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Flavian Coinage

Abstract and Keywords

The emperors of the Flavian dynasty had a considerable impact on imperial history. All of the denominations of imperial coinage employed had already appeared in the past; the elements most commonly used in coinage typology—imperial portraits for the obverse, a variety of designs for the reverse—were already familiar. Innovations were interesting, but relatively minor, for instance the regular revival of archaic coin types and the production of “restoration” issues commemorating earlier coinages apparently being withdrawn from circulation. However, the key contribution made by Flavian coinage was that, in both the imperial and provincial series, it selected certain features of earlier coinages, discontinued others, and applied a greater consistency, so that the different categories of coinage, Roman imperial, provincial or regional, civic, and so on, are easily classified and were to remain unchanged for a long period afterward.

Keywords: Flavian, imperial history, coinage, archaic coin types, Roman

Introduction and Bibliography

The emperors of the Flavian dynasty ruled Rome for only 27 years, but they had a considerable impact on imperial history. Vespasian emerged from the Civil Wars of 68–69 to bring stability and provide an organized succession for his sons (fig. 20.1), and while the younger, Domitian, may be best known as a tyrant in the tradition of the “bad” emperors of the Julio-Claudian period such as Caligula and Nero, the empire that he handed on to the next generations was equipped to, and was indeed destined to, provide a hundred years of relative peace and prosperity. To some extent, the Flavian coinage reflects history in that it emerged from the chaos of the Civil Wars and was formed into a settled and systematic production with characteristics that broadly changed little for the next century.

When the Flavian coinage is compared with that produced under earlier emperors, it is evident that most of its features had already been present. All of the denominations of imperial coinage employed had already appeared in the past; the elements most commonly used in coinage typology—imperial portraits for the obverse, a variety of designs for the reverse (fig. 20.2)—were already familiar. Innovations are interesting, but relatively minor, for instance the regular revival of archaic coin types (Buttrey 1972) and the production of “restoration” issues commemorating earlier coinages apparently being withdrawn from circulation (Komnick 2001). However, such comparisons fail to identify the key contribution made by Flavian coinage, which is that in both the imperial and provincial series it selected certain features of earlier coinages, discontinued others, and applied a greater consistency, so that the different categories of coinage—Roman imperial, provincial or regional, civic, and so on—are easily classified and were to remain unchanged for a long period afterward.

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.1

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.2

(p. 376) The study of Flavian coinage has been facilitated by the publication of RPC volume 2 and the new edition of RIC II (part 1, The Flavian Emperors). Together these two volumes enable the entire coinage to be viewed in systematically classified arrangement, and they also provide commentaries (the new RIC has extensive introductory chapters in the style of BMCRE—previously the best overall introduction to the Flavian coinage). Specialist studies have also advanced our knowledge of Flavian coinage, notably Colin Kraay's and Ian Carradice's Ph.D. studies in the 1950s and 1970s, respectively. The former, focusing on the bronze coinage of Vespasian, is unpublished, but spawned several short articles (Kraay 1978, 1954). Carradice's research, on the coinage of Domitian, was published as a monograph (Carradice 1983) and also led to additional published articles (Carradice 1982, 1993, 1998; Carradice and Cowell 1987) as well as feeding into the new RIC. Other scholars have contributed to the Flavian numismatic literature through catalogues (Giard 1998, 2000) and numismatic articles or monographs (notably Buttrey 1972, 1980).

An Empire-wide Coinage?

In 68–69, before Vespasian was first hailed Imperator, Roman imperial coinage had been minted in the names of several short-lived emperors or anonymously (the so-called Civil War issues) at various mints, many not yet located with any degree of certainty. This pattern of dispersed, opportunistic, perhaps chaotic production was inherited by Vespasian, but by the end of his reign, 10 years later, Rome was the only imperial mint still operating. How this transformation happened is worth exploring in more detail (for further discussion see RIC II.1, Vespasian introduction, and for a summary of the mints, table 20.1).

