An unpublished aureus of Domitian
Lot 251
Domitian, 81-96. Aureus (Gold, 21 mm, 7.52 g, 6 h), Rome, January-September 88. IMP•CAES•DOMIT•AVG•GERM•P•M•TR•P VII Laureate head of Domitian to right. Rev. IMP•XIIII•COS•XIIII•CENS•P•P•P• Minerva standing right on capital of rostral column decorated with small figures, brandishing spear with her right hand and holding shield on her left arm; at her feet, owl standing facing. BMC -. Calicó -. CBN -. Cohen -. RIC -. Apparently unpublished and unique, a type hitherto only attested in silver. A lustrous and beautiful piece with a wonderful portrait. Very minor marks and with a few faint scratches on the reverse and on the edge, otherwise, extremely fine.

Contemporary and modern historians have long cast doubts on the proclaimed successes of Domitian in Germany, a sentiment echoed by Tacitus with his dismissive statement: 'in recent times we have celebrated triumphs rather than won conquests over them [the Germans]' (Tac. Germ. 37.5, from which also originates his famous sarcastic saying tam diu Germania vincitur = 'so long have we been conquering Germania'). It is indeed true that Domitian's campaigns of 83-85 against the Chatti resulted in a substantial issuance of triumphal coins, including this remarkable aureus bearing the Germanicus epithet, clearly emulating Vespasian's Iudaea Capta issues and evidently driven by propagandistic motives.

On the contrary, we must also consider the enduring hostility of senatorial historiography towards the last Flavian emperor, leading them to diminish many of his accomplishments. The absence of serious barbarian invasions in the upper Rhine region and the agri decumates in the century following his reign suggests that Domitian's campaigns and policies were indeed successful, enabling his successors to redeploy significant forces to the frontier regions of the Danube and Syria.
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