Featured An Iconic Flavian 'White Whale'

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Jul 22, 2019.

  1. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    2019 has been a great year for me collecting-wise - and this most recent acquisition is a fantastic reason why it has been. When a coin surfaces in trade you've only seen examples of in catalogues it is a cause for celebration!


    Æ Dupondius, 14.36g
    Rome mint, 71 AD
    RIC 282 (R2). BMC 596.
    Obv: IMP CAES VESPASIAN AVG COS III; Head of Vespasian, radiate, r.
    Rev: TVTELA AVGVSTI; S C in exergue; Tutela std. l., with a child either side
    Acquired from Praefectus Coins, July 2019. Ex The Morris Collection.

    Tutela, the goddess of guardianship, is a rare personification on Roman coinage. She first appears on the dupondii of Vitellius and later under Vespasian during his great bronze issue of 71, both on the dupondius and a unique sestertius. The type under Vespasian is extremely scarce with only two reverse dies known for the dupondius. The unique sestertius was acquired by Curtis Clay, for which he wrote the following concerning the TVTELA reverse type:

    'Cohen suggested a dynastic interpretation of this TVTELA AVGVSTI rev. type: Vitellius seated with his two children, one boy and one girl, under Vitellius; Domitilla, Vespasian's deceased wife, seated with her sons Titus and Domitian under Vespasian.

    Mattingly, in BMC, p. xliv, modified Cohen's interpretation: "Cohen can hardly be right in identifying the woman with Domitilla, but the children seem to stand for Titus and Domitian, and Tutela is the guardian care of the Emperor that watches over his sons."

    However, I prefer Mattingly's alternate interpretation, which he explains in a footnote:

    "Or the children might represent citizens and Tutela would then be the Emperor's ward over his subjects. Cf. Suetonius, Divus Vespasianus, 5, an omen that portended 'desertam rem p. civili aliqua perturbatione in tutelam eius ac velut in gremium deventuram' ['that the Roman state, abandoned because of some civil agitation, would fall under his protection (tutela) and as it were into his lap']....Martial (v.1.7ff.) addresses Domitian as 'o rerum felix tutela salusque / sospite quo gratum credimus esse Iovem' [O happy protector (tutela) and savior of our affairs, whose continuing good health makes us believe that Jupiter is on our side']."

    These quotes, and others that Mattingly indicates in the same note, show that 'tutela' was commonly used in Vespasian's day to mean the emperor's solicitous care for his subjects. Plus, the few later appearances of a Tutela type on Roman coins, under Tetricus I and Carausius, do not include children and seem to refer to governing not childrearing.

    As can clearly be seen on this well preserved dupondius the two children standing either side of Tutela are togate, indicating that they are both boys and perhaps can be viewed as further evidence that Mattingly's alternate theory is correct and the two children do indeed represent the empire's citizens. Unfortunately, the Tutela type was struck rather fleetingly in 71 and did not become part of Vespasian's regular canon of reverse types.

    One of the finest known examples of the type. A double die match with the ANS specimen 1906.236.246.

    NB: BMC 527 records the type with an obverse reading COS II, however, the obverse has been tooled from an original COS III die. Its reverse die is also known to be paired with other COS III obverses.

    The coin came slabbed.


    It is no longer so.


    When I made the decision last year to collect Flavian bronze the idea was to acquire types that would be impossible to obtain in silver, thus allowing my little collection to present a better picture of Flavian coinage than it could with just silver alone. Doing so would also take me down research paths I would never have ventured on otherwise. This dupondius fits that criteria rather well!

    Feel free to post any 'white whales' and/or unusual or unique types. Coins featuring children would be welcomed as well.

    Also, does anyone have a Tutela reverse?
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    A very handsome coin, congrats.
    David Atherton likes this.
  4. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    Congratulations, David! Here is a scarce Tutela reverse of Carausius from the Rotomagnus (Rouen) mint:

    roman155rev.jpg roman155abv.jpg
  5. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Congratulations David. What a wonderful coin. I had never heard of this reverse type. Great research too.

    Here is one of my 'whales' I purchased earlier this year. It is a rare left facing Domitian denarius. RIC 1085 [Vespasian]

    Domitian RIC 1085 [Vespasian].png
  6. Parthicus Maximus

    Parthicus Maximus Well-Known Member

    Very nice coin @David Atherton! I love this kind of almost unique gods. With regard to very rare coins, I would have liked to show my Septimius Severus Mars dupondius, of which only one other example has been sold in the last ten years. But the Poor internet here in Gallia Narbonensis (southern France)prevented that.
    David Atherton likes this.
  7. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Thank you for posting this coin! I was curious if anyone else had a Tutela. Interesting to see how she was depicted over 200 years later.
    Carausius likes this.
  8. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    A most difficult one to find!
    Orfew likes this.
  9. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Congrats on the capture! I was aware of Tutela from the Carausius reverse, but didn't know that Vespasian had one too. Very nice!
    David Atherton and dougsmit like this.
  10. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Curtis Clay in my Forvm gallery entry for this coin commented about the 'Morris collection': "Morris's" real name: Philip C. Peck of New York City, a long-time collector I have known since 1962, who has unfortunately gotten too old to continue collecting.
    Carausius and Orfew like this.
  11. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    I was hoping more CTers had a Tutela. Apparently, it is a much rarer imperial type than I had initially thought!

    A marble statue of the goddess in the Musee Archeologique Saint-Pierre (Vienne).

    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019
  12. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Wow, that really is a rarity! Such a cool coin-- congrats! :)
    Clavdivs and David Atherton like this.
  13. dadams

    dadams Supporter! Supporter

    Congratulations on a terrific coin! Your journey into bronze seems to be paying off nicely. That is indeed quite well preserved and deserves to freely reside in a great collection such as yours. Nice score!
    David Atherton likes this.
  14. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Great coin
    David Atherton likes this.
  15. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Thank you! I was aiming for coins like this when I set out on the bronze journey last year. Acquiring coin types that were never struck in silver are the most satisfying.
    dadams likes this.
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