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.3

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.4

The military nature of at least some of the earliest imperial issues is indicated by their types and, in one case, a legend: EXSERCI[TVS] MOESIC[VS] (fig. 20.3). Mints producing imperial coins were at first distributed across the empire, from Spain to Egypt, but many were closed before the end of 71, when Rome emerged as the most persistent and by far the dominant producer of imperial coinage:

Table 20.1 Vespasian's Roman imperial issues: Mints




Spain (Tarraco? and Uncertain)



Military (Balkan mint)



Uncertain (5 groups)






Lyon (early)









Lyon (later)



(p. 377) Two mints that commenced Flavian coin production in 70, however, continued for several years: Ephesus in 70–74, perhaps also 76; Lyon in 70–72 and 77–78. Ephesus produced predominantly silver denarii, plus, at the start, a few rare aurei (fig. 20.4) and, in 72, some extremely rare cistophoric tetradrachms; Lyon produced all the major imperial denominations in 70–72, but in 77–78 only sestertii (fig. 20.5), dupondii, and asses, though in very large quantities. These patterns of production are suggestive of a regional currency supply role for these two mints. They also hint at an increasing role for the denarius in the eastern empire, while in the west it is worth observing that production of local “barbarous” imitations of Vespasian's bronze coins are noticeably rarer than imitations of Claudian bronzes, suggesting that the production of imperial bronze coinage in Lyon was deliberately intended to address local shortages that had earlier resulted in widespread local production of copies. In the meantime, another interesting development is the harnessing of the Rome mint for production of some eastern provincial issues: silver drachms and didrachms for Caesarea in Cappadocia in 73–77; orichalcum denominations for Syria in 74 and for Cyprus in 75–76 (fig. 20.6; Carradice and Cowell 1987, RPC II: pp. 11–13). For these provincial issues, the mint of Rome could provide Greek (Caesarea and Cyprus) or Latin (Syria) legends.

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.5

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.6

Under Vespasian, local production of provincial coinages was largely restricted to issues of lower denomination coins in bronze. Some issues in silver were produced, but these were fewer than in the earlier imperial period, and they were usually very brief: Ephesus cistophori in 72, Caesarean drachms and didrachms in 74–77, Cypriot didrachms and tetradrachms in 75–78, Syrian tetradrachms in 69–73, and Egyptian tetradrachms in 69–71 and 75–76. Stylistic links between some Syrian (p. 378) and Cypriot silver issues suggest either movement of an engraver or production in Antioch for Cyprus. The latter possibility would mirror the example already provided by the Rome mint and confirm interprovincial organization of production, or at least communication. Thus, the overall picture is one of centralization of production of imperial currency and perhaps increased use of imperial silver in the east, but with the use of established local coinages continuing largely unhindered.

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.7

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.9

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.8

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.10

The reign of Titus was very short, yet provides some developments in mint organization, including a major problem. Rome continued to be by far the most important mint for imperial coinages (figs. 20.7, 20.8), and it was also used for production of cistophoric silver tetradrachms for circulation in the province of Asia (fig. 20.9; silver production at Ephesus having ceased before the end of Vespasian's reign). The styles of portrait and lettering in these “Rome-mint” cistophori is much closer to that of the precious metal than the bronze issues of imperial currency, suggesting, not surprisingly, that the cistophori were produced in the section of the mint that also produced denarii. The other eastern coinages are the usual numerous provincial and civic bronze issues and a small number of provincial silver issues: (p. 379) hemidrachms at Caesarea in Cappadocia and tetradrachms in Cyprus and Egypt. This pattern continues that seen under Vespasian.

The most significant innovation under Titus is what appears to be the establishment of a second imperial mint for bronze coinage in the east (fig. 20.10). The characteristics of the coins assigned to this mint are that the obverse legends for Titus include DIVI VESP F among his titles (absent from the main Rome-mint issues); the obverse portraits are large, with heavy, muscular necks; reverse figures are large; lettering tends to be crowded and heavily seriffed; physically, the coins are flat or slightly convex on both sides; and finally, finds of these coins are commonest in Turkey and the Balkans, and numbers in museum collections in the same region are high. But there are problems with these criteria. The legend difference need not imply a separate mint, and only applies to Titus (not Domitian or Julia, who also feature at this mint); the stylistic differences compared with contemporary Rome-mint coins are not always clear, and in any case are not conclusive evidence of a separate mint; the flat fabric is distinctive, but it was common on Rome-mint coins before the reign of Nero, and it recurs again on some rare Flavian issues that have always been assumed to be from the mint of Rome. The strongest argument for a separate eastern mint may be the evidence of finds, and this has recently been bolstered by the commonness of these issues in the coin trade, at a time when other coinages from the Balkans and western Turkey also seem to be abundant. Why a second mint for imperial bronze coinage should have been established at this time in the east is not known, but the obvious explanation would be that it was intended to meet regional needs for this type of currency.

