Obverse: Draped Bust of Julia Maesa Facing Right
Reverse: Pietas, Standing to the Left, Sprinkling Incense over an Altar
Women, though often overlooked, played an intriguing role during the height of the Roman Empire, often pulling the strings from offstage when the emperor was too young to rule or especially gullible to the influences of an ambitious empress. Julia Maesa, sister of Julia Domna and grandmother to Elagabalus and Severus Alexander, is one such powerful plotter who altered the course of history. It is believed that she is largely responsible for igniting the rebellion that toppled Macrinus and the restored the Severan Dynasty to the throne. When her older grandson Elagabalus went mad and became uncontrollable, he was assassinated and the more obedient Severus Alexander was installed. Although she may or may not have directly ordered his murder, she clearly benefited from Elagabalus’ demise. However, by the time Alexander donned the purple, she was already quite old and eventually died just a few years into his reign.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or purse? What eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our possession? As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change, we rarely hesitate to think of who might have touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after it leaves our hands. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and location, whether contemporary currencies or artifacts of a long forgotten empire. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural detail that is often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. Today, this coin is an ancient memorial to a powerful woman passed from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation.