Roman coin confirms emperor's existence

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Roman coin confirms emperor's existence

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Thu Mar 04, 2004 9:33 am


Below is an article about a numismatic find I thought worth mentioning.


Q. Pomponius Atticus

Source :
By Nigel Reynolds, Arts Correspondent
(Filed: 25/02/2004)

It is made of base metal, is not much bigger than a 5p piece and 1,700 years ago it would not have bought much more than a few loaves at Tescorums.

But its discovery in a field in Oxfordshire rewrites history. The copper coin confirms the existence of an almost unknown Roman emperor, Domitian or Domitianus, who ruled Britain briefly in AD 271.

It was found one evening last spring by an amateur archaeologist with a metal detector. Yesterday its discovery was described by experts at the British Museum as "thrilling", "amazing" and "the most important find in Britain for 10 years".

The coin bears the likeness of Domitian wearing a crown of rays and the inscription Imp(erator) C(aesar) Domitianus P(ius) Felix Aug(ustus).

"Domitian ruled for a week or maybe two, probably no more, before he was overthrown and possibly killed," said Roger Bland, the museum's former curator of coins.

"But here at last we have evidence that he minted his own coin, which proves that he was emperor. It is a very exciting piece of the jigsaw puzzle."

Domitian's reign was over the secessionist Gallic Empire, comprising Gaul, Germany, Britain and Spain, and with its headquarters in Cologne or Trier.

It was founded by Postumus a decade earlier as Rome's authority crumbled after the capture by the Persians of Emperor Valerian who, according to legend, spent the rest of his days as a live footstool for the Persian king.

A century later two historians in Rome referred elliptically to a senior army officer called Domitianus playing a part in the affairs of the Gallic Empire. But they provided no hard evidence that he had declared himself ruler.

The only other clue to Domitian's existence was the discovery in the Loire region of France in 1900 of a single coin bearing his impression. But it was dismissed as a modern forgery.

The discovery of the second coin proves that it was not, the British Museum says. "They are identical," Mr Bland said. "There is no question at all now - they are both genuine."

The Oxfordshire coin was found among a hoard of more than 5,000 unexceptional 4th-century coins which had corroded into a solid lump inside an earthenware pot buried 14in below ground.

It was not until this month, after conservators had separated the coins, that Richard Abdy, Mr Bland's successor, started to study them. Most came from the reigns of Victorinus and Tetricus. Then he found an inscription he had never seen before.

Mr Abdy said: "I dived into the reference books and sent an e-mail to my opposite number in France who had just written a paper on the French coin and soon we had a result.

"It can't get much rarer than this. We don't have documents, only coins, and it is frustrating that we do not know more about Domitianus. We do not know where he came from and we do not know how or when he died. But we know he existed."

The find was made by Brian Malin, 30, a factory supervisor from Chipping Norton. He said yesterday: "I was about to give up for the day and go home when I picked up a faint signal on my metal detector. I found this pot and it was so heavy that it was like picking up a cannonball."

A decade ago his family found a hoard of 3,000 Roman coins which are now in the Ashmolean in Oxford. Mr Malin said: "It is like lightning striking twice. Now my ambition is to find some gold coins."
Quintus Pomponius Atticus

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Postby Tiberius Dionysius Draco on Thu Mar 04, 2004 8:40 pm

Salve Attice,

fascinating! It makes one wonder though, if that emperor had only ruled for two weeks, would he already have his own coin? It must take some time to forge it, no?

Still, it remains, an intriguing find.

Vale bene!
Last edited by Tiberius Dionysius Draco on Thu Mar 04, 2004 10:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Publius Dionysius Mus on Thu Mar 04, 2004 9:26 pm

Salve Tiberi!

Tiberius Dionysius Draco wrote: It makes one wonder though, if that emperor had only ruled for two weeks, would he already have his own coin? It must take some time to forge it, no?

Aha! Numismatics! My favourite domain :-)

Very soon after this Domitianus was proclaimed emperor of the Gallic empire, maybe within a few days, he would have his coins available. It can be seen as one of the ways to tell the people they had a new emperor.

In order to struck coins, not much is needed. His administration will have assembled a few specialized slaves, the dies will have been cut (one artist could produce a die each day), and the flans will have been prepared (these could be produced very fast and in considerable quantities). Then everything was ready to struck coins. So within a week a considerable amount of coins could have been struck.

Of course, seen over the whole reign, it was not possible for this emperor Domitianus to struck as much coins as the other and better known emperor Domitianus. To illustrate this: only has a reference to the newly found coin on this Domitianus' page, while the earlier emperor Domitianus (81-96) has a whole lot more coin types listed.

I hope this has enlightened the matter, Tiberi.

Vale bene
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Postby Anonymous on Wed Jun 09, 2004 11:57 pm

Tiberius Dionysius Draco wrote:Salve Attice,

fascinating! It makes one wonder though, if that emperor had only ruled for two weeks, would he already have his own coin? It must take some time to forge it, no?

Still, it remains, an intriguing find.

Vale bene!

Two weeks? I believe that is the new record, it isnt?
"The shortest reign is... Domitianus Pius!"

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