Gold aureus consecration coin of Septimius Severus
Early 3rd century AD
The second funeral of the Roman emperor
Septimius Severus (reigned AD 193-211) was coincidentally the first of two Roman emperors to die at York while campaigning in Britain. (The second was Constantius I, in AD 306). His body was cremated in York before the ashes were taken by his sons to Rome to be interred in the mausoleum of Hadrian (nowadays the Castel Sant'Angelo). It was customary at the time for emperors to have their predecessors consecrated as gods. The contemporary historian Herodian wrote that for this reason a wax effigy of Septimius was made to stand in for his body for the ceremony of apotheosis (the transition to godhood) held in Rome. In fact, before the ceremony itself began the effigy was treated by doctors and the court as if he was only just dying!
After much ceremony
the effigy was placed on a funeral pyre just outside the city on
'the field of
This consecration coin shows the pyre very much like Herodian's detailed account. The new title of the dead emperor 'DIVO' (divine) proclaims his godly status.
R.A.G. Carson, Principal coins of the Roman-1, vol. 2 (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)
Herodian, History, (translated by C.R. Whittaker) (London, Loeb, 1969)
A. Birley, Septimius Severus, the African (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1971)
Weight: 7.210 g
CM BMC Caracalla & Geta 26