Julia Titi Dupondius: can someone confirm the RIC II-1 number?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, Jan 5, 2021.

  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I hesitated (briefly!) to buy this coin because of the poor reverse, but I like the portrait on the obverse, and it wasn't very expensive. I've wanted a coin of Julia Titi's ever since I read (see David Sear, RCV I at p. 480) that she was the first living Augusta to be portrayed alone on a Roman Imperial coin, issued in her name alone, without another royal appearing with her either on the same or the other side. Until now, the earliest coin I had portraying a living empress or other female royal -- alone or not -- was a denarius of Sabina.

    Julia Titi (daughter of Titus), AE Dupondius 79-80 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Draped bust right with hair bundled high in front and coiled in chignon high in back, IVLIA IMP T AVG F AVGVSTA/ Rev. Vesta seated left, holding palladium in right hand and long transverse scepter in left arm, VESTA below, S C across fields. RIC II-1 [397?-]398 (Titus) (2007 ed.), old RIC II 180 (Titus) (1926 ed.), Sear RCV I 2617 (ill.), BMCRE Titus 257. 26 mm., 12.23 g., 6 h.

    Julia Titi - Vesta dupondius jpg version.jpg
    I like her hair!

    According to David Sear (RCV I at p. 480), Julia Titi was born "about AD 65," so she would have been only about 14 or 15 when this coin was issued, during her father's lifetime, after she was granted the title of Augusta. (See the obverse inscription for both those facts.) She apparently lived openly as her uncle Domitian's mistress from the time he had her husband Flavius Sabinus executed circa 82, until her death circa 89 -- supposedly as a result of an abortion Domitian forced her to have, during a period of marital reconciliation with his wife Domitia, who had returned from exile. (Domitia is another empress whose portrait I would like to have.)*

    Regarding the question raised in my thread title, I don't have RIC II-1, issued in 2007, and am a bit unsure whether this coin is RIC II-1 398 (as the dealer identified it) or 397: the description of the two types on OCRE is virtually identical. See http://numismatics.org/ocre/results? q=julia+titi+vesta+dupondius. The reverses are described identically, as are the obverse legends; the only difference in the descriptions of the obverse portraits is that 397 is described as "Bust of Julia Titi, draped, right; hair bundled high in front and knotted in back," whereas 398 is described as "Bust of Julia Titi, draped, right; hair bundled high in front and wrapped in bun in back."

    Could the first description refer to the examples I've seen in which Julia's hair is knotted low in back in a short ponytail, tied at the nape of the neck, as opposed to the chignon coiled high in back on mine? Both those types are encompassed by Sear RCV I 2617 -- even though the visual difference between them is far more evident than many other differences resulting in the assignment of separate catalog numbers, as appears to be reflected with the two separate numbers BMCRE 257 (my type) vs. 256 (the low ponytail type). So this theory would make sense, except for the fact that the first examples chosen to illustrate both RIC types on OCRE show Julia with her hair tied high in a chignon, as on my coin. In fact, the only difference in the two coins appears to be that in the second, Vesta is completely naked!

    I do still wonder if the different hairstyles might account for the two different numbers, though, given that of the 8 examples OCRE shows of 397, four have their hair in a chignon like mine, and four have their hair tied at the nape of the neck. By contrast, all 15 examples of 398 have their hair in a chignon high in back. If anyone can clarify by letting me know what RIC II-1 actually says, I'd appreciate it. I know it's inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but I like to be correct!

    *As much as I like the coin plates (many in color) in the book Women of the Caesars by Giorgio Giacosa (published in English translation in 1977 from the Italian book first published in 1960), I think the author's repeated efforts to judge the characters of various empresses by their appearances on particular coins often come across as somewhat peculiar, even for the era. Albeit impassioned. For example, this type of Julia Titi dupondius is Plate XX in the book. At page 40, he calls it "the only coin of Julia that has iconographical interest." After stating that she was only 12 or 13 when the coin was issued (a low estimate), the author states that "The passion for her thirty-year old uncle which would change her life in such a tragic way began then in her adoloscent mind. Even if among the Romans, as among all southern people, women matured rather early, the face of this coin is still the fat and insignificant countenance of a little girl. Her complicated hairstyle, the first of those fantastic and complicated hairdos adopted by Julia during her short life, does not make her look grown up." He then describes the hairstyle at great length. To be fair, he does state that Julia's coins do not do her justice, because "statues and cameos show us a beautiful and refined woman," even though the "taste of the period demanded buxom women, and in all her portraits Julia conforms."

