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Domitian RIC-183
AR Denarius, 2.90g
Rome mint, 84 AD
RIC 183 (R3). BMC - . RSC - .
Obv: IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG GERMANIC; Bust of Domitian, laureate, draped, bearded, l.
Rev: P M TR POT III IMP V COS X P P; Minerva stg. r. on capital of rostral column, with spear and shield; to r., owl (M2)
Acquired from Forvm Ancient Coins, April 2014.

84 AD probably saw the peak of artistic quality with Domitian's precious metal coinage. Two years previous, the fineness of the denarius was increased and the style radically changed from the earlier issues. Upon Domitian's accession the veristic style of Vespasian and Titus still dominated, after the reform it became more idealised and much finer. By 84 the style had evolved to such a high degree that the mint was able to produce these finely engraved draped busts, albeit in small quantities. This extremely rare coin struck in 84 is an exquisite example of the new idealised style. This is the second known specimen of the type. Much experimentation was going on at the mint at this time with reverse types, busts, and style. I assume the amount of time an engraver spent on rendering these highly polished pieces was considerable, which could perhaps explain why they were not struck more commonly. RIC theorises the drapery represents a military cloak commemorating Domitian's recent German victory. Afterwards, the style remained idealised and fine but the finer portraits would sometimes appear with an aegis, the draped busts consigned to an experimental cul-de-sac. The idealised style would continue to evolve throughout the reign reaching baroque proportions by 88. It's a shame that this fine portrait bust was struck sparingly.

Ian Carradice speculated in his 1983 monograph Coinage and Finances in the Reign of Domitian that the same engraver who did this piece may have worked on an earlier left facing portrait from 81 (see my Domitian RIC 75). Although left facing portraits are extremely rare in Domitian's reign and it is not out of the realm of possibility that the same engraver was working at the mint three years later and produced another left facing bust, to my eyes the styles seem too different to warrant that conclusion.

The bust of Domitian here is superbly rendered, one of the finest portraits of Domitian I've ever seen on a denarius. Same obverse die as the unique specimen cited in RIC.

File information
Album name:David Atherton / Imperial Coinage of Domitian
Rating (8 votes): (Details)
File Size:107 KB
Date added:Mar 03, 2014
Dimensions:723 x 350 pixels
Displayed:321 times
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Molinari  [Mar 03, 2014 at 11:24 AM]
Stunning! Congratulations!
Nemonater  [Mar 03, 2014 at 11:26 AM]
Absolutely amazing! Congrats!
Sam  [Mar 03, 2014 at 12:09 PM]
Superb & stunning coin . Congratulations David .
FlaviusDomitianus  [Mar 03, 2014 at 03:42 PM]
Great find, indeed!
Potator II  [Mar 03, 2014 at 04:02 PM]
Fantastic style, and the toning gives the impression it's coming out of the mist
ancientdave  [Mar 03, 2014 at 06:59 PM]
Impeccable style! Great find!
quadrans  [Mar 04, 2014 at 03:11 AM]
Very nice coin David..
Jay GT4  [Mar 05, 2014 at 12:29 AM]
Congratulations! A beauty!
Randygeki(h2)  [Apr 19, 2014 at 08:46 AM]
Wonderful portrait and style, very neat addition
socalcoins  [Apr 20, 2014 at 09:12 PM]
Congratulations David!!!
David Atherton  [Apr 22, 2014 at 06:49 AM]
Thanks Brett! I've admired your example for quite a while and was thrilled to get one of my own.
imperator  [Apr 07, 2017 at 06:14 PM]
this coin needs to be in the top ranking
orfew  [Apr 14, 2019 at 06:53 PM]
Fantastic coin David! WOW