right arm, thunderbolt in right hand, scepter in left. RIC IV.II 140. Calicó 3056. RARE!
The reign of Severus Alexander presents the last relatively tranquil interlude before the mid-third century storm swept away the Pax Romana. He was born Marcus Julius Gessius Bassianus Alexianus, in AD 208, into a clan of Syrian nobility from the caravan city of Emesa. His maternal grand-aunt, Julia Domna, was married to the Emperor Septimius Severus, making him part of an Imperial family that was largely dominated by a clique of strong-minded and clever women, all named Julia. His grandmother Julia Maesa engineered the Severan dynasty's return to power in AD 218 by fomenting the military coup that placed Alexander's cousin Varius Avitus, known to history as Elagabalus, on the throne. Once ensconced in Rome, however, Elagabalus' behavior grew ever more erratic and outrageous. Fearing for the dynasty's future, Maesa in AD 222 engineered the murder of Elagabalus and his replacement by her other, more docile grandson, Alexander. Handsome and affable, the youth was really never more than a figurehead ruler, first for Maesa and then, after her death in AD 225/6, for his mother Julia Mamaea. As long as the Empire remained at peace, the arrangement worked relatively well; the government functioned smoothly and prosperity reigned. Starting in AD 230, the Roman Empire came under attack on two fronts-- from Persia in the East and by the German tribes along the Rhine frontier, a foretaste of the decades to come. Alexander managed to check the Persian offensive, but the loss of a large Roman army exposed the regime's military ineptitude. When his mother tried to buy peace from the Germans rather than fight, his outraged soldiers rebelled and murdered them both, launching 40 years of Great Anarchy that nearly destroyed the Empire. Later generations would view Alexander's reign as the last episode of a Golden Age and gave him all the attributes of an Ideal Prince.