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A Rare Titus Sestertius


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I have a special fondness for coins struck during the reign of Titus, especially those dated to 79 AD. There is something indescribably awesome about holding a coin struck within weeks, or perhaps even days, of the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in August* of that year. My latest is a sestertius dated to those early days of Titus's reign.

 

T64a.jpg.e948aec83072f16d21c6e477e5b029b3.jpg

Titus

Æ Sestertius, 23.36g
Rome mint, 79 AD
Obv: IMP TITVS CAES VESP AVG P M TR P P P COS VII; Head of Titus, laureate, bearded, r.
Rev: S C in field; Spes stg. l., with flower
RIC 64 (R2). BMC -. BNC -.
Ex Private Collection, December 2022.

Spes is a common reverse type under Vespasian, connected to future dynastic hope and harmony. It continued to be struck by Titus and can be viewed as his hope for the future with his chosen heir Domitian. As Mattingly put it: '...the recurring types of Spes suggests that Titus gave Domitian full due as heir to the throne.' Suetonius would have us believe this public fraternal affection was a sham and Domitian did everything he could to plot against Titus. Dio goes so far as to say Domitian hastened Titus death by having him packed in ice! All of this can be dismissed as nothing more than post Domitianic gossip intended to blacken Domitian's name. The Flavian historian Brian Jones speculates the brother's relationship was one of 'mutual indifference and ignorance' due to their age and personality differences. Regardless, as the numismatic evidence shows, Titus looked upon Domitian as his legitimate heir until his natural death in mid September 81.

The Flavian mint had a habit of not striking bronze coins in any great quantity at the beginning of a reign. That was the case with Vespasian and again under Titus. The first several months of the mint's efforts were heavily concentrated on the denarius issues, presumably for monetary donatives to the troops. All Titus's early bronze coins dated COS VII are very scarce, sometimes known from just a few specimens. This COS VII Spes sestertius is cited by RIC in Vienna, another is cited by OCRE from the ANS collection.

Here it is 'in hand'.

 

As always, thanks for looking!!

* I am sticking with the traditional date of August instead of the more recent academic fad for October. Please see Pedar W. Foss's Pliny and the Eruption of Vesuvius for further arguments in support of the August date.

Edited by David Atherton
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Lovely coin, @David Atherton and as always, an interesting and informative write-up.  My last coin to arrive in 2022 is in the same ballpark - a Spes sestertius struck by Titus but for Domitian (and a year or so later)

This is in an ANACS slab - I almost never buy slabs because I can't afford them and don't much like them anyway.  But the price was too good to pass up for a legible Flavian big bronze (34 mm!).  The obverse lettering was especially appealing, I thought - almost Julio-Claudian:  

1590682688_Domitian-SestertiusSpesDOMITIANVSRICTitus298-MINEpic0.jpg.052989fe5fe9c3e616205cd71573c20b.jpg

Domitian (Titus)   Æ Sestertius (80-81 A.D.) Rome Mint (note) CAE[S DI]VI AVG VESP F DOMITIANVS C[OS VII], laureate head right / S-C, Spes advancing left holding flower and raising hem of robe. RIC II Part 1 (2nd ed.) Titus 298; (RIC 1962 158b);  BMCRE 234. (ANACS slab No. 7370367 G4) (57.00 g. (slab) / 34 x 32 mm) eBay Dec. 2022

So is this from the Rome mint?  I only ask because while researching this, I came across an auction suggesting the long-neck portraits come from a Balkan mint.  I'm not sure mine has an exceptionally long neck, but I found the information interesting.  Here's the comment and links: 

"This remarkable sestertius presents an exceptional portrait of Domitian, very different from that found on the obverses of many sestertii of the same type. The length of the neck is disproportionate to the size of the face and treated in an unusual way. Its attribution to a Balkan mint rather than to Roma seems preferable, as rightly suggested by Herbert Cahn and Andrew Burnet, and adopted by the authors of the RPC in 1999.

Ce remarquable sesterce présente un exceptionnel portrait de Domitien, bien différent de celui figuré au droit de nombreux sesterces de mêmes types. La longueur du cou est disproportionnée par rapport à la taille du visage qui est lui-même traité de manière inhabituelle. Son attribution à un atelier implanté dans les Balkans plutôt qu’à Rome semble donc préférable, comme le suggèrent justement Herbert Cahn et Andrew Burnet, suivis par les auteurs du RPC en 1999."

Chaponnière & Firmenich SA; Auction 8; Lot 48; 05.07.2017

https://auctions.live-bidder.com/clients/chaponniere/en/sale/showLot/631/48

https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=4232891

913415074_Domitian-SestertiusSpesDOMITIANVSRICTitus298-MINEpic3.jpg.b569cbd193eb5b2305f9a8c16ea9de19.jpg

I might break this one out...New Year's resolution?  

