Reclining Rhenus

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Feb 19, 2020.

  1. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    I was very excited to have recently won this iconic Domitian sestertius. The inherent symbolism of the reverse is quite fascinating.

    Æ Sestertius, 22.60g
    Rome mint, 86 AD
    Obv: IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM COS XII CENS PER P P; Head of Domitian, laureate, bearded, r., with aegis
    Rev: S C in field; Domitian standing l., with parazonium and spear; to l., river-god (Rhenus) reclining
    RIC 468 (C). BMC 377. BNC 399.
    Ex eBay, 9 February 2020. Ex Künker, eLive Auction 57, 12 December 2019, lot 97.

    In late 82 or early 83 Domitian conducted a census of Gaul as a smoke screen in order to make preparations to invade the Germanic Chatti lands across the Rhine. Not much is known of what the actual war consisted of - perhaps some road building, punitive raids against Chatti strongholds, and minor skirmishing. No large battles, à la Mons Graupius, have come down to us, prompting Tacitus' assertion 'that in recent times, the Germans were more triumphed over than conquered'. Even the date of the conflict is in dispute - although Domitian did rack up four salutations between June 83 and September 84, several of which must be attributed to the Chattan Campaign. Domitian celebrated a triumph over the Chatti in 83, after which he claimed the title 'Germanicus'.

    Beginning in 85 Domitian struck a fairly impressive issue of sestertii, M. Grant hyperbolically called it the most 'ambitious' of any one reign or year. The series is the first major aes issue of Domitian's reign and is dominated by panoramic types commemorating his military victory over the Germanic tribe the Chatti. One of the more interesting types carried over into 86 features a triumphant Domitian standing over the reclining river-god Rhenus. It is a more poetic type than those showing captives or war trophies, although, even here Domitian is resting his foot on the river-god's knee symbolising Rome's domination over Germania.

    River-gods in Roman art were normally portrayed as reclining naked with long flowing beards and crowned with tamarisk or rushes (Dio Chrysostom, Oration 4 85). This Roman mosaic from Zeugma shows the river-god Euphrates, which is very similar to the one depicted on the coin.


    Feel free to show your river-gods, or even better - defeated river-gods.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2020
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  3. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

    Love those big brassy ones with smooth surfaces, and that design is neat. I've never had any kind of river god type, but I like them.
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  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Very interesting reverse type indeed. Here's my Rhine River reclining coin:

    Postumus, AD 260-269.
    Roman billon antoninianus, 2.54 g, 22.4 mm, 12 h.
    Trier (some attribute to Cologne), 1st emission, 2nd phase, AD 260-261.
    Obv: IMP C POSTVMVS P F AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: SALVS PROVINCIARVM, river god Rhinus, bearded and horned, reclining left, resting right hand on boat and holding anchor in left, left arm resting on urn.
    Refs: RIC 87; RSC 355b; Mairat 1-5; RCV 10991; AGK 88c; De Witte 290; Hunter p. lxxxviii.
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  5. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Great that reverse! Here is my only river god (from a few centuries earlier).


    Scythia, Olbia. Circa 310-280 BC. (AE, 28 mm, 9.07 g). Horned head of river god Borysthenes to left./ Rev. OΛBIO , Axe and bow in bowcase.
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  6. Parthicus Maximus

    Parthicus Maximus Well-Known Member

    That is a fantastic addition! I find this one of the most interesting reverse types for Domitian.

    I would not exclude that this coin gives us information about the purpose of the Germanic campaign, namely: to strengthen the Rhine border.
  7. eparch

    eparch Well-Known Member

    My copy of the same coin

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  8. Jay GT4

    Jay GT4 Well-Known Member

    Nice one David. Despite being rated as "common" they don't come up that often. Here's mine.

