Jump to content

'Once in a Lifetime' Secular Games Denarius


Recommended Posts

CNG 517 provided an almost once in a lifetime opportunity to obtain a super rare Domitian denarius - a chance I could not pass up!

 

D605.jpg.14cb1b00db3ea0f10ccdf002fe596628.jpg

Domitian

AR Denarius, 3.14g
Rome mint, 88 AD
Obv: IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM P M TR P VIII; Head of Domitian, laureate, bearded, l.
Rev: COS XIIII across field; Column inscribed LVD SAEC FEC; all within laurel wreath
RIC 605 (R3). BMC -. RSC -. BNC -.
Ex CNG E517, 1 June 2022, lot 509. A. Short Collection, acquired from Peus 2021.

In October 88 AD Domitian held the Secular Games, a festival featuring theatrical performances and circus games accompanied by six various daytime and night-time religious ceremonies. The games marked the transition from one era (saeculum) to another and were supposedly held once every 110 years, or the maximum span of a human lifetime, making them a 'once in a lifetime' event. Domitian conducted his games on the Augustan calculation, rejecting the formula for the Claudian games held in 47 AD. The festival was important enough to interrupt the normal striking of reverse types on the coinage and for the mint to produce a new unique issue commemorating the event both in precious metal and bronze. The precious metal designs tended to be symbolic while the bronze were more narrative in nature, focusing on the various religious sacrifices that were at the heart of the games. Three reverse designs were produced for the denarii: herald with wand, cippus (column) within wreath, and herald standing by a cippus and incense burner. The vast majority of the Secular Games denarii were produced with right facing portraits, only a scarce handful feature one facing left. This cippus reverse with portrait left is only the second known specimen, the lone example cited by RIC is from the ANS collection (a double die match), a supreme testament to its rarity!

Please post your 'once in a lifetime' coins.

Thank you for looking!

 

Edited by David Atherton
  • Like 25
  • Thanks 1
  • Smile 1
  • Cool Think 1
  • Gasp 1
  • Heart Eyes 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cool coin, @David Atherton, and informative write up!

The Ludi Saeculares were a once-in-a-lifetime event, too.

 

The last time the Ludi Saeculares were held was in AD 248 by Philip I to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the establishment of Rome. He welcomed the festivities because it distracted the public from the troubles plaguing the Roman Empire. Barbarians were constantly attacking the borders, and usurpers were popping up all over the Empire.

Philip I struck a bunch of coins for these celebrations, which show traditional motifs like the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, a variety of animals, including elephants, lions, elk, gazelles, and hippopotami, cippi with inscriptions to immortalize the proceedings, Philip and his son on horseback or in curule chairs distributing largesses to the public, and religious temples. Most of these coins had the legend SAECVLARES AVGG to denote them as pertaining to the Saecular games.

Since the OP coin shows a cippus, I'll post one with a cippus, even though it's damaged.

Otacilia Severa SAECVLARES AVGG S C as.jpg
Otacilia Severa, AD 244-249.
Roman Æ as, 7.18 g, 23.7 mm, 12 h.
Rome, AD 244-246.
Obv: MARCIA OTACIL SEVERA AVG, diademed and draped bust, right.
Rev: SAECVLARES AVGG S C, Cippus.
Refs: RIC 202b; Cohen 69; RCV 2644.

  • Like 15
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Domitian Ar Denarius 88 AD Obv Head right laureate Rv. Cippus inscribed in five lines  COS/ XIIII/ LVD / SAEC/ FEC to right herald standing left holding wand and shield. candelabrum between RIC 601 3.53  grms 20 mm Photo by W. Hansen 1037692508_domitd23(1).jpg.b7ddc9f0618565f82ae9b52bcd3045d3.jpg

Though the  Saecular games have been advertised on coins issued by other emperors it is Domitian that has the most extensive series of coins illustrating many of the ceremonies associated with this event. An interesting feature of this coin is that the shield carried by the herald features a tiny bust of the goddess Minerva. This poses an interesting question. Is this feature part of the regular panoply of the herald and would be seen all games or is this something unique to the games sponsored by Domitian. His devotion to the goddess Minerva is well known and is well documented on the coinage. 