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12 hours ago, Marsyas Mike said:

Lovely coin, @David Atherton and as always, an interesting and informative write-up.  My last coin to arrive in 2022 is in the same ballpark - a Spes sestertius struck by Titus but for Domitian (and a year or so later)

This is in an ANACS slab - I almost never buy slabs because I can't afford them and don't much like them anyway.  But the price was too good to pass up for a legible Flavian big bronze (34 mm!).  The obverse lettering was especially appealing, I thought - almost Julio-Claudian:  

1590682688_Domitian-SestertiusSpesDOMITIANVSRICTitus298-MINEpic0.jpg.052989fe5fe9c3e616205cd71573c20b.jpg

Domitian (Titus)   Æ Sestertius (80-81 A.D.) Rome Mint (note) CAE[S DI]VI AVG VESP F DOMITIANVS C[OS VII], laureate head right / S-C, Spes advancing left holding flower and raising hem of robe. RIC II Part 1 (2nd ed.) Titus 298; (RIC 1962 158b);  BMCRE 234. (ANACS slab No. 7370367 G4) (57.00 g. (slab) / 34 x 32 mm) eBay Dec. 2022

So is this from the Rome mint?  I only ask because while researching this, I came across an auction suggesting the long-neck portraits come from a Balkan mint.  I'm not sure mine has an exceptionally long neck, but I found the information interesting.  Here's the comment and links: 

"This remarkable sestertius presents an exceptional portrait of Domitian, very different from that found on the obverses of many sestertii of the same type. The length of the neck is disproportionate to the size of the face and treated in an unusual way. Its attribution to a Balkan mint rather than to Roma seems preferable, as rightly suggested by Herbert Cahn and Andrew Burnet, and adopted by the authors of the RPC in 1999.

Ce remarquable sesterce présente un exceptionnel portrait de Domitien, bien différent de celui figuré au droit de nombreux sesterces de mêmes types. La longueur du cou est disproportionnée par rapport à la taille du visage qui est lui-même traité de manière inhabituelle. Son attribution à un atelier implanté dans les Balkans plutôt qu’à Rome semble donc préférable, comme le suggèrent justement Herbert Cahn et Andrew Burnet, suivis par les auteurs du RPC en 1999."

Chaponnière & Firmenich SA; Auction 8; Lot 48; 05.07.2017

https://auctions.live-bidder.com/clients/chaponniere/en/sale/showLot/631/48

https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=4232891

913415074_Domitian-SestertiusSpesDOMITIANVSRICTitus298-MINEpic3.jpg.b569cbd193eb5b2305f9a8c16ea9de19.jpg

I might break this one out...New Year's resolution?  

Your coin is most definitely from the mystery eastern mint (RIC 511, RPC 506)! Style-wise, the legend and the portrait are the tells. I would assume the reverse flan is convex or slightly flat? It would be hard to determine that in a slab - yet another reason to crack it out!! In the video above you can see the Rome mint specimens have concave flans.

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12 hours ago, David Atherton said:

Your coin is most definitely from the mystery eastern mint (RIC 511, RPC 506)! Style-wise, the legend and the portrait are the tells. I would assume the reverse flan is convex or slightly flat? It would be hard to determine that in a slab - yet another reason to crack it out!! In the video above you can see the Rome mint specimens have concave flans.

David, thank you so much for your comments on this coin - I am pretty thrilled to have an "eastern mint" Flavian in my collection.  Armed with your RIC 511 information I dug around for additional information and examples.  This beauty is from a Nomos auction, which states there are only six examples known - mine is probably the ugliest!

383312922_Domitian-SestertiusSpesBalkansMintDOMITIANVSRICTitus511-auct1Nomospic.jpg.1c4f7fcf36404bf418a76b2239ce2d93.jpg

Nomos

Auction 24; Lot 401; 22.05.2022

Domitian, as Caesar, 69-81. Sestertius (Orichalcum, 35 mm, 26.12 g, 6 h), uncertain mint in Thrace. CAES DIVI AVG VESP F DOMITIANVS COS VII Laureate head of Domitian to right. Rev. S- C Spes walking to right, holding flower in her right hand and raising the hem of her dress with her left. RIC 511. RPC 506.

Very rare, one of only six known examples, including this one. With an excellent portrait and a fine dark green patina. Minor flatness on the reverse, otherwise, about extremely fine

https://nomosag.com/nomos-20/315 and https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=9491393

Your post from this past December was very instructive - I like your description "massive reverse figures" - Spes is usually shown on Roman coins as rather petite, but these eastern mint Flavians render her in a far sturdier fashion:  

 

Mine does have a very flat flan, especially noticeable on the reverse (despite the slab).   I've updated my attribution accordingly - thanks again for sharing your Flavian expertise!  

P.S.  This CNG auction has a lot of information on this eastern/Balkan mint:

https://www.cngcoins.com/Coin.aspx?CoinID=132810

Edited by Marsyas Mike
Added CNG auction link
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