    This constitutes unalloyed praise next to the author's commentary, on the next page, about an aureus showing Domitian and Domitia. He argues that "a couple as odious in appearance as this does not exist in all Roman iconography." Specifically regarding Domitia, he states that her face "is less fearsome and bestial" than Domitian's, "but just as cold and hateful." Below her hair -- which he says might be a wig -- there "appears the heavy and capricious face of a virago to whom the engraver, out of spite, has given the same features as Domitian." Thus, her face "takes on, in the eye of the observer, an equivocal unnatural element which makes one think more of a transvestite than a woman." To me, she just looks a little chubby and plain! Talk about basing broad conclusions on slender evidence.

    Please post your own coins of Julia Titi.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2021
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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    It's RIC 398.

    I only have one Julia Titi, a denarius with the Venus Victrix reverse.

    Julia Titi VENVS AVGUST denarius.jpg Julia Titi VENVS AVGUST denarius Sulzer listing.JPG
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  4. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you! So 397 is, in fact, the one with her hair tied in a low ponytail, sort of like her portrait in the coin you just posted? A very nice coin, by the way. I love the Venus on the reverse.
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  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    397: "hair bundled high in front and knotted in back."

    398: "hair bundled high in front and wrapped in bun in back."

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  6. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter


    It was more simple with the Cohen's description (#18) : the same type has the "2 variétés de coiffure" : le chignon et la queue tombante...
  7. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Wonderful example!
    The Flavian galls sure had a flair for the dramatic with their hairstyles:
    share3880164165390698058.png IMG_5474.jpg

    The senate even let the trend catch on!
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  8. Spargrodan

    Spargrodan Well-Known Member

    Nice write up and coin! I would like a denari of Julia Titi but those are a bit out of my price range.
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  9. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks. I find 398 much more appealing! 397 looks kind of sad.
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  10. Everett Guy

    Everett Guy Well-Known Member

    Great coin, I love the julia coins.
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  11. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    By the way, without the pictures to refer to, those descriptions are pretty abstruse. It would have helped if they'd used the words "low" and "high," respectively, to refer to the back. Because the first description could just as well apply to my coin. Hence my confusion.
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  12. Egry

    Egry Supporter! Supporter

    Amazing coins. I am yet to add one of these to my collection, nice ones are hard to come by.
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  13. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    That's a very nice and rare coin!

    For what it's worth, Van Meter shows your coin as Cohen 18.

    From what I read, she must have had a pretty rough and sad life.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2021
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  14. Alegandron

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

    Very nice coin, @DonnaML . I agree, the portrait is great, but I had no pause for the reverse. All good.

    My Julia Titi

    Julia Flavia Titi Diva
    90-91 CE
    d-Titus concubine-uncleDomitian
    AE Sestertius
    33mm 20.4g -
    Carpentum mules SPQR -
  15. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    So, you're the one who snapped this up! Listed at an excellent price, I'm glad it found a good home. Enjoy it.
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  16. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Great coin, Donna.

    Your assessment of Giacosa's Women of the Caesars made me laugh in agreement. His efforts to assign characteristics to women based on appearance are comical (if not offensive). I recently got a copy of this book and I like looking at the photos, but I can never bring myself to wade through the text.

    Julia Titi's "passion for her uncle" is not really supported in any surviving ancient texts, I'm guessing. I am also guessing that in regards to her "affair" with Uncle Dommie, she had little or no agency. Not to impose 21st century ideals on antiquity, but the whole "affair" strikes me as tragic and sad.
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  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks, David. As I said, I hesitated only briefly when I saw it. After all, the reverse is hardly the main attraction of the coin, the price was good compared to what I've seen, I don't see the type that much in the first place, and, most importantly, I found the portrait very appealing despite the wear. Its essence is well-preserved. It's not as if I look at new offerings on VCoins every day, but I was lucky that I did in this case. I don't think it would have lasted too long.
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  18. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Yes, his opinions are really over the top, aren't they? Even for the 1960s, I think. Maybe it sounds better in Italian! It's a good thing the book has nice photos.
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  19. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

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  20. eparch

    eparch Well-Known Member

    I have only one coin with a decent portrait of Domitia, and she looks
    quite normal to me

    Domitia (wife of Domitian) Æ22 of Cadi, Phrygia. AD 70-83.

    ΔΟΜΙΤΙΑ CΕΒΑCΤΗ, draped bust right

    ΚΑΔΟ-ΗΝΩΝ, filleted cult statue in the style of Artemis of Ephesos.

    RPC 1361 (this coin - shown as entry 18); SNG Copenhagen 252; BMC 23-4.

    5.59g, 22mm
  21. Alegandron

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

    Thank you.
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