At the tender age of eight, Marcus Opellius Diadumenianus was acclaimed Caesar and heir apparent to his father, Macrinus, who had engineered a coup against the Emperor Caracalla in April, AD 217. Both father and son had accompanied the Roman Army to the eastern frontier to prosecute Caracalla’s Parthian war, and so Diadumenian’s elevation took place at the Syrian city of Zeugma. At the same time, he was given the additional name Antoninus, Caracalla’s formal name, in an attempt to mollify the soldiers and conceal Macrinus’s role in his predecessor’s murder. By all accounts, Diadumenian was a handsome lad of good character who might have made an excellent ruler had he ever exercised true power. But it was not to be, for Macrinus’ regime began to crumble almost immediately. He lingered in the East too many months trying to disengage the army from the Parthian war, and his inadequacies as a general and willingness to negotiate with the enemy soon set the soldiers to grumbling. In May of AD 218, a sizeable legionary force stationed at Emesa in Syria revolted and proclaimed Caracalla’s 13-year-old cousin Elagabalus as emperor. Macrinus responded by raising Diadumenian to the rank of Augustus and promising the Praetorian Guard an accession bonus of 20,000 sesterces per man. But the rebel forces were victorious outside the walls of Antioch on June 8, and the rest of Macrinus’ army abruptly switched sides. Before fleeing to the north, Macrinus entrusted his son to some loyal officers with instructions to deliver him to the Parthian court for safekeeping. Within a few days, both father and son had been intercepted and summarily executed, bringing their 14-month interlude in the Severan dynasty to an end.
Bust of Diadumenian, draped and cuirassed, right
M OPEL ANT DIADUMENIAN CAES
Spes standing left, holding flower and lifting skirt
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