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Domitian and an Eastern Mars

David Atherton

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A mystery eastern mint struck imperial bronzes for Titus in 80 or 81 and a smattering few for Domitian before petering out in early 82.  Recently, I was lucky enough to acquire this scarce Domitianic Mars reverse. A bit rough, but beggars can't be choosers when hunting down rarities such as this.




Æ Sestertius, 24.72g
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: S C in field; Mars, with cloak over shoulders, adv. r., with spear and trophy
RIC 838 (R2). BMC 517. BNC 552. RPC 531.
Acquired from Variana Coins, January 2023.

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 Mars type 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.


And 'in hand'.



As always, thanks for looking!

Edited by David Atherton
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My example of this type was attributed to Thrace when I acquired it in the Roma II auction in 2011:


DOMITIAN  69 - 81 AD. 
AE Sestertius (26.88 g.) Thrace 80-81 AD  RIC 509 Titus
CAES DIVI AVG VESP F DOMITIANVS COS VII, laureate head right / S C across field, Mars walking right, holding spear in right hand, trophy over left shoulder

RIC classifies these types as "Eastern Mint -- Thrace (?)" 

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I lucked into a sestertius for Domitian, issued by Titus, from this mint - thanks to @David Atherton for helping me to nail down the attribution:


Domitian (Titus)   Æ Sestertius (80-81 A.D.) Balkan Mint 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 skirt. RIC II Part 1 (2nd ed.) Titus 511; RPC 506.  (ANACS slab No. 7370367 G4) (57.00 g. (slab) / 34 x 32 mm) eBay Dec. 2022 MW  $43.00 BO Note:  I posted this coin on Numis Forums, Jan. 2, 2023David Atherton comments: "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?" "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).... 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...Thrace as a possible location..." David. Atherton Numis Forums.. Note:  "This remarkable sestertius presents an exceptional portrait of Domitian...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." Chaponnière & Firmenich SA Auction 8; Lot 48; 05.07.2017

It came in a slab:



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