Roman Syria, Provincial Tetradrachm with Eagle

Date: c. 193 - 235 CE
Roman Provinces

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Item Description:

These tetradrachms are all issues from Roman Syria, struck from a debased silver alloy known as billon. Each features a facing eagle on the reverse and the portrait of a Severan dynasty emperor on the obverse, described as the seven emperors who ruled between the reigns of Septimius Severus and Severus Alexander.

The Roman Empire was a blend of multicultural identities that were united under common rule, with many groups of people living in far flung areas of the empire. To help control its vast territory beyond Italy, Rome divided the empire into provinces with a governor appointed to each. Provincial governors oversaw law enforcement, tax collection and infrastructure within these jurisdictions, which allowed for the maintenance of Roman power and cultural dominance as the empire expanded into other cultural domains.

Roman provincial coinage was minted by local civic entities rather than imperial mints, although some coins may have been struck in Rome and sent to the corresponding province. Notably, most provincial coins feature legends written in Greek instead of Latin, reflective of the dominant language of the circulating regions. Among the most important mints for provincial issues was the city of Antioch on the Orontes in Syria. This mint struck a variety of coin denominations in both silver and bronze, which circulated within the province.

Provincial varieties and local coinage served multiple purposes, including upholding local pride, exercising self-administration and identity, and finally, to bolster profit in the local economy. However, provincial issues commonly lacked “ethnics”—iconography specific to the region—and their designs were likely under imperial control. Roman emperors on provincial coins showcase the position of these cities within the broader context of Roman rule.

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