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Domitilla the Elder


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A few weeks ago I was thrilled to land this iconic Flavian type - a sestertius of Titus paying homage to his deceased mother.

 

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Domitilla the Elder [Titus]

Æ Sestertius, 25.51g
Rome mint, 80-81 AD
Obv: MEMORIAE / DOMI/TILLAE; S P Q R in exergue; Carpentum drawn r. by two mules
REV: IMP T CAES DIVI VESP F AVG P M TR P P P COS VIII; S C, large, in centre
RIC 262 (C). BMC 226. BNC 234.
Acquired from London Ancient Coins, October 2022. Ex Bertolami E-Live Auction 236, 24-25 September 2022, lot 803.

Domitilla the Elder was the wife of Vespasian and mother of Titus and Domitian. She married Vespasian either in 39 or 40 and died prior to him rising to the purple in 69. Titus struck a commemorative issue of sestertii publicly honouring his mother in 80 or 81. S. Wood writes of the type 'The carpentum was a vehicle that marked both the high rank and the sanctity of its passenger. Only Vestal Virgins and women of equivalent status were permitted to use carpenta within the city. Since the Julio-Claudian era, a number of imperial women had been granted the rights of honorary Vestals, despite being wives and mothers. Livia was the first to receive this distinction, followed by Antonia Minor and Caligula's three sisters, while Agrippina the Elder, the mother of Caligula, became a posthumous honorary Vestal as part of Caligula's rehabilitation of her memory.' Wood speculates the funeral games honouring Vespasian may have occasioned the appearance of Domitilla's carpentum both in the funeral procession and on the coinage. Clearly by the Flavian age the carpentum was a well known symbol of honour for women of the imperial household. Titus's use of a nearly 60 year old imperial cult image was quite in keeping with his reissue of older Julio-claudian reverse types.

It's a beautiful coin in hand which faithfully recreates those earlier Julio-claudian types, possibly copied from the coins themselves!

As always, thanks for looking!

Edited by David Atherton
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