Roman Empire, Orbiana, AE Sestertius

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Roman Empire,
AE Sestertius, Orbiana, wife of Severus Alexander, +235
Obv.: Roman diadem and draped bust r., SALL BARBIA ORBIANA AUG.
Rs.: Severus Alexander and Orbiana shake hands, CONCORDIA AUGUSTORUM, SC




Orbiana was Roman empress from 225 to 227. She was married to Emperor Severus Alexander during this period. Her full name was Gnaea Seia Herennia Sallustia Barbia Orbiana and has survived in inscriptions. She did not use the additional name Orba, which is only attested on Asia Minor coins. This is probably an error of stamp cutters in Asia Minor. Little is known about her origin. She came from a noble senatorial family, which, however, apparently did not exert any political influence. It has not even been possible to assign her father Seius Sallustius to a senatorial family. However, it was probably the noble origin in combination with the political insignificance of Sallustius that qualified him as a potential father-in-law of the emperor.

Orbiana's marriage to the seventeen-year-old Emperor Severus Alexander was arranged by the latter's mother Iulia Mamaea. Although her son was already of age and thus fit to rule, Mamaea continued to exercise de facto power. After their marriage in 225, Orbiana received the title Augusta.

The marriage remained childless and was dissolved only 2 years later. This was preceded by a power struggle between Mamaea and Sallustius. So Sallustius tried to mobilize the Praetorian Guard to kill Mamaea and to exercise control over the dependent emperor himself. The coup attempt failed, however, and Sallustius was arrested and later executed. Afterwards, in 227, Mamaea forced the divorce of the imperial couple and Orbiana was exiled to Africa. Nothing is known about her further fate.

After this episode, Mamaea did not dare to marry her son again. Apparently, she considered the risk of another failure too high. She preferred to accept that the succession to the throne would remain unregulated and that, as a result, the dynasty would die out.

Additional product information

Origin Roman Empire
Grading EF
Material Bronze
Full weight


Literature RIC 657, Kampm. 63.6.2

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