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Germania Capta!


David Atherton
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I eagerly waited for this coin to arrive a few days ago ... and easily it is one of my favourite types struck for Domitian. An honest example of a neat iconic Flavian type!

 

 

 

D274.jpg.bb15ffbae4ad4ab61f3ec8bdde111008.jpg

Domitian

Æ Sestertius, 24.21g
Rome mint, 85 AD
Obv: IMP CAES DOMITIAN AVG GERM COS XI; Bust of Domitian, laureate, bearded, r., with aegis
Rev: GERMANIA CAPTA; S C in exergue; Trophy; to r., German captive stg. r., hands bound, head l.; to l., Germania std. l.; around arms
RIC 274 (R). BMC 244. BNC 312.
Acquired from Savoca Coins, August 2022.

In 85 Domitian struck a fairly impressive issue of sestertii, M. Grant hyperbolically called it the most 'ambitious' of any one reign or year. The series is the first major aes issue of Domitian's reign and is dominated by panoramic types commemorating his military victory over the Germanic tribe the Chatti. The details of the war are unclear, but the overall impression is that the conflict was a minor affair blown out of proportion by an emperor eager for military glory. No large battles, a la Mons Graupius, have come down to us, prompting Tacitus' assertion, 'that in recent times, the Germans were more triumphed over than conquered'. Consequently, Domitian's Germanic triumph of 83 received a certain amount of ridicule from ancient writers who thought the whole thing was a sham (Dio goes so far as to say Domitian raided the palace's furniture stores for his fake spoils!), no doubt the numismatic propaganda for the victory was likely viewed in the same manner by contemporary senatorial elites. Germania Capta types were first struck in silver in 84 and in bronze in 85. This iconic Germania Capta sestertius strongly echoes Vespasian's Judaea Capta types - but instead of a palm tree we see a trophy which appears to be mounted on a palm trunk(?). H. Mattingly writes in BMCRE 'the type is closely modelled on the Judaea Capta of Vespasian, but the German element is indicated by the heavy angular cloak worn by the man and by the oblong shields.' Comparing the two triumphs, the Josephian scholar Steve Mason remarked - 'The same people who produced Flavian Triumph I: Judaea were on hand for Flavian Triumph II: Germania, and sequels are rarely as good as the originals.'

The Germania Capta commemorative sestertii were produced for only a few short years between 85-88. The present example from the first issue of 85 debuts this iconic reverse type and is slightly rarer than the variant struck in the second issue.

 

Please feel free to post your 'capta' or commemorative coins.

Thanks for looking!

Edited by David Atherton
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Very nice one! Thanks for the background on this type. I find this an interesting series (it's Domitian's distinctive "captive series" of course -- seems every emperor needed one, even the child emperors). I've got a different Sestertius from the series. Quite worn, but these are hard to find, and since I collect RIC captives, I'll take these as I find them!

Note also, he's copying another design from the Vespasian series here. (I think there was at least one more of the Germania Capta Sestertii designs wasn't there?

image.jpeg.9456a97aaf34c53158c92f8f53572b9a.jpeg

Edited by Curtis JJ
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7 hours ago, Curtis JJ said:

 (I think there was at least one more of the Germania Capta Sestertii designs wasn't there?

There are a vast array of types attributed to the Chattan war as commemoratives. Only the OP sestertius type states explicitly 'Germania Capta' in the legend. Other reverse type iconographies, such as on your coin, undoubtedly refer to the war as well.

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Oh, now that I think about it (just to contradict something I said above), I don't think Nerva had a "Capta" series of his own, did he? As far as I know, I don't think he ever used a trophy or Victory either (both of which may imply captives), except "Roma holding Victory" (on RIC; maybe there were some Provcincials I'm not thinking of).

In fact, Nerva's one coin that looks like a Judaea Capta -- big palm tree w/ FISCI IVDAICA CALVMNI SVBLATA -- is reportedly referencing the relief of taxation on the Jews (almost anti-Capta). All of that was highly out of the ordinary, and I don't know if there was ever another emperor whose coinage overall was so non-hostile toward outsiders. (Please tell me if anyone knows more on that topic, since collecting "captives coinage" means trying to understand its absences as well.)

