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Home > Members' Coin Collection Galleries > David Atherton > Imperial Coinage of Domitian

Domitian RIC-786
AR Denarius, 3.06g
Rome Mint, 95-96 AD
RIC 786 (R2). BMC 237A. RSC 295.
Obv: IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM P M TR P XV; Head of Domitian, laureate, bearded, r.
Rev: IMP XXII COS XVII CENS P P P; Maia adv. l., with dove and caduceus
Ex Gemini XI, 12 January 2014, lot 418. Ex C. Clay Collection. Ex Voirol Collection, M&M 38, 6-7 December 1968, lot 403. Ex M&M VI, 6-7 December 1946, lot 804. This specimen published by H. A. Cahn, 'Flaviana indedita', Num. Chronicle 1946 p. 22, 50.

A "Strange and uncertain reverse" is how this type for many years was described by the major reference catalogues. It is so rare that its very existence was in doubt. Eventually, other examples surfaced (including my coin in 1946) establishing there was indeed a "strange" type struck by Domitian towards the end of his reign. A woman with bird was the normal description until 2002 when T. V. Buttrey published in the Journal of Roman Archaeology a short paper establishing once and for all who the woman is and possibly why the type was struck. He identified her as Maia, the mother of Hermes/Mercury, wearing a winged helmet and possibly winged sandals. Maia is to be identified with "natural growth and commercial success" according to Buttrey. He further writes "For the precious metals, the constant themes were Domitian's offices, his military successes, his piety (in particular his relationship with Minerva), and the divine grace which infused his life, and by extension, that of the community. It is in this context that Maia should be understood, the coin illustrating the emperor's acknowledgement of the goddess's abundant favor."

Needless to say the type is fantastically rare, with perhaps a dozen known examples from only two reverse dies. The reverse die shown here (with my obverse dated TR P XV) is also shared with an obverse die dated TR P XVI, placing this coin in the very last weeks of Domitian's reign. During this time Domitian was introducing many new reverse types (winged Minerva, altar, temple reverses), perhaps indicating a change in direction regarding the typology on his precious metal coinage. However, the experiment was cut short by an assassin's blade, so we shall never know.

The example here has a very fine portrait for a late period piece and is well toned.

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Album name:David Atherton / Imperial Coinage of Domitian
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Date added:Jan 22, 2014
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Mat  [Jan 21, 2014 at 11:44 PM]
Pretty much the crown jewel in your collection, wonderful history with this. Congrats.
Sam  [Jan 21, 2014 at 11:48 PM]
Superb.
Nemonater  [Jan 22, 2014 at 12:07 AM]
What an acquisition! Thanks for sharing it.
Jay GT4  [Jan 22, 2014 at 01:49 AM]
What an incredible find! The provenance ain't too shabby either!
sulcipius  [Jan 22, 2014 at 03:45 AM]
Thank you very much for showing us such a rarity and congrats for that coin
FlaviusDomitianus  [Jan 22, 2014 at 12:45 PM]
Great provenance, congrats!
TheEmpireNeverEnded  [Jan 22, 2014 at 03:36 PM]
Congratulations on such a rare and interesting addition!
ancientdave  [Jan 22, 2014 at 03:54 PM]
Wow, that is something special! Congrats!
Sosius  [Feb 06, 2014 at 04:33 PM]
Great coin, and fascinating too. Congrats David!
Randygeki(h2)  [Feb 06, 2014 at 09:22 PM]
Very nice to find a rare coin that looks as good as this. I love the portrait!