Author Topic: My favorite Caracalla portrait - LIBERAL AVG VIIII  (Read 184 times)

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Offline Finn235

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My favorite Caracalla portrait - LIBERAL AVG VIIII
« on: May 15, 2017, 05:14:49 PM »
Caracalla AR Denarius
Laureate head right, ANTONINVS PIVS AVG GERM
Liberalitas, the goddess of generosity, holding cornucopia and coin counter, LIBERAL - AVG - VIIII
RIC 302

While neither rare nor especially valuable on account of the worn out and off-center reverse, this is one of my favorite ancients to show off because of the portrait. Caracalla was noted for showing a menacing "military scowl" to keep his subordinates in line; something I feel this coin uniquely captures. Most adult portraits of the emperor show the rather relaxed, lifeless facial expression worn by pretty much every emperor except Vespasian. Some less common coins show a furrowed brow or intense gaze.

What really drew me to this coin was the look of almost disgust; a malicious stare coupled with a wrinkled nose and an upper lip drawn back ever so slightly--"How dare you insult me with your presence!" Rather ironic, I think, given the message of welfare and generosity on the reverse!

Feel free to share your own coins of this fratricidal maniac!

« Last Edit: May 15, 2017, 06:23:26 PM by Finn235 »

Online THCoins

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Re: My favorite Caracalla portrait - LIBERAL AVG VIIII
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2017, 02:12:45 PM »
Nice coin and write-up !
I also selected a specimen based on the portrait. But mine does not look as nasty as yours.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: My favorite Caracalla portrait - LIBERAL AVG VIIII
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2017, 12:52:24 PM »
Indeed, the early emperors still had lifelike portraits on the coins. Nevertheless, I think facial expressions cannot be easily interpreted. Humans are very good at interpreting faces, but that also means that a subtle difference in one or two lines can yield a totally different interpretation. The slaves cutting Roman dies would have been unable to get away with such things as giving the emperor a silly grin or including an ugly scar, but otherwise, there would have been a wide area of tolerance in portraits or too many dies would have been rejected.

That said, I agree that it is great fun to interpret the portrait in the light of the vicious character of this emperor.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Pellinore

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Re: My favorite Caracalla portrait - LIBERAL AVG VIIII
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2017, 02:12:02 AM »
This is a different portrait, without beard - you may interpret it as a mean looking youngster. However, it dates from when Caracalla was emperor, because of the IMP. 
It's a bronze of the Macedonian town of Stobi. The reverse shows Nike to the left holding a wreath. 24 mm, 5.98 gr.
-- Paul

« Last Edit: June 06, 2017, 08:55:25 AM by Pellinore »

Offline Finn235

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Re: My favorite Caracalla portrait - LIBERAL AVG VIIII
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2017, 08:16:20 PM »
My apologies for not replying earlier...

The interesting thing about Caracalla is that historical sources mention his almost ever-present scowl, seen by him as a sign of military toughness. He also had an unhealthy obsession with Alexander the Great, and perhaps it is not entirely improbable that he owned one or more posthumous Alexander tetradrachms, showing the rather stern visage typical of many. At any rate, I feel that the scowl here was intentional, and history tells us that the man behind the coin would have preferred a scowl over the boring intellectual gaze of his predecessors.

Liberalitas was a PR festival; the coins issued were propaganda for a public that feared and hated the Emperor. Wild speculation of course, but I like to entertain the idea that the die cut for my denarius (before the reverse die was worn out) may have been used as a "proof" to present to the emperor himself before the distribution festival.