I guess the Romans would have to wait a few more years for the next big "Capta"... The first one after Germania would've been Dacia, I believe. "DAC CAP": By then, an abbreviation was enough to get the point across, especially alongside bound, pointy-hatted, mourning captives. [ * See note at end on dating, or my questions of.]

Actually, it's a fair question whether or not to call the "personifications" of other nations "captives," but either way, they're clearly part of the same tradition. This is the classic personification of Dacia seated upon captured arms (interestingly, personifications were generally female, but it seems like they're also often dressed as warriors). It's easier to see on better preserved ones, but the curved swords and the hexagonal shields illustrate the kind of weapons used by Dacians in combat:

Trajan-Dacia-Denarius.png

  • Roman Imperial. Trajan (98-117) AR Denarius (3.04g, 18mm, 6h). Rome, circa 108/9 CE.

That imagery was slightly modified for the Marcus Aurelius / Lucius Verus Parthian captives series (I showed a few of theirs in another active thread on L. Verus).

 

Next two photos, Source: Jesus Vico.

Below, I believe the standing captive (or even personification of Dacia?) with hands bound in front (not always visibly bound) is unique to Trajan's coinage (but see Augustus' remarkable Armenian warrior denarius [RIC 520]). This standing captive probably didn't show the concept of "captivity" clearly enough or enough discomfort or despair. (Note: By the 3rd & 4th centuries, most captives were actually shown in "stress positions" of various kinds, no comfort allowed.)

Trajan-Dacian-Captive-AR-Denarius-Ex-Jesus-Vico-photo-e-12-113.jpg 

Here is a modification of the classic Roman "Trophy Tableau," to use Kinnee's phrase (this modification first used by Vespasian, continued under M. AVR & L. VERVS; again, I showed a low-grade M.A. in my comment on the L.V. thread )Trajan-Dacian-Captive-Seated-Trophy-AR-Denarius-Ex-Jesus-Vico-photo-e-12-121.jpg 

See Kinnee's 2016 article and 2018 book for more on the trophy-with-captives as a distinctively Roman artistic innovation (though it appears in many sculptures and other art forms, Kinnee claims it began in coinage, specifically the Marian AR Quinarii of Fundanius [101 BCE] and Cloelius [98 BCE]).

 

NOT MY COINThe rare Aureus of a Dacian sitting on a shield (RIC 89), copying Domitian.

vs_exp.jpgrs_exp.jpg

Source: Staatliche Museum Berlin, via Numismatics.org/OCRE [by ANS], Münzkabinett Berlin Museum # 18272997 (accessioned 1873, General Hermann von Gansauge).

 

NOT MY COIN: Here is the type Trajan was adapting to Dacians, Domitian's original Germania Capta Aureus:

121809.m.jpg

Source: CNG Triton VI (13 Jan 2003), Lot: 849. See also: Triton XXIII (14 Jan 2020), Lot: 711.

 

Edit: One more type!

I forgot this one, since it's rarely described as a Dacia Capta type. But the Columna Traiani was actually a celebration of Trajan's wars in Dacia and if you could zoom in really really close to the detail on the column's giant scrolling graphic-novel-frieze depicting the wars (it scrolls around and around all the way to the top), you'd see captives depicted many times in many ways. Unfortunately, my camera isn't quite good enough to zoom in and see the detail on the column (and I can't figure out how to photograph the far side of the column at all!):

image.png.dbdae33b6f46715e15db37c2126bd826.png

 

Numismatic "Trophy Tableau" Refs:

Kinnee, Lauren. 2016. “The Trophy Tableau Monument in Rome: From Marius to Caecilia Metella.” Journal of Ancient History 4(2): 191–239. [Unfortunately I can't find a link to any (legal) online copies; if anyone ever finds one, please let me know so I can add it to Biblio file & page.]

2018. The Greek and Roman Trophy: From Battlefield Marker to Icon of Power. New York: Routledge. [A substantial preview is available on Google Books.]

