Domitian, as Caesar (AD 81-96). AV aureus (20mm, 7.28 gm, ...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionDomitian, as Caesar (AD 81-96). AV aureus (20mm, 7.28 gm, 5h). NGC Choice XF 5/5 - 4/5. Rome, AD 77-78. CAESAR AVG F-DOMITIANVS, laureate head of Domitian right / COS V, Parthian captive kneeling right, presenting Roman signa. RIC II (Vespasian) 959. Calicó 819. Light reddish toning consistent with the Boscoreale Hoard of 1895.
Ex Heritage Auction 3024 (CICF, 18 April 2013), lot 24873.
Domitian has gone down in history as a depraved tyrant, but he was certainly not a madman like Caligula, nor was he an incompetent dilettante like Nero. As a young man, Domitian was largely overshadowed by his older brother Titus, a situation that probably shaped his dour, resentful character. In AD 79, Vespasian was succeeded by Titus as Augustus, with Domitian taking the junior position of Caesar. But Titus ruled only two years before he fell ill and died in September of AD 81. Domitian wasted no time in seizing power as the third emperor of the Flavian dynasty. He soon proved a conscientious, detail-oriented administrator who kept a firm hand on all facets of government. Despite his uneven military record, the legions loved Domitian for raising their pay by nearly 50 percent. But Domitian's suspicion of the aristocracy soon deepened into paranoia. Unsuccessful conspiracies against him in AD 87 and 89 caused him to abandon all restraint, and by AD 93 Rome was in the grip of a reign of terror. Even Domitian's wife came to fear for her life, and she encouraged the emperor's personal attendants to plot against him, leading to his murder in AD 96.
This stunning gold aureus, struck while he was Caesar under Vespasian, sports a robust portrait in high Flavian style (during his sole reign, he revised coin portraits to show himself in a slimmed-down, more flattering light). The reverse type is copied from the coinage of Augustus (RIC I 288). It reflects the dynasty's policy of promoting the cult of the first emperor and also subtly alludes to Vespasian's victories in the East.
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