(p. 380) This second imperial mint did not survive long into Domitian's reign. At some date in 82, perhaps only a few months after Domitian's accession, judging by the rarity of these coins compared with the issues struck under Titus, production ceased, and Rome was left as the only imperial mint for the rest of the reign. Interestingly, the Rome mint also ceased production of bronze coinage in 82, though production of gold and silver issues continued and bronze production resumed in 84. As under Vespasian and Titus, the Rome mint also continued to produce occasional issues for export: silver cistophoric tetradrachms for Asia in 81–82 and 95; silver didrachms and drachms for Caesarea in Cappadocia in 93–94; and silver drachms and hemidrachms for Lycia in 95.

Coinage Output and State Finances

Coinage and state finances are closely linked, because coinage was the principal medium for financial transactions in the Roman world. It is therefore of particular interest to gain some understanding of the volume of coinage production. Because of the absence of documentary information on this subject, our understanding of output has to be based on the evidence provided by the surviving coinage, but how reliable is the surviving coinage as an indicator of output from the mint 2,000 years ago? Two factors, in particular, need to be considered. One relates to the information on coins—in public museums, in private collections, in publications of excavations, hoards, and so on. How available and how reliable is this information? Another factor is the fineness and weight of the coinage. This has a major effect only on precious metal denominations, in particular the ubiquitous silver denarii of the early empire, but it has a dramatic effect on coin survival in times when standards were changing, and this is what happened during the Flavian period.

Patterns of imperial coinage output in the Flavian period have been calculated for most denominations. Some, particularly for gold and bronze coins, are only sample studies based on finds or trade material (RIC); while studies of denarius survival/output are based on more comprehensive hoard surveys (Carradice 1998), backed up by die studies (Carradice 1983: 78–84). A common problem for all these studies is the conditioning provided by the availability of evidence, with the western empire traditionally providing far more reliable study material than the eastern. Since the Roman imperial denominations were most dominant in the central and western provinces of the empire, this might not be thought too grave a problem; however, in the context of Flavian coinage, this western bias of the evidence could be hindering a proper understanding of the eastern denarius issues of Vespasian or the “Thracian” aes mint of the reign of Titus and the first year of Domitian. The recent abundance of the “Thracian mint” issues in trade has already been noted; denarii of Vespasian's Ephesus mint have also been appearing in trade with particular frequency in recent years, but we must be wary of the effects of occasional very (p. 381) large hoards that can flood the “market” and provide a distorted impression of frequency, at least temporarily. Die studies can confirm whether an issue was genuinely huge, rather than just appearing to be large because of the chance survival of a large body of specific material.

Bearing in mind these factors, impressions of relative coinage output for different denominations and under the different reigns are now available, assisted by the susceptibility of the Flavian coinage to quite accurate dating because of the frequency with which the titles of the emperors changed. Production was not confined to the Rome mint, but it seems clear that Rome produced the vast majority of the coinage that survives today. The other mints may have made a significant impact in their own immediate regions, for the relatively brief periods they operated, but they pale into insignificance when their output is compared with that of Rome. On the coinage from the mint of Rome, graphs illustrating survival rates of coinage through Vespasian's reign (RIC II.1 pp. 49–51) show definite fluctuations between different denominations. At the start of the reign, there are peaks for both gold and silver, whereas bronze coinage is extremely rare, suggesting that the first priority was production of denarii and aurei. By contrast, AD 71 witnessed massive output of bronze coinage, especially sestertii, but unimpressive returns for silver denarii and gold aurei. Similarly, the second peak for silver, in AD 75, was also a peak for gold but one of the lowest years for aes coinage. This all seems to suggest there were shifts in production between the precious metal and aes coinages—perhaps resources were moved from one to the other, depending on need.

It has been estimated that the rate of output of denarii during Titus's brief reign far exceeded that in any comparable period under Vespasian (Carradice 1998: 106), though we cannot know if this high output would have been sustained if the reign had lasted longer. The output pattern within the reign of Titus is difficult to calculate because of uncertainties in dating some of the issues, including the last—largest—issues of Titus, which have titles to suggest they did not extend beyond the summer of 80, though their commonness would perhaps suggest a longer duration of production. Titus's aes coinage has not benefited from quantitative studies comparable to those available for denarii, but it is very clear that his COS VIII issues (80–81) are far commoner than those dated COS VII (the second half of 79). Considering the brief duration of the reign, aes output was high overall, compared with that of Vespasian or Domitian, but again, it might not have been sustained if the reign had lasted longer.

