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

Domitian RIC-703
∆ Sestertius, 25.05g
Rome mint, 90-91 AD
Obv: IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM COS XV CENS PER P P; Head of Domitian, laureate, bearded, r.
Rev: S C in exergue; Domitian stg. l., with thunderbolt and spear, crowned by Victory, stg. l.
RIC 703 (C). BMC 443. BNC 477.
Acquired from iNumis, December 2019.

In 85 AD Domitian rolled out a new set of reverse designs for the bronze coinage, most of which would be repeatedly struck over the next decade. The Victory crowning Domitian was a particular favourite for the sestertius. It copies a similar type struck for Vespasian's aurei with one key difference - throwing modesty aside, Domitian is holding Jupiter's thunderbolt, an unprecedented divine attribute for a living emperor 'which has no doubt been given to him by his patroness Minerva' (BMCRE p. xciv). It brings to mind Suetonius' anecdotes concerning Domitian's megalomania of wishing to be addressed as 'Lord and God' and having statues of himself erected only in gold or silver, itself a divine attribute (Dom. 13.2). The Flavian historian Brian Jones speculated 'Domitian was both intelligent and committed to the traditional religion. He obviously knew that he was not a God, and, whilst he did not ask or demand to be addressed as one, he did not actively discourage the few flatterers who did' (Jones 1992). This coin's reverse seems to contradict Jones' generous explanation. It shows a concious decision to depict the emperor in a divine light. It's a decision that could only have come from the top. Perhaps Jones is correct and Domitian did not directly order people to address him as 'Lord and God', however, the numismatic evidence at the very least shows that he was very open to it. Mattingly in BMCRE sums up Domitian's coinage thus - 'The one ugly feature is the vanity that leads Domitian to take over for himself a divine attribute - the thunderbolt' (p. xcv).

This example from 90-91 is likely a generic Victory type perhaps celebrating the recent double triumph over the Chatti and the Dacians in late 89. A fairly large number of the type were struck for the COS XV issue. Because Domitian did not renew the consulship in 91, these COS XV sestertii cannot be precisely dated and were likely struck for an extended period of time.

A gorgeous coin in fine style, struck on a large flan.

NB: RIC cites Paris 447, it is actually 477.
File information
Album name:David Atherton / Imperial Coinage of Domitian
File Size:302 KB
Date added:Jan 10, 2020
Dimensions:707 x 343 pixels
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FlaviusDomitianus  [Jan 10, 2020 at 09:23 AM]
Nice example from old collection, congrats!
okidoki  [Jan 10, 2020 at 10:16 AM]
very nice
quadrans  [Jan 11, 2020 at 06:32 AM]
Jay GT4  [Jan 12, 2020 at 02:27 AM]
Always liked this type. Congrats