 

* Dating the DAC CAP coins: I haven't read up enough on the exact dating (but right now reading about Trajan's COS V coins), but my understanding is: Trajan's first Dacian war ended c. 102; there was a second Dacian War, c. 105-6. The DAC CAP coinage begins in Trajan's fifth consulship (COS V). That ran 103-111, I think? (I'm still learning how RIC dating and the titles worked.) That makes sense of why I see his DAC CAP coinage often dated to "103-111" [OCRE]. But I've also seen the same types dated much more precisely to 108-109. Since COS V doesn't narrow it down, I'm not sure where that date comes from.

Edited by Curtis JJ
Dating Dacians (?), a bad smiley, and two gold coins
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I went to post my Sestertius of Hadrian burning the tax records, but looked at the picture and decided otherwise. It's embarrassingly decrepit.

Here's a worn, but very historic piece commemorating the defeat of Marc Antony, whom I refer to as the bungling thug (I'm Team Augustus). (Antony did produce some cool coins, though).

fB3Z8Data2AJ93nKSx45dPg7Qr5TsC.jpg.45e4d31faec6e10f2d691861df5abb4c.jpg

 

Attribution: RIC I 267 Uncertain Italian mint
Date: 30-29 BC
Obverse: Anipigraphic, bare head of Octavian right
Reverse: Quadriga, facing, set atop triumphal arch (the Actian Arch) with architrave inscribed with IMP CAESAR
Size: 18.09mm
Weight: 2.63 grams

(doesn't look grainy in person, just honestly worn).

 

And may I add that while I don't actually have very many pieces of Domitian, his IOVI VICTORI Sestertii are within my top 10 of favorite Roman (affordable) types.  I prefer the idealized portrait issues.

Since my coin budget has improved, I should endeavor to find a nice IOVI.  I have one with a nice patina, but it's worn.

I looked in the folder with my older coin pictures, but couldn't find my secular games Domitian.  It must have either been a coin show buy or a Christmas present from dad.  Probably the latter.

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Not a capta per se but here’s a Trajan showing Pax nonchalantly burning a bunch of conquered peoples weapons. She seems a little “over it” 😂

F4BB365C-83EF-40E9-99C4-0D7073AB0F36.png.7e5d2a25ec227c755729006202d27422.png
 

Struck in 111 so have to imagine it was to celebrate the victory over Dacia still, as Trajan didn’t go conquering in the East for another few years.  

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1 hour ago, Restitutor said:

have to imagine it was to celebrate the victory over Dacia still,

Nice one! Notice also that those are virtually the same sets of weapons shown in two of Trajan's Dacia captive denarii above:

  • two curved sabers,
  • two spears (though my 2nd denarius only has one spear),
  • hexagonal shield (or close, viewed from the side almost diamond shaped), and
  • circular shield (or close, oval shaped from the side).

They seem to have been very specific about the details of those captured arms. One wonders if it wasn't more than consistency for communication's sake; perhaps it represents something specific (e.g., the two wars, or two particular victories, or two Dacian armies crushed; I suspect one would find that same imagery in the frieze on Trajan's Column and elsewhere).

Edited by Curtis JJ
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Nice con! As you know, I have a faible for Germanic references on Roman coins. Below are some examples from my collection.

Two references to the Marcomannic Wars on coins of Marcus Aurelius and young Commodus:

2101244877_RomMarcusAureliusSesterzRoma(neuesFoto).png.af21c3130e20a5eb44cdf65245f8fac9.png

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Empire, sestertius, 171–172 AD, Rome mint. Obv: M ANTONINVS AVG TR [P XXVI], bust of Marcus Aurelius, draped and laureate, r. Rev: [IMP  VI] COS III, Roma seated l. on pile of armor, leaning on shield, holding sceptre; in fields flanking, SC. 30mm, 26.95g. Ref: RIC III Marcus Aurelius, 1037. Ex C. Kistenich. (Struck after the Roman victory in the Marcomannic Wars in 171/172 AD, after which Marcus Aurelius assumed the title Germanicus. Likely, Roma sits on the weapons captured from the Germanic tribes.)