Between the reigns of Vespasian and Titus, it is possible to compare output of precious metal coinage on the basis of coin survival patterns today, because standards do not appear to have differed. However, with the reign of Domitian, the second factor of influence has a considerable effect on the evidence for precious metal production provided by coin survival, since Domitian apparently improved the coinage quite dramatically in AD 82, raising the fineness of the silver denarius and the weight of the gold aureus (Walker 1976: 95–101, 120, 1978: 117–119; Butcher and Ponting 1995). Although a second reform, in AD 85, debased the coinage somewhat, it remained finer than earlier Flavian coinage issued under Vespasian or Titus. (p. 382) This means that three separate standards were operating during the reign—an early “low” standard in 81–82, a “high” standard in 82–85, and a “medium” standard in 85–96—and these different standards had a dramatic effect on the survival pattern of aurei and denarii from Domitian's reign, providing a perfect illustration of the operation of the so-called Gresham's law, whereby “bad money drives out good” (Carradice 1983: 68–74).

Table 20.2 Survival pattern of Domitian's denarii by minting period





M. Aurelius


Septimius Severus


























Table 20.2 shows the survival pattern of denarii from Domitian's three minting periods, from a sample of hoards buried at different periods after his reign (from Carradice 1983: 68).

Reading this table from left to right, we see that the finest coins disappear very quickly, while the poorest quality coins gradually increase in numbers, relative to those of the “medium fineness” period, which, having been produced over a period of 11 years, had obviously been by far the most numerous originally. Individual hoards can also add some interesting details to this picture. The “Snettisham jeweler's hoard” from England (Johns 1997), discovered after this sample was counted, was buried during the reign of Antoninus Pius. It contained a total of 83 denarii, dating from as far back as the Republic, but 74 of the coins were Domitianic, all struck between 85 and 96. This hoarder clearly discriminated against lower quality silver coins, hence the absence of issues from the period 69–82, but the best he could find were the issues of Domitian from 85–96, because Domitian's finer coins, and those of the Julio-Claudian emperors, were no longer available when he was hoarding. Compare the Réka Devnia hoard, buried in the mid-third century (Mouchmov 1934). This contained a massive total of 2,808 Flavian coins, but only 296 of them were minted during the reign of Domitian, and 108 (36.5%) of them belonged to the period 81–82.

There is much less evidence for the survival of Domitian's gold coins, but the pattern appears to mirror that of the silver (Carradice 1983: 97–100), with aurei of the heaviest period (82–85) disappearing from circulation early in the reign of Trajan. Thereafter, the hoards show that the coins of 85–96 are the most numerous until, in the second half of the second century, these also appear to have disappeared, and only the lightest aurei of the period 81–82 (and of Domitian Caesar) seem to have been available for hoarding. Fortunately, the largest known hoard of Domitianic gold, from Zemun in Croatia (Ljubić 1876), was buried soon after the emperor's death, so this provides a good impression of the relative output within the reign. The Zemun hoard, removing the heaviest available gold, and the Snettisham hoard, favoring the finest available silver coins 50 years later, both illustrate (p. 383) why hoarding patterns are so consistent—these were precisely the coins that were later “missing.”

For output of gold coinage under Domitian, what the Zemun hoard suggests is that gold production was slight at the start of the reign but increased substantially in the period 82–85, precisely when the finest silver was being produced, albeit at a modest rate of output. Meanwhile, there appears to have been a high output of bronze coinage at the start of the reign, but production ceased in 82, until it commenced again, modestly, with an issue of mainly asses in 84. Full production of all denominations of aes resumed again in 85 and continued until the end of the reign, with peaks of production apparently in 85–87 and 90–91, though it is worth noting that the survival pattern of bronze coinage differs from region to region, so the peaks can sometimes vary, depending on the source of data (Hobley 1998: 22–31). There are also variations in the output of different aes denominations for separate issues, suggesting the possibility that production shifted between denominations according to demand. Denarius production gradually climbed after 85, until a peak was reached around 92, before falling off somewhat toward the end of the reign. Meanwhile, gold output may have peaked in the years 90–91, with a later decline mirroring that in silver toward the end of the reign.

