It is a little-known fact that the real Father of Christmas was a staunch pagan.
Aurelian became emperor at what was, at the time, the nadir of Ancient Rome. In 270, the eastern and western sections of the empire seceded, the economy was in freefall, plague decimated the population, and enemies lurked on all borders, eager to attack. In just five years, he managed to stop the invasions, stabilize the currency, and bring the breakaway empires back into the fold.
He credited his incredible success to Invictus Sol, the God of the Unconquered Sun. Worship of this pagan god became the de facto state religion, and Aurelian hoped that widespread adoption of the cult would work to unify the Empire, in the way that Christianity would for Constantine 50 years later. Thus he persecuted rival sects, including Christians. He declared the winter solstice—December 25, in the year 274—the feast day of Invictus Sol. Around that time, in an effort to win over the people, he cancelled public debts, made a bonfire of the relevant records, and levied harsh taxes on the wealthy.
Unable to worship without fear of reprisal, the Christians gathered under the ruse of the Feast of the Sun God, meanwhile praying to their own Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This was how the date of Christmas—literally, Christ’s Mass—came to be fixed on December 25th. The gift-giving spirit of the tax cancellations and bonfires, meanwhile, came to be known as the “Christmas spirit.” Thus was Aurelian, pagan emperor of Rome, the true Father of Christmas.
The shortage of silver over the previous 20 years resulted in the gradually depletion of nearly all silver content of coins. Aurelian was able to restore the empire and reform the coinage, but not the silver content. The coins resulting from his decrees were mostly bronze, heavier than its predecessor, better made, but contained only 4% silver. The newer coin today is referred to by some numismatists as the Aurelianus. This is one of those coins, showing a portrait of the emperor Aurelian. It closely resembles the earlier coin, the Antoninianus. Both “radiate” coins are characterized by an image of the emperor wearing a spiked “radiate” crown. The newer coin is often referred to as a “post-reform radiate
”. Historians to this day debate the official names that were given to late Roman coinage, so you will see these coins referred to by all of the above.
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