FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board

Numismatic and History Discussions => Roman Coins => Topic started by: Lucas H on July 22, 2013, 10:40:57 am

Title: Domitian-damnatio memoriae
Post by: Lucas H on July 22, 2013, 10:40:57 am
Domitian received a damnatio memoriae after his assasination in 96 A.D. "The Senate nonetheless rejoiced at the death of Domitian, and immediately following Nerva's accession as Emperor, passed damnatio memoriae on his memory: his coins and statues were melted, his arches were torn down and his name was erased from all public records" Wikipedia.  He is one of very few emperors recorded to have officially received a damnatio memoriae, although others may have received unofficial or de facto ones. 

Since Domitian received a damnatio memoriae where images, including coins, are destroyed-melted-or restruck, why are his coins so common?  I understand how some could escape, but due to the amount of Domitian coins, especially silver, around, I can't believe there was any type of organzied recall and melting of his coins.  Any guidance is greatly appreicated. 

Title: Re: Domitian-damnatio memoriae
Post by: Jay GT4 on July 22, 2013, 11:00:18 am
I found this comment online taken from: DíAmbra, Eve, Private Lives, Imperial Virtues, (Princeton University Press), 1993, p. 7

"After Domitianís death, aristocratic members of the Senate rejoiced. They saw to it that a damnatio memoria that was passed but this measure appears to have had mixed results. Only 37% of Domitianís extant inscriptions throughout the empire were re-cut."

Title: Re: Domitian-damnatio memoriae
Post by: David Atherton on July 22, 2013, 01:10:01 pm
A good question indeed. I would imagine it boils down to whether it would be practical to recall and melt down all his coinage, considering the vast quantities that were struck. Or, did he suffer just abolitio memoriae instead of the full damnatio memoriae? Abolitio apparently requires a of vote by the senate and simply means his memory was 'abolished' instead of condemned (Damnatio), which would have required a judicial procedure against the deceased Domitian with a charge of treason. Brian W Jones says there is evidence of the former but none for the latter. This might explain why his inscriptions and images were destroyed. A. Martin calculates that 40% of Domitian's inscriptions were erased.

Pliny the Younger, wrote about the senate's reaction: 'it was our delight to dash those proud faces to the ground, to smite them with the sword and savage them with the axe...that baleful, fearsome visage was cast into the fire' (Pan. 52.4-5).

Suetonius states the senate decreed 'that his inscriptions should everywhere be erased and all memory of him should be abolished.' Perhaps the fact that the soldiers 'took it badly' and tried calling him 'the deified' kept the senate from going much further than abolitio memoriae?

Title: Re: Domitian-damnatio memoriae
Post by: curtislclay on July 22, 2013, 07:50:40 pm
The same apparent disjunction has been noted for the bronze coins of Caligula: Dio Cassius says that the Senate decreed their withdrawal and destruction, and moreover that this decree was actually carried out, but VESTA asses of Caligula are nevertheless very common today.

Some scholars have therefore doubted Dio's account, suggesting for example that only the government's supply of unissued Caligula bronzes was melted down, with no attempt to withdraw those in actual circulation.

About fifty years ago, however, it was observed that there is evidence to support Dio's assertion. First, Caligulan bronzes are indeed very uncommon in hoards buried and at sites abandoned soon after Claudius' accession. Second, the counterstamp NCAPR is found on most types of sestertii and dupondii of both Tiberius and Claudius, and on the SIGNIS RECEPTIS dupondii struck by Caligula for Germanicus but without adding his own portrait or name, but virtually never on sestertii and dupondii bearing Caligula's portrait or name: not on his portrait sestertii, not on his Temple of Augustus sestertii, not on his dupondii for Nero and Drusus Caesars bearing Caligula's name on the reverse, nor on his CONSENSV dupondii of Divus Augustus because they depict Caligula's statue on the reverse. I don't know whether BMC is right to list one exception, which would have to be a mistake: NCAPR on Caligula's sestertii of Agrippina I that call her mother of Caligula. In any case, the conclusion is clear: coins bearing Caligula's portrait or name were not countermarked either because there were none in circulation at the place or places where the countermark was applied, or because those that were still in circulation were withdrawn and melted down rather than being countermarked and rereleased into circulation!

What, then, about all those bronzes of Caligula and coins of Domitian in all metals that have survived until today? I think the explanation is actually very simple: it was impossible for the government to come anywhere near withdrawing all of the coins of a particular emperor which had entered circulation and were spread in innumerable examples throughout the empire. I would doubt that any emperor was ever able to withdrawn more than say 25% of the circulating coinage of a condemned predecessor. 75% of it remained in circulation or in hoards, so a lot has been able to survive until today too, and as collectors we hardly notice the difference.

I have never heard of the distinction between abolitio and damnatio memoriae that David A. reports from Jones, but doubt that is the correct explanation for the case of either Caligula or Domitian.

Title: Re: Domitian-damnatio memoriae
Post by: David Atherton on July 22, 2013, 11:44:58 pm
J. Pollini reviewing E. Varner's book Mutilation and Transformation: Damnatio Memoriae and Roman Imperial Portraiture makes a further distinction between damnatio and abolitio: "At the outset of his book Varner rightly points out (p. 2) that the commonly used term "damnatio memoriae," "the damnation of the memory [of someone or something]," is a latin neologism created by modern scholarship. Other expressions for the same concept, however, did occur in antiquity, such as the preferable memoria damnata. Besides damnatio memoriae, there is abolitio memoriae, "the abolition of the memory [of someone or something]," another latin neologism that refers to the total obliteration of an image."

So, different than Jones' definition of the two terms which is based on procedural distinctions. I suppose whatever the act is called or exactly how it is defined, the outcome for all practical intents is the same.

Removing an inscription or statue head is one thing, but as I stated earlier and Curtis has very thoroughly explained above, coins would be very difficult to recall under any circumstance. What few were withdrawn most likely served as a symbolic act. I'm sure more than a few folks were unwilling to part with the high standard precious metal coins of 82-85 and continued to hoard them.

Title: Re: Domitian-damnatio memoriae
Post by: otlichnik on July 23, 2013, 08:09:16 am
The same phenomenon applies to late Roman bronze coinage.

Constantine issued damnatio memoriae against the Licinius on 16 December 324.  However, as David noted the term damnatio memoriae is a modern construct and was not what was used at the time.  Codex Theodosianus XV.14.1 actually say "Imp. Constantinus a. ad Constantium praefectum praetorio.  Remotis Licini tyranni constitutionibus et legibus omnes sciant veteris iuris et statutorum nostrorum observari debere sanctionem."  This is actually simply a decree by Constantine to the effect that "The constitutions and laws of the tyrant [Licinius] are nullified and our [Constantine's] laws should be observed."

Dalmatius suffered damnatio memoriae at the hands of Constantius II in late 337 (Burgess, 2008, page 13).

Constantius II liked the tool so much he used it against his brother Constantine II in 340 (ibid, page 31).

As Curtis noted we can not really see the effect on any of these bronze coinages.  The Dalmatius coinage is scarce today but according to French hoard studies it made up a small component of contemporary coinage anyway.  Whether it affected any of their gold coinage is beyond my knowledge.