Imperial Coin Types

The imperial coinage of the Flavian period is generally impressive in appearance, and its types provide a rich source of material for study (e.g., Darwall-Smith 1996; Carradice 1993). Vespasian's earliest issues, largely restricted to small precious metal coins, have indistinct portraits of the new emperor (some of which have the features of Vitellius) and reverse types that copy recent issues of his predecessors or reflect the circumstances of his accession, with military themes prominent. The different mints show variations in choice of types, indicating separate development, though there are also instances of deliberate copying, and the themes in general cover the same, predictable ground: Victory, the restoration of peace (fig. 20.2) and stability, a new dynasty (fig. 20.1), and so on. The eastern issues, circulating in the region of Vespasian's original power base, tend to have the more dynamic and innovative types. Vespasian returned to Rome late in 70, and the following year's aes coinage produced by the mint of Rome was arguably the most varied and impressive of any single year in the entire imperial series. For the largest denomination, the sestertius, a wide variety of portrait types was employed, as well as numerous different reverse designs (fig. 20.2). After 71, Vespasian's aes coinage becomes much less varied, though impressive groups of aes were issued for Titus in 72 and Domitian Caesar in 73, before they also became more limited in range. Meanwhile, a different phenomenon is observed with the precious metal issues of the mint of Rome. For these, annually changing reverse types were employed, many consciously copying earlier imperial or even Republican designs (fig. 20.11; Buttrey 1972).

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.11

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.12

(p. 384) The prominence of both Vespasian's sons on the coinage, at all mints that continued in production beyond 71–72, is one of the more distinctive features of the Flavian imperial coinage. The coinage in the name of the younger son, Domitian, is as abundant as that minted for Titus, though in titles and in designs the older brother's seniority is clearly signaled—note, for instance, that on dupondii Vespasian and Titus have radiate portraits, while Domitian is draped. There is also more sharing of reverses between Vespasian and Titus, while Domitian's reverses emphasize his junior position (Princeps Iuventutis) and the fact that he is for the future (Spes). In addition to the dynastic iconography, another recurring subject of historic interest on the coinage of Vespasian is Judaea Capta, either directly, with depictions of Judaea herself in defeat, or through Victory or Triumph types that clearly allude to the military success that earned Vespasian the empire. The more explicit Judaea Capta reverse types were dropped by the mint of Rome after 73, though they reappeared in the output of aes produced by the mint of Lyon in 77–78 (fig. 20.5).

Titus shared in his father's victories in Judaea, and Judaea Capta was revived as an imperial coin type under Titus. The dynastic emphasis on coin types also continued. On Sestertii, Titus is depicted accepting a globe from his late father, with the legend Provident August (fig. 20.8). A series of coinage in all metals was also produced for the now deified Vespasian, and other members of the imperial family were also honored, both living (Titus's daughter Julia and Domitian) and dead (his mother Domitilla). Domitian, now heir to the throne, has substantial production, but with no visible elevation of his status—in portraiture and reverse types his coinage is little changed from that produced under Vespasian.

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.13

The early coinage of Titus's reign was very similar in type content to that of the later years of Vespasian, but in 80 there was a significant overhaul of reverse designs on all denominations. One of the most famous types, appearing on sestertii, depicts the Flavian Amphitheater, better known today as the Colosseum (fig. 20.12). A new type for gold and silver, depicting an elephant (fig. 20.7), is also assumed to refer to the games celebrating the inauguration of this great building in 80; and many other designs of an apparently religious nature (the so-called pulvinaria—sacred couches of the gods—series) may also allude to this event. The change in typology in 80 also extended to the issues for the rest of the imperial family. The other major innovation on coin typology in 80–81 was the introduction of a series of aes “restoring” earlier imperial bronze coins (fig. 20.13) that are thought to have been removed from circulation (p. 385) at this time—a development that in some ways echoes Vespasian's earlier copying of antique types on gold and silver coinage. The second, apparently eastern, aes mint (fig. 20.10) shared in production of the output of bronze coinage of 80–81 including, it seems, the “restorations,” and because of the many shared types and inscriptions, it is in some cases difficult to distinguish between the two mints.

