Domitian's Tainted Triumph

    Domitian (AD 81-96). AV aureus (19mm, 7.05 gm, 6h). NGC XF ★ 5/5 - 5/5. Rome, AD 88-89. DOMITIANVS AVGVSTVS, laureate right of Domitian right / GERMANICVS above, Domitian standing left in cart of walking triumphal quadriga, holding laurel branch in right hand and scepter in left; Victory on side of chariot, COS XIIII in exergue. RIC --. cf. 561 (COS XIIII part of legend above, not in exergue). Calicó 837. BMCRE 144. Rare. Attractive light reddish tone in fields.

    Domitian has gone down in history as a depraved tyrant, but the truth is rather more complicated. Of all his predecessors, his reign most closely resembles that of Tiberius-well begun, ably maintained, but ending in suspicion, dread, and slaughter. He was born in AD 51 to the respected senator and general Vespasian, who successfully seized and held the throne to conclude the civil wars of AD 68-69. As a young man, Domitian was largely overshadowed by his older brother Titus, a situation that probably shaped his dour, resentful character. When Titus died in September of AD 81 after only two years of rule, Domitian wasted no time in seizing power as the third emperor of the Flavian dynasty. Though not much of a soldier, he led a number of campaigns against the Germans that pushed the frontiers forward. This attractive aureus, one of the few that does not represent his patron goddess Minerva on the reverse, was struck for a "double triumph" celebrated in AD 89, celebrating his German campaign of AD 88-89 and a near contemporaneous "victory" over the Dacians. In truth both victories were rather questionable: The German campaign began as a rebellion against Domitian's rule by the legions of the upper Rhine, put down with great difficulty, while the victory over the Dacians only came after a series of humiliating defeats. 

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