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Domitian Caesar Eastern (?) Semis

David Atherton

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I'm really quite fond of Vespasian's 'Eastern' tinged bronze issue struck in 74. This Domitian Caesar semis from it sports an unlikely reverse type for Rome.




Domitian as Caesar [Vespasian]
Æ Semis, 5.32g
Rome mint, 74 AD
Obv: CAESAR DOMIT COS II; Head of Domitian, laureate, bearded, l.
Rev: ANTIOCHIA; Bust of city-goddess, r.
RIC 1580 (C). BMC -. BNC -. RPC 2004 (7 spec.).
Acquired from London Ancient Coins, April 2023.

Traditionally, the remarkable bronze issue this rather odd semis is from has been attributed to various different mints over the years. Ted Buttrey in the unpublished RIC II.1 Addenda wrote - 'RIC 756-767 are irregular Dupondii, which should be taken together with Asses, semisses and quadrantes (RIC 1564-1581), forming together a single extraordinary issue in four denominations, distinct in typology and metal, as well as overall character from the regular coinage of the year. Although Eastern in aspect and reverse type, the circulation area of the dupondii is almost exclusively Gaul, Germany, Italy – i.e. the West, with scarcely any penetration of the East. Finds of the smaller denominations are rarely attested anywhere, East or West. The citations in RPC II are drawn almost entirely from Western collections, and total: Western - 108, Eastern - 4. The Eastern finds appear to be simply the débris of Mediterranean circulation. Previously the series had been attributed to Commagene (BMCRE II, pp.217-222), then as a likelihood to Antioch (e.g. RPC II 1982-2005). The correct attribution to Rome is proved by mules of the dupondii with regular issues (Buttrey, “Vespasian’s Roman Orichalcum: An Unrecognized Celebratory Coinage” in David M. Jacobson and Nikos Kokkinos, Judaea and Rome in Coins, 65 CBE – 135 CE (2012).'

Here we have a semis struck for Domitian Caesar featuring Antiocha on the reverse. I think it quite extraordinary that the Rome mint would produce a coin blatantly featuring a provincial city-goddess intended for circulation in the West. Vespasian's fondness for the region that elevated him to the purple must have been strong indeed! The type was struck for all three Flavians.


In hand.



Thank you for looking!

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