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Inverted anchor cross. A cross with slightly widened ends, with two anchor flukes coming out of the top and curving left and right, also with slightly widened ends.

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Eagle standing left, head right with wreath in its beak. Lettering: ΛEΓ B TΡAI - LΓ

284 Rome Numerian Tetradrachm

A Nice thick Roman-Egyptian coin – with an eagle


The “Crisis of the Third Century” was a period of great instability in the Roman Empire following the end of the Severan dynasty. Lasting from 235 – 284, one striking example of this was the year 238: The year of the Six Emperors. Towards the end of this period, Probus ruled for a relatively long six years, before being murdered in 282. Whether this was by his troops who wanted Carus as emperor, or at Carus’s direct instigation is unclear. To establish his new dynasty, Carus elevated both his sons, Carinus and Numerian, to the rank of Caesar (junior emperor). Carus and his son Numerian travelled to Pannonia (around modern Hungary) to defeat the Sarmatians and the Quadi. After accomplishing that goal, the pair travelled to Persia, intending to complete the re-conquest of Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). This had been originally planned by Probus. Achieving this feat, Carinus, eldest son of Carus, was declared Augustus. In July 283, near Ctesiphon (southeast of modern Baghdad), Carinus died suddenly in his tent. Some accounts say it was lightning, others murder (I know, murder seems a very unlikely way for a Roman emperor to die).

Numerian succeeded Carus, becoming joint emperor with his brother Carinus, who had stayed to rule the West. Numerian’s rule was short. He initially sought to continue the Persian campaign. Not finding success, he decided to return to Rome. He suffered an eye infection and was carried in a litter after going nearly blind. One morning in November 284, he was found dead in his litter, and it seemed had been for several days. Arrius Aper, Pretorian guard prefect and Numerian’s father-in-law, likely had both emperors killed. Numerian did rule for 1 year and 3 months. While this doesn’t seem a long time, it actually doesn’t even rank him in the top 50 shortest ruling Roman emperors!

Numerian was succeeded by Diocletian, a stable ruler who established the Period of the Dominate. One of Diocletian’s innovations was the “Tetrarchy“: Two joint emperors, and two junior emperors, to ensure smooth transition of rule. This period lasted until 324, around the time this Constantivs II Ivnior, VOT X coin was issued.


Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Numerian right.


The obverse shows a Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Numerian right.



Eagle standing left, head right with wreath in its beak. Lettering: ΛEΓ B TΡAI - LΓ

The reverse features an eagle standing left, head right with wreath in its beak. The lettering is “ΛEΓ B TΡAI – LΓ”


Thick, but uneven edge of the coin

One thing I really like about Alexandrian Tetradrachms is how thick they are. This coin is around 20mm diameter, it weighs 7.6 grams and is 3.5mm thick.

The coin is made of “Potin“, an alloy of copper, tin and lead. Some accounts state that Potin includes up to a fifth silver, making it more like “Billon”. This piece certainly looks and feels more copper. Bright green patina on a copper coin like this is always a bit concerning, but this does seem stable. Nontheless, it is worth checking now and then to ensure it isn’t deteriorating.


Numerian was more of an intellectual than a warrior. He had won critical acclaim for his poetry. I hoped I might find some to share with you. Asking online about his poetry, the extremely knowledgeable Partial Historians suggested, and to save misquoting, I’ll simply quote them verbatim: “in the case of Numerian, I think we’re not in luck in terms of surviving literature. There is also the tendency in the few sources we have, to strongly criticise Numerian’s brother Carinus. This has made scholars wonder if Numerian’s literary and rhetorical skills were talked up as a way of offering further criticism of Carinus. A fascinating period of chaotic history! You might find Penella’s article ‘The Eloquence of the Emperor Numerian’ (on JStor) of interest here. Discussing the way ancient writers often bolstered criticism of someone by praising the qualities of someone else could be an avenue here”.

Since I couldn’t find any of Numerian’s poetry, I made up my own:

There once was a man named Aper,
Who was keen to be emperor!
He did for my dad,
Which was very bad!
And now I fear I’m a goner!

Ok, I won’t give up my day job. Apparently Limericks weren’t a popular form of prose back in Numerian’s time in any case. So, I’ll finish by asking, what is your favourite modern tribute to something ancient? Poetry, coin, anything at all.

Eagle standing left, head right with wreath in its beak. Lettering: ΛEΓ B TΡAI - LΓ






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