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Stack’s Bowers Ancient Coins: Domitian, Last of the Twelve Caesars


By Chris Chatigny, Numismatist & CatalogerStacks Bowers ……
The January New York International (NYINC) Auction features some fantastic world and ancient numismatic treasures from a multitude of realms. Among Roman coinage we have some fantastic pieces, including this lovely aureus from Domitian, the final entrant in Suetonius’ famed “Twelve Caesars”.

Son of famed general and eventual emperor Vespasian, Domitian lived in the shadow of his elder brother Titus (who was also destined to be emperor). Though awarded honorific titles, Domitian held no major role in the governments of his father or brother. It is no surprise then that upon his hailing as emperor, Domitian would be eager to achieve glory in the vein of his father’s triumph in Judaea or his brother’s siege of Jerusalem.

The opportunity came in 83 CE in Germany (Germania) against the Chatti tribe that lived on the far side of the Rhine. Domitian led the campaign in person, the first emperor to do so (while in office as emperor) since Claudius. He won great renown, soundly defeating the Chatti and extending the border beyond the Rhine. In honor of this victory, Domitian received the title of “Germanicus.”

This preview showcases a fabulous aureus from the series commemorating this successful campaign. The obverse features the right facing laureate bust of the emperor, with a simplified legend of “Domitianus Augustus” that simply states the obvious: Domitian is the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. The reverse is equally direct with its message; a stunned and defeated female personifies the Germanic people at center. She appears seated on top of a shield, with a broken spear at its side, depicted bare-chested along with the iconic “barbarian” pants (unlike the sophisticated Roman toga), and holds her head in an attitude of mourning. The titles above heap further glory upon the emperor and help date this piece, respectively: “Germanicus” and “Cos XVI.”

Our example offered is exceptionally well-centered, allowing for nearly complete beaded borders (especially on the reverse). The strike is exquisite, with crisp detail. Here is a piece that should be seen in person to appreciate its beauty.

While we are no longer accepting consignments for our New York International Auction, we are accepting consignments of world and ancient coins as well as world paper money for our May 2017 Collector’s Choice Online Auction and Chinese and other Asian coins and currency for our April 2017 Hong Kong Showcase Auction. Time is running short, so if you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.

Stack's Bowers
Stack's Bowers
Stack's Bowers Galleries conducts live, internet, and specialized auctions of rare U.S. and world coins and currency and ancient coins, as well as direct sales through retail and wholesale channels. The company's 90-year legacy includes the cataloging and sale of many of the most valuable United States coin and currency collections to ever cross an auction block — The D. Brent Pogue Collection, The John J. Ford, Jr. Collection, The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection, The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Collection, The Joel R. Anderson Collection, The Norweb Collection, The Cardinal Collection, The Sydney F. Martin Collection, and The Battle Born Collection — to name just a few. World coin and currency collections include The Pinnacle Collection, The Louis E. Eliasberg, Sr. Collection of World Gold Coins, The Kroisos Collection, The Alicia and Sidney Belzberg Collection, The Salton Collection, The Wa She Wong Collection, and The Thos. H. Law Collection. The company is headquartered in Costa Mesa, California with galleries in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. Offices are also located in New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Hong Kong, Paris, and Vancouver.

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