Saturday, May 10, 2008

A “Game” Coin of Domitian

AE As (29mm, 10.35g) Struck 88-89 A.D.. Rome
Rev: COS XIIII LVD SAEC FEC S C Domitian sacrificing over and altar facing left, harpist and flute player facing right, temple in background
RIC II 385a, Sear 2803 ex Mastrario ex Dr Busso Peus Nachf.

I seem to start every blog entry with something like “this is one of my favorite coins”, well, here I go again! This is one of my favorite coins :D The Flavians are one of my focus collections. Although this coin is a little rough, the deep green patina is quite attractive. You guessed it, its even better in hand!

This coin commemorates the Secular Games that Domitian held in October of A.D. 88. The Secular games were held every generation or “saeculum”. A generation was considered 100yrs, but they seemed to be held when ever the emperor wanted a good party! The Secular Games were a pagan celebration held to entertain and appease the gods. The first known Roman games were held in 249 BC, the second in 146, and the third in 17 held by Caesar Augustus. Later games, held in AD 47, 88, 147, 204, 248, and 262, included sports, music, theatre, and circuses. Constantine I finally put an end to the game in the 4th century A.D likely due to his conversion to Christianity.

Beside the brilliant patina, I like this coin because, at least in my opinion, it represents one of Domitian’s more interesting reverse types. This coin shows the emperor performing his duties as Pontifex Maximus, the supreme head of the state religion, sacrificing in front of what is probably the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. Looking at the reverse I can almost hear the music played by the musicians, smell the smoke from the altar and hear the sounds of the crowd. Even though the portrait of Domitian on the reverse is tiny, I can recognize Domitian’s face. Coins like this one provide a glimpse of daily life in the Roman Empire, a snap shot in time! We can read about history, we can read about the Secular games. We can understand why they were held, we can know when they were held. In this coin we have tangible connection to that history. We can read that Domitian sacrificed at the games, but with this coin we can see it! If we let our imagination work a bit, we can imagine the coin circulating, much like commemorative coins today. We can imagine the ancient Romans looking at the reverse and remembering the games, much as we might look at a Bicentennial quarter and remember that time in our lives.

I won this coin from one of Joe Mastrario’s (Imperator Coins) e-bay auctions. I won it way too cheap (sorry Joe!) A good buy makes a coin more enjoyable! On top of that it is ex Dr Busso Peus Nachf, and came with the auction ticket. It’s fun to know a coin’s history.

So, I have a cool coin with great “eye appeal” that lies within my collecting focus. It has an incredible green patina that is much better in hand. The imagery on the reverse is interesting and provides us with a unique snapshot of life in ancient Rome. On top of that it was won from an honorable dealer and friend (thanks Joe!). If we use our imagination, we can see how in nearly 2000 years the basic function of coinage, and folks reactions to the imagery on coins hasn’t changed that much. That might lead us to the conclusion that people really haven’t changed that much in 2000 years. One of the reasons that I enjoy collecting ancient coins is the very tangible connection with the past. This coin is an attractive and excellent example of that connection. How could I not enjoy this coin? Thanks for reading!!!