Caracalla, 198-217. Denarius (Silver, 18 mm, 3.17 g, 5 h), Rome, 207-208. ANTONINVS PIVS AVG Laureate head of Caracalla to right. Rev. PR[OV]IDENTIA Winged head of Medusa facing slightly to left, with two serpents below her chin. BMC p. 258, note †. Cohen 526. RIC 164. Extremely rare, by far the best of only four examples known. Attractively toned and with a delightful reverse of fine style. The reverse struck very slightly off center, otherwise, extremely fine.
From the collection of Yves Gunzenreiner, ex Numismatica Ars Classica 39, 16 May 2007, 137, previously purchased from H. J. Berk.
This highly interesting issue is part of a series of Medusa-related coins struck for Septimius Severus and Caracalla. There are two main types: one of them shows the Gorgoneion, with Medusa's head on Minerva's aegis, whereas the other, like this example, gives us a more refined and individual depiction of the Gorgon herself. She is shown facing slightly to left, in great detail, with wings on her head and two serpents hanging down from her curly hair. These coins have traditionally been dated to 207 through an Aureus of the same type for Septimius Severus that gives us his 15th tribunician power (RIC 205A), until the emergence of a unique Denarius of Caracalla with his 11th tribunician power (Aureo & Calicó, Imagines Imperatorum, 15 February 2012, 167 = CNG 36, 6 December 1995, 2437) showed that the series must have been extended into early 208. It was probably struck in anticipation of the upcoming British campaign of 208 and proclaims the foresight ( providentia ) of the emperors. Through the Gorgoneion, the issue is closely connected to Minerva, member of the Capitoline Triad and one of Septimius' favorite deities, whereas Medusa, known for her ability to turn her enemies into stone, undoubtedly serves as a symbol of strength of the Severan dynasty, and as a warning to its adversaries - foreign and domestic.