  • Like 10
  • Yes 1
  • Mind blown 1
  • Heart Eyes 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fabulous acquisition @David Atherton (we are used to fabulous acquisition with you but that one is fabulously fabulous 🙂 )

I'll contribute with the sestertius version of @Roman Collector's as

8ee8e53d389c4c5388b5749332fce5a1.jpg

Otacilia Severa, Sestertius - Rome mint, AD 248 
MARCIA OTACIL SEVERA AVG, Diademed and draped bust of Otacilia right
SAECVLARES AVGG, Cippus, SC in field
22.44 gr
Ref : Cohen #68, RCV #9171

 

Q

  • Like 10
Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, David Atherton said:

Domitian conducted his games on the Augustan calculation

But then how did Domitian arrive at his 88AD celebration date ?

My understanding is that Augustus took the date of the original games as 456 BC, so using a Sibylline call for a 110 year celebrations held his games in 17 BC (although -456 + (4 * 110) = -16, so he seems to have celebrated a year early).

So, given a proper date for the Augustan games as 16 BC, the next should have been 110 years later in 94 AD, not 88 AD.

Septimius Severus then held games in 204 AD, which seems to be correctly calculated: -16 + (2 * 110) = 204

 

Edited by Heliodromus
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

4200448.jpg

Domitian, 81-97 AD.
AE as, 9.81 g, 28.3 mm, 6 h.
Rome mint, 88 AD.
Obv: IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM P M TR P VIII CENS PER P P; Head of Domitian, laureate, right.
Rev: COS XIIII LVD SAEC FEC S C; Domitian standing left over altar; victimarius with bull left; flute and lyre players right; hexastyle column behind.
Refs: RIC 625, RCV 2802.
Acquired from Classical Numismatic Group Electronic Auction 420, Lot 448, 9 May 2018.
Ex Classical Numismatic Group Electronic Auction 194 (20 August 2008), lot 237.

Photo from CNG.

  • Like 10
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fantastic @David Atherton! Great that you finally got it! These left busts are so interesting.

 I have the feeling that these left bust denarii were struck for special donations (to possibly: senators, people working at the court, or soldiers). I think the fact that they are irregular in a coinage that seems very structured, can be an conformation for this theory. What are your thoughts about this subject?

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

19 hours ago, Heliodromus said:

But then how did Domitian arrive at his 88AD celebration date ?

My understanding is that Augustus took the date of the original games as 456 BC, so using a Sibylline call for a 110 year celebrations held his games in 17 BC (although -456 + (4 * 110) = -16, so he seems to have celebrated a year early).

So, given a proper date for the Augustan games as 16 BC, the next should have been 110 years later in 94 AD, not 88 AD.

Septimius Severus then held games in 204 AD, which seems to be correctly calculated: -16 + (2 * 110) = 204

 

Augustus intended to celebrate the games in 22 BC but postponed them until 17 BC. Therefore, Domitian was technically correct with that calculation (22+88=110).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Parthicus Maximus said:

Fantastic @David Atherton! Great that you finally got it! These left busts are so interesting.

 I have the feeling that these left bust denarii were struck for special donations (to possibly: senators, people working at the court, or soldiers). I think the fact that they are irregular in a coinage that seems very structured, can be an conformation for this theory. What are your thoughts about this subject?

Although I do think certain coin issues and/or types at various times could be regarded as presentation pieces, left portrait variants were probably just die engraver's whim. Unless of course there is some evidence that contemporary Romans found these left pieces special or of symbolic value.

Edited by David Atherton
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, David Atherton said:

Augustus intended to celebrate the games in 22 BC but postponed them until 17 BC. Therefore, Domitian was technically correct with that calculation (22+88=110).

Thanks.

The only mention I've been able to find for this earlier ~22 BC date is the reference below to Virgil's Aeneid (see discussion at footnote 8). Is there anything else that you're aware of, or is this all we have ?

https://www.jstor.org/stable/26401761?seq=1

image.png.73c1b4e209d8a201bc2aadbce34dc08f.png

 

 

This doesn't seem like much for Domitian to go on, but it seems a number of emperors wanted an excuse to celebrate some saeculum during their own reign!

From the same source as above, there's also this:

image.png.6102ca04291a650b14030a6f89665c66.png

 

An earlier date of 22 BC would seem just as random as 16 BC (17 BC), but by the time of Domitian at least Augustus's actual date had this "supporting" invented history, so it'd be interesting to know how Domitian justified ignoring this !

 

Edited by Heliodromus
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...