15 years ago: the resurrection of an Emperor.

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, Feb 2, 2019.

  1. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    This story is so amazing that it deserve to be told—or at least repeat. (Apologies for my poor vocabulary, english is not my mother tongue)

    The French coin
    November 28th 1900.
    It all started almost 120 years ago in France. Félix Chaillou, a farmer and winegrower—but also a part time archeologist, was excavating on his own property at Les Cléons, near the city of Nantes. He was searching for about 20 years and had already discovered prehistoric artifacts, also Gallic and Roman objects. But in the autumn of 1900, while he was working on his land, he accidentially unearthed a terracota vase containing more than 1400 little bronze coins of the Tyrans era. In the hoard he identified coins of Gordiano III, Postumus, Tetricus, Victorinus, Gallienus, Claudius the Gothicus and Aurelianus.

    But in the middle of the lot he noticed a little bronze with this legend: IMP DOMITIANUS PF AVG....Who was this unknown bearded man with the title of IMPERATOR ? And when did he live ? No historians had wrote about a DOMITIANUS who became emperor in the chaos of the third century AD. Nobody but...there were 2 sources mentioning this name. In The New Histories by the Greek Zosimus, the author wrote about the reign of Aurelian and report that 3 men were punished for the crime of treason. The names of the perpetrators of the revolt were Epitimus, Urbanus and DOMITIANUS...

    In the (unreliable ?) Historia Augustae, a DOMITIANUS is presented as a general of Aureolus involved in the suppression of the revolt of Macrianus in 261 AD.


    One year after de discovery, an article was published about the mysterious coin in the Revue Numismatique of 1901, but only illustrated with a simple line drawing of the antoniniani.


    Thirty years later, a photography of a plaster casr of the coin was shown in the same publication.


    It was enough for P.H.Webb to add it in the RIC volume 2 in 1933. Meanwhile, the famous DOMITIANUS amazingly disappeared from the museum of Nantes. During the next decades, the authenticity of the coin was debated by many specialist. Those who concluded that it was probably a fake made many hypothesis :

    • It was an altered or tooled genuine coin of this period, probably of Tetricus
    • It is an authentic coin but struck from modified dies of Victorinus
    • It was simply a modern conterfeit of a made up emperor
    G.Elmer didn’t include it in his reference book in 1942 and L.Laffranchi condemned the coin the same year. Even in 1992, L.Okamura published a paper concluding that the DOMITIANUS was possibly a fake. But surprise! In 2003 the French coin was rediscovered in the Nantes collection. While specialist were examining the only specimen that no eyes on earth has ever seen, an extraordinary discovery was made 350 miles north in England.
    The British coin.
    April 4th 2003.
    David Malin, a young Englishman and amateur metal detectorist, with the help of his sister Carol, unearthed in Chalgrove Oxfordshire a pot full of Roman coins. Buried about 18 inches below the surface it was his second big discovery, after finding a similar size hoard in 1989. The 2 treasures were excavated only 100 feet from each other. In this lot was identified a second copy of the DOMITIANUS, fused with 5000 other coins. Comparaison between the French and the British specimen shows that they were struck from the same pair of dies !

    The Chalgrove hoard :


    The coin was qualified of « one of the most interesting Roman objects ever found in Britain. » Finally there were no doubts at all .Even if nobody knows his full name, DOMITIANUS did exist and he was an emperor ( or at least an usurper emperor) !
    Concordia standing left, holding patera & cornucopiae
    2.07 g

    It appears that he grabbed power between the death of Victorinus and the accession of Tetricus in 271 AD. It also seems that he ruled for a very short time, maybe only few days. So the reason of his death ( attempting a ´coup d’état’ and minting his own coinage ) is also the reason why he access immortality in history....So that’s the story, and like somebody once said, it could have been the plot of a bestseller. But a big question remains: what else as yet to be found ???

    S.Estiot. L’usurpateur Domitianus
    P.H.Webb. RIC vol.2 p.578, 590 ( 1933)
    H.Carnoy. Dict.biographique
    A.de la Fuye. Revue num.1901
    A.Benenson. Archeology archive 2005

    edited for spelling by request
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 3, 2019
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  3. galba68

    galba68 Well-Known Member

    Very interesting..Nice post..
  4. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Nice writeup! That's one Gallic usurper I will not be collecting any time soon... :D
    Classickidcoins likes this.
  5. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Very interesting and well-written write-up.
  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

  7. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Great story , thank you for sharing!
  8. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Khnum-Hotep

    So he's the Gallic Empire's Domitianus - not the usurper in Egypt.
  9. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    Great post, thanks.
  10. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Now I'm dreaming of finding a terracota full of coins in my garden............ :joyful:

    Alegandron and Classickidcoins like this.
  11. PlanoSteve

    PlanoSteve Supporter! Supporter

    That's a nice little gem of a story, thanks! :happy::happy::happy:
  12. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Nice writeup thanks.
  13. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    I appreciate the nice comments. Erratum: Mr.Doug Smith just made me notice that the usurper in 261 was Macrianus and not Macrinus. My translation from latin to french to english need some improvement.
    Mea culpa...
    Alegandron likes this.
  14. Robidoux Pass

    Robidoux Pass Active Member

    Great story. Thanks for sharing.
  15. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I know Supporters have a longer window of time that allows editing errors but how long do regular members have? Can a moderator make such an edit for someone who timed out.
  16. I would love to go and do some detecting around Europe at some point.
  17. GDJMSP

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    To the best of my knowledge all members, including Supporters, have about 1 hr during which they can edit their post.

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