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Philip the Arab and his first issue of Antoniniani. The Unknown Eastern Mint.

The death of Gordian III in February/March of A.D. 244, instigated by the praetorian prefect Marcus Julius Philippus, nicknamed "the Arab" because of its origin, meant proclamation of this last one as emperor of Rome. His first major decision was the beginning of peace negotiations with the Persians intended to conclude the war in northeastern borders of the Empire, long since five years, during which the Roman arms had suffered several major setbacks. After weeks of talks on whose content we haven´t received written testimony, Philip signed a quite disadvantageous peace: 500,000 denarii for compensation and an annual sum by way of tribute to the Sassanid king, Shapur. Not surprisingly played against the Roman cause both rush of the new monarch to finish the war and go to Rome to secure his throne, as the vantage obtained by the Persians after a military favorable final campaign.


Battle between romans and sassanian persians. The fighters use weapons and protections typical of the middle decades of the third century AD, being, so, it contemporary to the coinage described in this post.


As there was usual in the roman world, the first coins in the name of the new emperor would be struck very short time after his proclamation. Testimony of this, in fact, is a specific antoniniani issue dated in the spring/summer of 244 whose motives of reversal, alluding to the peace treaty with the Persians, allow no room for doubt about its chronology. Although traditionally Antioch was considered as the production mint of this serie, the fact is that the significant differences in style with the antoniniani coined by Antioch mint from 247 (whose origen mint can not refuse considering the similarity of their busts with the busts of the tetradrachms struck unequivocally in that mint) allow serious doubts about this identification. Admittedly, however, the clear similarity of style with antoniniani emissions in the name of Gordian III attributed to Antioch between 242 and 244, which is evidence in favor of the latter as the production mint of the first issue of antoniniani in the name of Philip the Arab. However, there are studies that, basing on the results of metallographic analysis, deny Antioch as the production mint of the most of Gordian antoniniani attributed to it, pointing instead to an unidentified mint, although undoubtedly oriental judging by its art, as author of these coins. Should the latter be true, seems as likely in the light of the scientific evidence, it would also be true the attribution to this unidentified eastern mint of the first Philip the Arab antoniniani issue. This statement is not only sustainable based on prior formal similarity but also considering the metallographic studies cited that indicate obvious parallels between copper-silver alloy used in these currencies and the alloy used in the Gordianus III antoniniani considered, yesteriyear, “from Antioch”.


Divisible into three different back grounds, this first issue in the name of Philip the Arab has two obverse legends, essentially similar although provided with interesting nuances that inform about two successive stages in their coinage. In the first phase (early spring of the year 244) appears the legend IMP IVL PHILIPPVS PIVS FEL AVG (IMPERATOR IVLIVS PHILIPPVS PIVS FELIX AVGVSTVS), supplemented with letters PM (interpretable as MAXIMVS PERSICVS and not as the anachronistic form PONTIFEX MAXIMVS) separate and arranged under the bust of the emperor. The obverse legend of the second phase (spring-early summer of 244) is IMP C M IVL PHILIPPVS P F AVG P M (IMPERATOR CAESAR MARCVS IVLIVS PHILIPPVS PIVS FELIX AVGVSTVS PERSICVS MAXIMVS) all in the same sentence. The earlier chronology of the first phase (quite smaller than the second in terms of volume of coinage) respect the second one has been established through the terms PIVS FEL: commonly used in the last issues of Gordian III antoniniani struck at this mint eastern --Antioch or not--. The second legend would therefore be a derivation of the first one closest to the more common legend in the first half of the reign of Philip I the Arab: IMP IVL PHILIPPVS AVG. We are going to meet now the three types of reverse of this first issue:


A.- Reverse type: VIRTVS EXERCITVS


Obv: IMP IVL PHILIPPVS PIVS FEL AVG. Radiated bust to right, using paludamentum and armor. Below latin letters P M) IMPERATOR IVLIVS PHILIPPVS PIVS FELIX AVGVSTVS (PERSICVS MAXIMVS)


Rev: VIRTVS EXERCITVS. Virtus standing to right, using military garb typical of this allegory. He holds a spear -tip inverted, looking down- in the right hand, the left resting on a large oval shield placed at his feet. In the head, helmet with plume. (The courage of the army).



Coin belonging to the first phase of this emission as indicated by the obverse legend and the letters P M under the bust of the emperor.

The reverse refers to the courage shown by Roman troops who fought against the Sassanid Persians. Compared with other reversals of the same type, quite common in the antoniniani of the third century AD, it can be hypothesized a relationship with some kind of donation given to the troops apparently as "prize" for his role in the campaign but with the real objective of "stimulating" the good relations between the army and the newly enthroned Philip, as there was usual in a roman world dominated by the Roman establishment. B.- Reverse type: PAX FVNDATA CVM PERSIS.

Obv: IMP C M IVL PHILIPPVS P F AVG P M. Radiated bust to right, using paludamentum and armor. IMPERATOR CAESAR MARCVS IVLIVS PHILIPPVS PIVS FELIX AVGVSTVS PERSICVS MAXIMVS


Rev: PAX FVNDATA CVM PERSIS. Pax standing to left. She holds a long scepter in her left hand arranged obliquely to the body. With the right hand, extended, holds a branch. (The peace signed with the Persians)



Coin especially attractive into the roman numismatic to provide both a firsthand document about the peace achieved with the persian king Shapur by the emperor Philip as a valuable test of the credibility of the Historia Augusta written by the historian Zosimus, where these facts were narrated. Although quite disadvantageous for Roman interests, this treaty was presented to the public opinion as the beneficent result of a victorious campaign, hence the adjective MAXIMVS PERSICVS that boasts the emperor in his coins, suitably restricted, yes, to a brief and probably intentionally ambiguous acronym in order to circumvent possible diplomat conflicts with the very proud and objectively truly won the conflict, Sassanid monarch.


The obverse legend corresponds to the second phase of coinage within this issue unlike the next coin, belonging to the first phase:


Obv: IMP IVL PHILIPPVS PIVS FEL AVG. Radiated bust to right, using paludamentum and armor. Below latin letters P M)

IMPERATOR IVLIVS PHILIPPVS PIVS FELIX AVGVSTVS (PERSICVS MAXIMVS)


Rev: PAX FVNDATA CVM PERSIS. Pax standing to left. She holds a long scepter in her left hand arranged obliquely to the body. With the right hand, extended, holds a branch. (The peace signed with the Persians)


C.- Reverse Type: SPES FELICITATIS ORBIS.

Obv: IMP C M IVL PHILIPPVS P F AVG P M. Radiated bust to right, using paludamentum andarmor.

IMPERATOR CAESAR MARCVS IVLIVS PHILIPPVS PIVS FELIX AVGVSTVS PERSICVS MAXIMVS

Rev: SPES FELICITATIS ORBIS. Spes standing to left. She holds gently, with her right hand, slightly extended, an open flower, while her left one up a fold of his robe. (the Hope for the World Happiness).


This reverse, obviously propagandistic, refers to the hope placed in the new sovereign and the new era of "happiness" which began to the Empire as a result of the peace treaty signed with the Sassanid Persians.


As with the previous coin, the obverse legend can be framed into the second phase of coinage within this issue.

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