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596965.

CILICIA, Tarsus. Caracalla. AD 198-217. Æ (36mm, 18.21 g, 1h). Struck AD 214/5. AVT KAI M AVP CЄVHPOC ANTΩNЄINOC CЄB, Π Π, bust left, clad in the crown and robes of the demiourgos priest; star below / ANTΩNЄINIANHC CЄV[HP AΔPIANH] TAPCOV MHT, A/M/K, ΓB, elephant walking right, carrying two sacks upon its back marked XP. Cf. SNG Levante 1047-1048; cf. SNG BN 1541; cf. BMC Lycaonia 196; cf. SNG Copenhagen 364; SNG von Aulock –; cf. McClean 9116 (same obverse die). Green and brown patina. Near EF. Rare, only three specimens in CoinArchives.


The elephant bronzes of Caracalla form a remarkable series of complex types and symbolism relating to the emperor's journey through the eastern provinces in 214/15 AD. Caracalla is portrayed in imperial dress or else in the garb of the chief priest. The elephant bears a variety of gifts and offerings – the kiliarch crown, symbolizing the role of Tarsus as chief city of Cilicia; three palms (probably representing the three districts comprising Cilicia); two sacks containing offerings or money (on the present well-preserved coin the markings on the sacks can just be made out – XP for crisma (sacrificial oil) or crhmata (money); or on a few rare coins, all three items plus a fourth object that may be an imperial eagle. One can imagine a grand procession entering the city, led by a parade of elephants bearing the symbols of imperial might, provincial wealth, civic pride, and sacred piety.