Featured An 'Eastern' Titus Caesar?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Jul 15, 2020.

  1. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    I've been wanting one of these odd Titus Caesar dupondii for quite some time. The story behind it is quite intriguing.

    Titus as Caesar [Vespasian]
    Æ Dupondius, 11.90g
    Rome mint, 74 AD
    Obv: T•CAESAR•IMP•PONT; Head of Titus, laureate, bearded, l.
    Rev: TR•POT•COS III•CENSOR•; Winged caduceus between crossed cornuacopiae
    RIC 762 (R2). BMC -. BNC 909. RPC 1992 (1 spec.).
    Acquired from Aegean Numismatics, July 2020.

    A truly remarkable dupondius. Struck in Rome, but lacking the traditional radiate portrait on the obverse and the de rigueur S C on the reverse. The reverse with crossed cornucopiae echoes similar types from the East. Traditionally, the issue this rather strange coin is from has been attributed to various different mints over the years. Ted Buttrey writing in the RIC II.1 Addenda commented extensively on it. Because both the Addenda has yet to see the light of day and Buttrey's thoughts on the subject are important, I have largely quoted it in full here with some minor editing.

    'RIC 756-767 are irregular Dupondii, which should be taken together with Asses, semisses and quadrantes (RIC 1564-1581), forming together a single extraordinary issue in four denominations, distinct in typology and metal, as well as overall character from the regular coinage of the year. Although Eastern in aspect and reverse type, the circulation area of the dupondii is almost exclusively Gaul, Germany, Italy – i.e. the West, with scarcely any penetration of the East. Finds of the smaller denominations are rarely attested anywhere, East or West. The Eastern finds appear to be simply the débris of Mediterranean circulation.

    Previously the series had been attributed to Commagene (BMCRE II, pp.217-222), then as a likelihood to Antioch (e.g. RPC II 1982-2005). The correct attribution to Rome is proved by mules of the dupondii with regular issues (Buttrey, “Vespasian’s Roman Orichalcum: An Unrecognized Celebratory Coinage” in David M. Jacobson and Nikos Kokkinos, Judaea and Rome in Coins, 65 CBE – 135 CE (2012). The series had nothing to do with Syria or with the East at all, yet it was purposefully designed to appear non-Roman: the suppression of the traditional reverse sub-inscription S C throughout; the suppression of the radiate crown of the Dupondius; the shifting of the consular dating from the obv. to the rev.; the striking of all four denominations in orichalcum; and most obviously the selection of rev. dies which reek of the East.

    There is nothing like this series in the whole of Roman imperial coinage. It is a deliberate act of Orientalism, imposing the flavour of the East on a Western coinage. The key to its understanding is the reverse type of the dupondius, two crossed cornuacopiae with a winged caduceus between. It replicates the type of an obscure issue of the Galilean city of Sepphoris, an issue which had been, astonishingly, signed by Vespasian himself (ΕΠΙ ΟΥΕCΠΑCΙΑΝΟΥ, “on the authority of…”) when on duty there in the last days of Nero. The dupondius-sized bronze was accompanied by a half-unit with the type of a large, central S C – again signed by Vespasian, and now imitated on the As of the orichalcum series with the wreath of the As of Antioch (RPC I 4849-50).
    The whole of this series memorializes not Vespasian the conquering general (IVDAEA CAPTA, VICTORIA AVGVSTI), but the man. His re-use of earlier coin types is well-known; here he re-uses his own, harking back to his career just prior to his final success in seizing the empire. And the series was struck in 74 A.D., co-terminous with the celebration of Vespasian’s first quinquennium.'

    Curtis Clay has a few objections to Buttrey's theory as to why the issue was struck: 'As far as I am aware, there is nothing "astonishing" about Vespasian's "signing" of the two coins of Sepphoris. EΠI followed by the governor's name appeared frequently on Roman provincial coins, meaning simply, "Struck while the man named was governor". So there was no evident reason for Vespasian to consider it extraordinary that he had been named as governor of Syria on coins of Sepphoris struck for Nero near the end of his reign (Year 14), and no evident reason why he should have referred to the Sepphoris coins in his orichalcum issue struck at Rome five years later. It seems quite probable that Vespasian never even noticed his name on the coins of Sepphoris, and certainly very few Romans in the West will ever have seen such a coin, though Buttrey thinks the orichalcum coins were struck for circulation in the West in 74 in order to recall precisely those Sepphoris coins with their reference to Vespasian some months before his accession. Why waste coin types on references that were inconsequential, and that nobody was likely to comprehend?'

    If Buttrey's argument is wrong it brings us back to the original question - why was an Eastern flavoured coinage struck for circulation in the West? Perhaps it may be nothing more than Vespasian paying homage to the part of the world that elevated him. At any rate, this is a fairly rare example with left facing portrait, which in this series are much more commonly struck for Vespasian than for Titus Caesar. Missing from the BM and only one example cited in RPC.

    Do you have a controversial coin? Please post it.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2020
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  3. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    This coin was controversial because it's mere eBay listing sparked outrage, accusations, and a groundbreaking CoinTalk Court case.

    The story was, basically, person A posted the coin, stating he had it in hand, asking for opinions on value and such.

    I then posted the listing, asking if I paid too much.

    Some sharp-eyed posters noticed that it was impossible for person A to own the coin if I bought it.

    Person A was accused of conspiracy, bamboozlement, and other crimes. It was an interesting day.
  4. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    A very attractive coin David. Congrats on adding this one to the collection.
    David Atherton likes this.
  5. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    Although I had academic controversies in mind, I can see how that coin is 'controversial'!
    hotwheelsearl likes this.
  6. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    Here's a similar Dupondius that shows Tiberius instead of Titus. They list the mint as Commagene- Syria, though the attribution is RIC 90. Hope that could help.

    TiberDupond  commagen.JPG TibDRic 90 R.JPG
  7. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I remember that thread well! The only thing I've forgotten is the guy's name. Has he been posting here since the "trial"?
    hotwheelsearl likes this.
  8. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

  9. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    And here is the coin that comes to my mind immediately when I think of crossed cornucopiae: a sestertius issued in the name of Drusus, son of Tiberius, with the heads of two little boys on top of the cornucopiae. This example sold in May of this year for 13,000 Swiss francs at a Numismatica Ars Classica auction.

    Drusus son of Tiberius sestertius with crossed cornucopiae, sold May 2020 at NAC auction.jpg
  10. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    CoinDoctorYT! I don't know what he's up to these days, though.
    DonnaML likes this.
  11. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    I feel that the guy who started that thread should had been banned as well.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2020
  12. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I started the “trial.” I’m glad I’m not banned
    DonnaML likes this.
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