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  9. Xodus

    Xodus Well-Known Member

    @eparch - Holy moly. On first glance that is a very suggestive reverse!
  10. Alegandron

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

    River God Achelous

    SNG ANS 474
    @Nicholas Molinari 15-June-2016 "Your ... coin is a plate coin in Potamikon, number 343 in our catalog so Sambon 663; Taliercio IIIa.16; MSP I, 343, featuring Acheloios Sebethos as a man-faced bull. Taliercio cited three examples of this type, so yours is the fourth known of that particular variety."
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  11. Probably the grand-daddy of river gods is Nilos.

    Hadrian, AE drachm, Nilos reclining.

    Egypt, Alexandria - Hadrian. (117-138)
    Year 127-128

    Type: AE Drachm, 32mm 24.42 grams

    Obverse: AVT KAI TPAI AAPIA CEB, Laureate draped and cuirassed bust right

    Reverse: LDW (delta) EK in exergue, Nilos reclining left upon a crocodile, holding cornucopia and reed, Genius emerging from the cornucopia and pointing at letters IS in upper field

    Reference: Milne 1269


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  12. eparch

    eparch Well-Known Member

  13. eparch

    eparch Well-Known Member

    Virility required to defeat the German tribes !
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  14. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    And to provide Domitian with some military gravitas. Living in the shadow of 'Judaea Capta' had to be very tough on his ego.
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  15. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    If you get tired of it, let me know :)
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  16. Alegandron

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

    LOL, NO WAY! :D It is one of my favorites...and it is FAMOUS (published) !
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  17. Gary R. Wilson


    Here's river-god Orontes swimming

    imgonline-com-ua-twotoone-CJNtnbehvhi-Hadrian 4.jpg

    Hadrian (Augustus)
    Coin: Brass AS
    HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS - Laureate and draped bust of Hadrian right.
    COS III around, S-C across fields, - Tyche of Antioch seated left on rock, holding grain ears, river-god Orontes swimming left below.

    Mint: Rome/Antioch (125-128 AD)
    Wt./Size/Axis: 8.91g / 23mm / 6h
    RIC II 680
    BMCRE 1350
    McAlee 544
    Sear 3696
    Acquisition/Sale: fvrivs.rvfvs eBay $0.00 03/19
    Notes: Apr 29, 19 - The Gary R. Wilson Collection

    Here's one with the personification of the Tiber:

    Antoninus Pius Æ Sestertius. Rome, AD 140-144 22.72g, 35mm, 12h.jpg

    Antoninus Pius (Augustus)
    Coin: Brass Sestertius
    ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR P COS III - Laureate head right.
    TIBERIS SC - Tiber, crowned with reeds, reclining left, resting left elbow on urn from which water flows and resting right hand on forepart of boat, on left; in left hand, a reed, SC in exergue.

    Mint: Rome (140-144 AD)
    Wt./Size/Axis: 22.72g / 35mm / 12h
    Rarity: Rare
    RIC III 642a
    C. 819
    BMCRE 1314
    Banti 414
    Sear 4237
    Roma Numismatics
    Acquisition/Sale: Roma Numismatics Internet E-Sale 63 #795 $0.00 11/19
    Notes: Nov 7, 19 - The Gary R. Wilson Collection
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  18. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    @David Atherton .....Lovely coin!...Really like the portrait and learnt something new from the reverse and your very interesting write up Thanks....Just one question, Why the knee and not the foot on the body?.....I have one nice river god....
    Antoninus Pius Billon Tetradrachm, Egypt, Alexandria Mint, 23mm, 11.94 grams
    Obverse...Laureate-headed bust right, wearing cuirass and paludamentum.
    Reverse...Nilus with crocodile beside him, reclining left, holding reed and cornucopia from which emerges Genius holding wreath, crocodile below.
    Emmerr 1413.13 // Dattari 2294 // Koln 1594 // K&G 35.426
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  19. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Domitian is resting his foot on Rhenus' knee (or thereabouts). Although, on other dies Domitian's pose varies a bit.
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