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    Roman Provincial . Vespasian Junior (died AD 95/6). Æ 17mm of Ionia, Smyrna (3.67 gm). Struck under Domitian, ca. AD 94/5. OYECΠACIANOC NEOTEPOC, bareheaded bust of Vespasian Junior right / ZMYP-NAIΩN, Nike standing left, raising right hand. RPC 1029. BMC Ionia 317. Very rare. A choice specimen with a sensitive portrait of this ephemeral Imperial heir.

    The Emperor Domitian had considerable trouble fathering an heir to the imperial throne. His one natural son, whose name is unknown, died in infancy ca. A.D. 83. Shortly thereafter he split from his wife, Domitia, and although the couple later reconciled, no more children were forthcoming. Thus, to secure the Flavian Dynasty's continued grip on power, Domitian adopted his two great-nephews in AD 94 or 95 and renamed them Vespasian and Domitian. The boys were two of seven children born to Domitian's niece, Flavia Domitilla III, and her husband, Flavius Clemens, who was grandson of Vespasian's brother Flavius Sabinus. Thus the boys were of Flavian descent on both sides and ideal successors for a childless Flavian emperor. Toward that end, they were tutored by the renowned rhetorician Quintillian, who also counted Pliny the Younger among his pupils, and each was groomed up to take on the role of Caesar. The ages of the two new heirs is not now known for certain, but coin portraits of Vespasian the Younger seem to depict a boy of about age seven to ten. However, the arrangement did not last long and was destined to end tragically for all involved. In AD 95, Clemens was named Consul, but within a few months he had been officially accused of "atheism," removed from office, and summarily executed. His wife Domitilla was charged as well and exiled to the tiny island of Pandateria, where Augustus' daughter Julia had lived out most of her last years in isolated misery. The charge of atheism as a capitol offense is peculiar, and may indicate the couple had been converts to Christianity or Judaism. The fate of the boys is unknown, but their youth and innocence is unlikely to have spared them from Domitian's wrath. Domitian did not long survive them, and was assassinated in July of AD 96.

    The only coins depicting Vespasian the Younger were struck in the city of Smyrna in Ionia, during the boy's brief ascendancy in AD 94/5. The inscription OYECΠACIANOC NEOTEPOC translates to "Vespasian the Youngest" and leaves the identity of the child depicted on the obverse beyond dispute. The small pieces are quite rare today and die studies have shown that only a few were struck to begin with.

    From The W.B. and R. E. Montgomery Collection.


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    Auction Dates
    January, 2011
    2nd-3rd Sunday-Monday
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