Roman emperor or not ? Uranius Antoninus 253-254AD

One of the many usurpers of the 4th century was Lucius Iulius Aurelius Sulpicius Uranius Antoninus, or simply Uranius Antoninus, who ruled from 253 to 254 AD in the Eastern parts of the empire. We know so little about him that we don’t even know if he was an emperor…

The main sources for his reign are the coins minted for him in the mint of his town and capital, Emesa, in today Syria.

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He was probably a relative of Heliogabalus, one of the mad emperors of Rome (218-222), also born in Emesa. About his career we don’t know anything but Uranius was probably one of the most important governors of the area, probably a member of a local family, like Heliogabal, that adopted the roman way of life, as shown by his name ( the first part is purely a roman name but Uranius has a Greek Syrian origin).

We know from his coins that he minted coins from the year 253. But was he really an emperor? The coins don’t have the title IMPERATOR CAESAR and AUGUSTUS, the standard formula for an emperor.

Moreover, about the aureus with his name we don’t know if they are ancient or modern fantasies.

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He minted his coins only in Emesa and only in two nominals, the aureus for the roman world and the tetradrachm for the Oriental parts.

The aureus are made from gold and have a weight of around 5 gr. The types are CONSERVATOR AVG, showing the interesting “conical stone” from Emesa, the main religious relic from the area, a stone that we will speak of with another occasion, FECUNDITAS AUG, showing the goddess Fortuna with a rudder and a cornucopia, FORTUNA REDUX, showing the same goddess sitting on a throne, MINERVA VICTRIX (Minerva the Victorious goddess), showing Minerva-Athena with a spear and a shield, SAECULARES AUGG, showing a column with title COS I (consul for the first time), SOL ELEGABALUS, showing an altar dedicated to the sacred stone of the god from Emesa and finally VICTORIA AUG showing a Victory advancing left, holding a wreath and a palm, probably an allusion to a military campaign.

One last aureus is very strange. On the reverse it is bearing the following legend: P M TR P XVIIII COS III P P. The coin is kept in the Paris Collection.

The legends can be read as “minted in the 19th year of reign, while he was consul for the 3rd time”. But Uranius ruled for only two years. And the emperors that ruled for that long are very few. The image is that of a lion with a crown, walking right, similar with one of Caracalla’s coins, also a member of an Emesa family.

The questions about these coins are still numerous.

The tetradrachm are coins made particular for the oriental parts of the empire, after an old pattern from Hellenistic times. It was equal to 4 drachms and in theory with 4 denars.

The tetradrachm of Uranius Antoninus depicts the stone of god El Gabal, a local god, also worshiped by the emperor Heliogabalus (218-222) or sometimes more common, a camel.

The coins of this emperor are very rare.

Stefan Vasilita

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