19. Caracalla's Campaigns & Macrinus

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MAPCaracallacampaign VologesesVICoin CaracallaCoin MacrinusDiadumenian Julias

This denarius of Caracalla depicts the emperor with brutal realism. Struck between 213 and 217, the grim expression may have resulted from the chronic illness he suffered during the last three years of his reign as he prepared for a campaign against Artabanus of Parthia.


A Parthian coin (below) shows King Vologeses VI, who lost out to Artabanus V. No artefacts of Artabanus survived the destruction of the Arsacid dynasty in 227 by Ardashir, first of the Sassanian Persian kings.

Right: A native of Caesarea in Mauretania, having had Caracalla assassinated, Macrinus failed to win the support of the senate and the people, so when the army lost faith in him, his fate was sealed. No date is given for the birth of his son Diadumenian, so we do not know how old he was when he shared his father’s grim fate, but the denarius (below, far right), struck in 217–18, depicts him as little more than a late adolescent.

A bust of Julia Mamaea shows the determined set of a ruler’s face, for it was her guiding hand on the reins of government that made her son Severus Alexander’s reign a generally wise and just one after the excesses of Elagabalus. Below: coins of  (clockwise from top left) Julia Domna, Julia Maesa, Julia Soaemias, and Julia Mamaea.

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Illustrations © Oliver Frey; Maps © Roger M. Kean    © 2010–2016 Reckless Books, England