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Roman Coins About Britain
“Severus […] was angry at the thought that though he was winning the wars in Britain through others, yet he himself had proved no match for a robber in Italy” Cassius Dio Book 77, 10
Emperor Septimius Severus was getting old and looking for a fight. He was bored in Rome and jealous of the military successes that the governor of Britain was having without him. He was also looking for an excuse to get his sons Caracalla and Geta out of Rome as they were constantly squabbling with each other and living too indulgent a lifestyle.
The story goes that in 207 AD, Severus received a letter from the governor of Britain asking for more troops, or even the emperor himself, to help fight the Scots. This letter is generally regarded to be nothing more than a nice story invented by Herodian, but something convinced Severus that an over-the-top military expedition to Britain was needed, and by 208 AD he was in Britain with his entire family, the imperial treasury, a substantial number of government officials, 50,000 soldiers and 7,000 sailors. For three years, York was the capital of the Roman empire.
Severus fought two campaigns in Scotland. The first started in 208 or 209 AD and lasted until 209 or 210 AD (opinions are divided) when Severus and Caracalla led separate armies up the east coast of Scotland as far as modern day Aberdeenshire. The natives came to terms, the army withdrew to York, and Severus, Caracalla and Geta all minted coins celebrating their victory. The tribes revolted so Caracalla responded with second, genocidal, campaign. Severus was too ill to take part, and died in York at the start of 211 AD. Caracalla and Geta quickly abandoned all their gains and returned to Rome, where the weather was more civilised.
A three year trip to Britain by three emperors resulted in a lot of different coins being minted. Many of these don’t explicitly mention Britain and are only implicitly associated with the campaigns. I’ll touch on a few of these types here.
Of the coins that explicitly mention the campaign in Britain, I’m going to ignore most of the ones with BRIT on the obverse. The emperors used this on all of their coins after 210 AD, even if they had nothing at all to do with Britain.
There’s a lot to cover for these guys, so I’m going to split it into the following pages:
- Victory Types
- Profectio Types
- Bridge Types
- River God Types
- Naval Types
- Does Britannia Feature on Severan Coins?
- More About the Bridge Coins of 208 and 209 AD
- More About the Profectio Coins of 208 and 209 AD
Roman Coins About Britain