Domitianus II: Unknown Roman-Gallic Usurper

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Bart9349, Feb 3, 2012.

  1. Bart9349

    Bart9349 Junior Member

    Domitianus II: Little Known Romano-Gallic Usurper

    Here's a rough draft I'm working on. Thoughts? Corrections?:

    The third century of the Roman Empire is the least documented, most poorly understood, and the most confusing period of the Roman Empire. It includes my favorite period of Roman history to study: from AD 235 (the death of Severus Alexander) to AD 284 (the ascension of Diocletian).

    The third century was a period of instability. It can be characterized by a near fatal array of diverse and destructive pressures. These included a devastating plague, numerous barbarian invasions, a lethal and aggressive Sassanian Empire, multiple rebellious and rogue generals, several civil wars, economic disruptions, the persecution of the Jesus movement, and a seemingly endless and confusing succession of emperors and usurpers who almost always died violently.

    Despite the century’s turbulence and monumental changes, Roman history between AD 235 and 284 is poorly documented. Reliable historians of previous eras included Tacitus and Cassius Dio. The next century had the reputable Ammianus Marcellinus.

    Those of us interested in the period between AD 235 and 284 find our sources either too unreliable (the notorious Scriptores Historiae Augustae) or too detached in time (composed centuries later by Byzantine writers).

    No period of the Roman Empire is more dependent on numismatic evidence for its understanding than the third century.

    It is through numismatic evidence that we know about Domitianus II, a possible usurper during the Romano-Gallic Empire.

    As most people know, the Romano-Gallic Empire was a breakaway empire (AD 260-274) founded by Postumus. At its height, it included Britannia, Gaul, Germania, and Hispania. By 274 Aurelian defeated the later Romano-Gallic emperor Tetricus I and his son, forcing the secessionist state to reunite with the Roman Empire.

    The Romano-Gallic Empire lasted fourteen years and was ruled by five accepted rulers:
    Postumus (260-268)
    Marius (268)
    Victorinus (268-270)
    Terticus I (270-274) with his son Tetricus II as Caesar (273-274)

    An important usurper was Laelianus (269) who was unsuccessful against Postumus. Another usurper, until recently unrecognized and relatively unknown, was Domitianus.

    It is recent numismatic evidence that has confirmed the existence of a usurper in AD 271 named Domitianus.

    Literary evidence for a Domitianus is vague and unreliable. There is no concrete literary mention of a Romano-Gallic usurper with that name.

    The numismatic evidence for Domitianus was non-existent until 1900. A coin of the unknown usurper was found as part of a hoard discovered at a vineyard in Cleons, France.

    Suspiciously, this coin “disappeared” from public view for a century (and even museum officials thought the coin lost), preventing its closer scrutiny. Only plaster casts of the coin were available for study. Not surprisingly, this coin was deemed a modern forgery by many experts. The Romano-Gallic usurper, Domitianus, was thought to be a fabrication or misinterpretation of the literary sources.

    This controversy took a dramatic turn in April 2003, however, with the discovery of a single coin.

    A hoard of nearly 5000 coins was discovered by Brian Malin with the use of his metal detector near Chalgrove in South Oxfordshire, England. The hoard consisted of typical radiate coins of the AD 250s-70s. They were fused together within a third-century Roman pot. After an initial examination at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, the Chalgrove hoard was taken to the British Museum conservation laboratory for further study.

    Domitianus HA.jpg

    Domitianus H.jpg

    The emperors depicted on the coins of the Chalgrove hoard ranged from Trebonianus Gallus (AD 251-3) to Probus (AD 276-82). Other coins included the emperors Gallienus (AD 253-68), Claudius II (268-70), Postumus (260-8), Victorinus (268-70) and Tetricus I and II (270-4).

    There was one coin, however, that warranted special attention. Its bearded bust and radiate “spiky crown” head was typical of coins from that era and from other coins of the hoard. The inscription, however, was unique: IMP C DOMITIANVS P F Imperator Caesar Domitianus Pius (dutiful) Felix (fortunate) Augustus.

    Domitianus II.jpg

    Domitianus, British Usurper, Antoninianus, 271 AD. IMP C DOMITIANVS PF AVG, radiate, cuirassed bust right / CONCORDIA MILITVM, Concordia standing left, holding patera and cornucopiae

    This coin confirmed the existence of a previously poorly documented usurper.

    Comparison between the Cleons coin discovered earlier and the Chalgrove coin shows that they are die-identical. Since the more recently discovered Chalgrove coin was undisturbed and examined in a controlled setting, it is considered authentic. The controversial Cleons coin is now thought to be authentic, also.

    This numismatic evidence has forced historians to add the name of Domitianus to the list of unsuccessful usurpers in the Romano-Gallic Empire. Like many usurpers and outlaws in Roman history, Domitianus is poorly documented. Two coins, however, at least help to confirm the existence in AD 271 of this mysterious usurper.

    Here are some excellent articles on Domitianus:


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  3. jessvc

    jessvc Member

    wow very interesting and thats a very nice coin I like the bust on it, almost like victorinus.
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