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A Large 'Balkan' Beauty

David Atherton

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The moment I saw this fantastic Domitian sestertius I had to have it! The style and overall eye-appeal caught my attention straight away. It did not disappoint upon arrival. Oh, it is fairly rare too.





Æ Sestertius, 24.93g
Eastern Mint (Thrace?), 82 AD
Obv: IMP DOMITIAN CAES DIVI VESP F AVG P M TR P P P COS VIII; Head of Domitian, laureate, bearded, r.
Rev: PAX AVGVST; S C in field; Pax stg. l., holding branch and cornucopiae
RIC 837 (R2). BMC 516. BNC 551. RPC 530.
Acquired from Gert Boersema, November 2022.

An unknown Eastern mint struck a small series of bronze coins for both Titus and Domitian. The style (heavily seriffed letters, large portraits, and massive reverse figures), unique obverse legends, and uncommon fabric (flat, almost convex flans) all suggest a mint other than Rome. Attributing exactly where these coins were struck has historically been a moving target - Mattingly in BMCRE thought Lugdunum, H.A. Cahn believed somewhere in Bithynia. More recent scholarship has looked towards Thrace as a possible location for production based on the Balkan distribution pattern of found specimens. Although the region of mintage has been narrowed down, the city itself remains elusive. RPC has suggested possibly Perinthus. Presumably a shortage of bronze coins in the region prompted a localised imperial issue. The striking of imperial bronze outside of Rome was an exceptional step at the time considering the last imperial branch mint at Lugdunum had shuttered late in Vespasian's reign. The issues consisted of sestertii, dupondii, asses, and semisses which copied types struck at Rome. Production at this Eastern mint continued uninterrupted between Titus's and Domitian's reigns, hinted at by Domitian's seamless adoption of Titus's types and legend formula after his accession. Owing to the scarcity of this Domitianic Pax sestertius dated COS VIII, it could not have been struck for any great length of time. The mystery mint was likely closed when Domitian began his reform of the coinage in early 82.

Struck on a large flan (37mm!) in fine 'Balkan' style.


As always, thanks for looking!



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I wonder how the advocates of the "Balkan Mint" theory deal with the absence of dimples on the flan from lathe-turning. That seems to have been the preferred technique for most of the mints in the Black Sea region. See this one from Perinthus, for example.

Julia Domna, AD 193-217.
Roman provincial AE diassarion, 10.69 gm, 25.3 mm, 7 h.
Thrace, Perinthus, AD 196-211.
Obv: ΙΟVΛΙΑ ΑVΓΟVϹΤΑ, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
Rev: ΠΕΡΙΝΘΙΩΝ ΝΕΩΚΟΡΩΝ, Homonoia standing facing, head left, holding patera and cornucopia.
Refs: Varbanov 219; Moushmov 4530; Schönert-Geiß 540; CN 2877.
Notes: Obverse die-match to CN 2877 (BnF) specimen.

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4 hours ago, Roman Collector said:

I wonder how the advocates of the "Balkan Mint" theory deal with the absence of dimples on the flan from lathe-turning. That seems to have been the preferred technique for most of the mints in the Black Sea region

I know we have dimpled Ptolemaic AE but when do we start seeing dimples from the Balkans on Greek language Provincials?   My earliest is a Commodus of Pautalia but I have not studied the matter. 


I have never seen mention on whether or not the mints in the Roman period knew about how the Ptolemaic dimples were made so long before.

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