770003433_RomCommodussesterzdegermanis(Foto2).png.68723ae40050acf766c3540acef6a0ca.png

Commodus, Roman Empire, sestertius, 177 AD, Rome mint. Obv: IMP L AVREL COMMODVS AVG [GERM] SARM; laureate and draped bust of Commodus r. Rev: T[R P] II COS [P]P; pile of Germanic arms; in fields, S-C; in exergue, DE GERMANIS. 31mm, 21.84g. Ref: RIC III Marcus Aurelius 1570.

Some references to Valerian's and Gallienus' border conflicts with Germanic tribes on the Rhine and Danube:

1165812594_RomValerianIAntoninianVictoriaGermania.png.eae70f87b3b847f84d74c06a9e83a82c.png

Valerian I, Roman Empire, AR/BI antoninian, 253 AD, Viminacium (?) mint. Obv: IMP P LIC VALERIANO AVG; bust of Valerian I, radiate, draped, cuirassed r. Rev: VICTORIA GERMANICA Victory standing l. holding palm and resting r. hand on shield; at feet, captive. 21mm, 4.08g. Ref: RIC V Valerian 264 (for Milan); MIR 36, 793d.

1788573285_RomGallienusAntoninianKolnGermanicus.png.d2a96138a5c5a95f4411437e99247a9b.png

Gallienus, Roman Empire, AE antoninianus, 258–259 AD, Cologne mint. Obv: GALLIENVS P F AVG; bust of Gallienus, radiate, cuirassed, r. Rev: GERMANICVS MAX V; trophy between two captives. 20.5mm, 3.58g. Ref: RIC V Gallienus (joint reign) 18; MIR 36, 872n.

1637943990_RomGallienusAntoninianGermanicusmilitarischeBuste.png.a8604cf312f7fac05d94a1609a8c97a0.png

Gallienus, Roman Empire, AE antoninianus, 258–259 AD, Cologne mint. Obv: GALLIENVS P F AVG; bust of Gallienus, radiate, cuirassed, l. holding spear in r. hand and shield in l. hand. Rev: GERMANICVS MAX V; trophy between two captives. 20mm, 2.81g. Ref: RIC V Gallienus (joint reign) 18; MIR 36, 872m.

The last named victories on Roman coins refer to the Alamanni, a Germanic tribe living in what today is southwestern Germany:

343766559_RomConstantinusIIAE3AlamanniaDevicta.png.84ff59c6622f3a18803cfdec83ff6170.png

Constantine II Iunior, Roman Empire, AE3, 324–326 AD, Sirmium mint. Obv: CONSTANTINVS IVN NOB CAES, bust of Constantine II, laureate, draped, cuirassed, r. Rev: ALAMANNIA DEVICTA, Victory, winged, draped, advancing r., holding trophy on r. arm and branch in l. hand, spurning a seated captive; mintmark .SIRM. . 19mm, 3.06g. Ref: RIC VII Sirmium 50.

108209492_RomCrispusAE3AlamanniaDevicta.png.b0cc1ca7b59eef00ad360809ade18aeb.png

Crispus, Roman Empire, AE 3, 324–325 AD, Sirmium mint. Obv: FL IVL CRISPVS NOB CAES; bust of Crispus r. Rev: ALAMANNIA DEVICTA, Victory, winged, draped, advancing r., holding trophy on r. arm and branch in l. hand, spurning a seated captive; mintmark .SIRM. . 18mm, 2.41g. Ref: RIC VII Sirmium 49.

Edited by Ursus
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On 8/21/2022 at 6:12 PM, Curtis JJ said:

Nice one! Notice also that those are virtually the same sets of weapons shown in two of Trajan's Dacia captive denarii above:

  • two curved sabers,
  • two spears (though my 2nd denarius only has one spear),
  • hexagonal shield (or close, viewed from the side almost diamond shaped), and
  • circular shield (or close, oval shaped from the side).

They seem to have been very specific about the details of those captured arms. One wonders if it wasn't more than consistency for communication's sake; perhaps it represents something specific (e.g., the two wars, or two particular victories, or two Dacian armies crushed; I suspect one would find that same imagery in the frieze on Trajan's Column and elsewhere).

Oh that's a great series of observations! Going to keep my eyes more peeled for details like these going forward! 

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