INDENTClodius Albinus, like his great rival Septimus Severus was born in Africa, and like Severus distinguished himself under the Emperor Commodus (AD 177-192) in a highly successful career as a military commander. When political chaos followed Commodus' murder Albinus took advantage of his position as governor of the heavily garrisoned province of Britain to declare his interest in a share of Imperial power. At the same time Severus was declared Emperor by his own troops stationed to the east of the Alps, as were several other candidates elsewhere.
Both Albinus and Severus recognized that the other represented the greatest threat to their ambitions - so a political alliance was arranged in AD 193 allowing time to eliminate lesser rivals. Severus recognised Albinus as "Caesar" while he himself became "Augustus" - in other words, Albinus became a junior partner in the Empire. It is not quite clear why Albinus accepted this subordinate role. It is possible that he or his heirs may have been offered the succession on the death of Severus or, despite Albinus' popularity in the Senate, he may simply have calculated that his miliary forces were weaker than those of his rival.
In any case the arrangement lasted two years and was the occasion for the issue in Rome, of this extremely rare coin. The reverse design is one of the most unusual and personal in the entire Roman coinage. The coin is dedicated to Saeculum Frugiferum, the 'God of the Fruitful Age', a local god from Albinus' hometown of Hadrumetum in Africa, at that time the centre of a thriving agricultural community in which Albinus' family had been major landowners for generations. The unusual fork-like object carried by the God has never been convincingly identified but is probably an ancient agricultural tool (for harvesting ripe fruit out of trees?) in use at that time in Africa.
By AD 197 the alliance was at an end - Severus, having eliminated his minor rivals, declared Albinus a public enemy and unsuccessfully tried to have him murdered. In preparation for the confrontation to come, Albinus consolidated his military forces in Gaul. This meant stripping Britain of its legions leading almost immediately to a massive rebellion which took fifteen years to extinguish. For Albinus, however, the preparations were in vain; in an enormous pitched battle involving a reputed 300,000 men at Trevoux near Lyon in AD 197, Albinus and his forces were defeated. Albinus committed suicide and his body together with those of his wife and children who were put to death, was thrown into the Rhône.