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

Domitian RIC 56
AR Denarius, 3.22g
Rome mint, 81 AD
RIC 56 (R2). BMC p. 299, á. RSC 560a.
Obv: IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG PONT; Head of Domitian, laureate, bearded, r.
Rev: TR P COS VII DES VIII P P; Minerva adv r., with spear and shield (M1)
Ex eBay, September 2017.

Here is a rare Domitian 'PONT' denarius with the legend variant of DOMITIANVS fully spelled out. Denarii with 'PONT' instead of PM in the obverse legend come very early in the reign. Historically, PONT did not stand for Pontifex Maximus under Augustus, but did so under Nero (PONT was used after Nero was already Pontifex Maximus, BMC 9). It is possible Domitian followed Nero's example and used PONT as an abbreviation for Pontifex Maximus. Conversely, it is also possible he followed in Augustus' footsteps and used the temporary title 'PONT' until the ceremony electing him to the position was completed. We simply do not know. The records of the Arval brothers do not show Domitian as Pontifex Maximus by 30 October, so presumably he acquired the title in either November or December. The office seems to have had no fixed date of appointment. Knowing how much of a stickler Domitian was to keeping to the proper forms, the mint likely waited until his election as Pontifex Maximus before the title was displayed on the coinage. Whether or not that title on the coinage after the election was abbreviated as 'PONT' for a brief time is a mystery.

Struck in fine early style with a well centred obverse.
File information
Filename:D56best2.jpg
Album name:David Atherton / Imperial Coinage of Domitian
File Size:80 KB
Date added:Sep 14, 2017
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Jay GT4  [Sep 14, 2017 at 07:00 AM]
Lovely style and a nice strike
FlaviusDomitianus  [Sep 14, 2017 at 07:29 AM]
That's quite a find!
OldMoney  [Sep 14, 2017 at 01:25 PM]
Nice one!
quadrans  [Sep 17, 2017 at 04:42 PM]
Great style , I like it..
curtislclay  [Sep 17, 2017 at 05:36 PM]
A very nice specimen from this rare issue! As to interpretation, I don't doubt that PONT on the denarii means that Domitian had not yet been elected Pontifex Maximus. Carradice was in error to think that Nero's bronzes sometimes have just PONT at a time when the emperor was certainly already Pontifex Maximus: those obv. dies with PONT were meant to go with reverses continuing MAX etc., and it was just sloppy work by the mint when a PONT obv. was coupled with a rev. not beginning MAX.
David Atherton  [Sep 18, 2017 at 02:13 PM]
Thank you Curtis for the clear explanation of PONT on Nero's coinage.