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.14

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.15

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.16

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.17

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.18

The early coin issues of Domitian's reign again closely resembled those of his predecessor, but in 82 there were dramatic changes. The aes mint closed, and the gold and silver coinage was reformed in both quality and appearance. The flans for gold aurei and silver denarii became broader and more regular in shape; a new, more idealized portrait of Domitian began to evolve, later embellished with an aegis (fig. 20.15); and a range of new reverse types was introduced. Among the new types was a series honoring the imperial family, including his empress, Domitia, his niece Julia, and relatives newly deified by Domitian: his brother and sister (Titus and Domitilla) and his long-deceased baby son (fig. 20.14). When the aes mint resumed production in 84 (mainly asses) and 85 (all denominations), this also featured a wide range of completely new reverse types. From now until the end of the reign, Domitian's influence on the coinage is clearly evident. The silver denarius is completely dominated by images of Domitian's patron goddess, Minerva (fig. 20.15), who appears in four varieties, probably derived from well-known statue figures, systematically repeated issue after issue for the rest of the reign. The only interruptions to this typology are a large but brief issue in 88 with designs relating specifically to the Secular Games of that year, and a rare issue with types depicting temples—this issue is undated but probably belongs to 95–96. Meanwhile, gold aurei feature the same four Minerva types, plus two (a defeated Germania, fig. 20.16, and a triumphal quadriga) commemorating Domitian's German victories of 83–84. The sestertii were also used to celebrate the emperor's German victories, commencing (p. 386) in 85 with a complex series including several depicting Domitian himself as warrior, victor, or priest (fig. 20.17). German victory types also appeared on dupondii and asses at first, though later these reverted to standard personification designs: especially Virtus, Fortuna, and Moneta—the latter a new figure introduced by Domitian and perhaps alluding to his unprecedented award of a pay increase for the army. The sestertius series gradually reduced after the mid-80s, until only two core designs remained: Iovi Victori and Domitian crowned by Victory. As with the precious metal coinage, there were only two significant interruptions to the standard typology on aes coinage: a Secular Games series in 88 and a new group introduced in 95–96 that included monuments (fig. 20.18) and buildings on sestertii and other new types on dupondii and asses.

Looking back at the reign as a whole, Domitian's influence on coin types is clearly evident (Carradice 1993). The reverse designs either featured him or respected his particular devotions or interests; the legends also typify him—illustrating his megalomaniac personality by insistently recording his numerous titles.

Provincial Coinage and Coin Types

The provincial coinage produced during the Flavian period is now far more accessible, following the publication of RPC II. The authors of that work detected an overall increase in the rate of production under the Flavian emperors compared with the (p. 387) preceding period (Augustus to Vitellius), though since the time of Gaius only the eastern provinces were minting nonimperial issues. A wide range of provincial issues was produced under the Flavians, from high-value gold and silver in Roman imperial (aurei and denarii) or local denominations (e.g. cistophori in Asia) to low-value small bronze coins issued by numerous cities from Greece to Egypt. It has already been noted that some issues in silver and others in bronze were minted in Rome for circulation in the east, suggesting some form of central direction over production and supply. Regional organization is also evident in stylistic connections between coinage issues of Syria and Cyprus and issues of Syria and Alexandria, also in the production of coinage in the names of the koinon (Community) of “Paphlagonia,” “the Cypriots” (minted in Rome; fig. 20.6), “the Galatians,” and (unnamed) Bithynia and Macedonia.

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.19

 Flavian Coinage

Fig. 20.20

The Flavian provincial coinage was also very mixed in its form and design. Its denominations are many and varied; some equate with imperial denominations, others don’t; and imperial conventions are not followed with regard to denominations—the type of base metal is not significant, nor, it seems, is the use of the radiate portrait. One clear tendency in the period is that larger denominations become relatively more common, confirming an impression that the provincial coinage was evolving away from its Hellenistic or early imperial period origins. Similarly, in typology, the coinage has characteristics that take it further from the Hellenistic origins that were still evident in the Julio-Claudian period and toward a coinage with a more explicitly “imperial” character. Obverse portraits are usually easy to identify, many being close to those seen on the Roman imperial coinage, and legends are generally longer and more explicit than in the previous period. On the reverses, although local designs are still common, types referring directly to the emperor become more frequent. This is particularly evident in the reign of Domitian, whose German victories are commemorated on local coin issues in various eastern provinces. Most members of the imperial family appear on coinage issues somewhere in the east—including Domitian's onetime nominated heir, Vespasian the Younger, who appears fleetingly on small bronze coins of Smyrna in Asia (fig. 20.19) even though he never featured on the Roman imperial coinage. The impression given is that cities could use their coinage to display their loyalty and their enthusiasm for an association with the imperial house, and this was no doubt one of the means by which they competed with each other. Civic competitiveness had always been an element in the coinage of the Greek city-states; now, under the Roman Empire, it was evolving into a new form. Civic rivalry is also expressed in coin legends in this period, with, for example, two different cities in Bithynia, Nicaea, and Nicomedia both proclaiming themselves to be the “first city” of the province (for further discussion see RPC II: p. 34). But as well as rivalry there is also harmony (homonoia), proclaimed by several pairs of provincial cities on what has become known as “alliance coins” in the Flavian period. Such coins had begun to appear earlier, but they became more numerous and explicit under the Flavians, and particularly under Domitian, when they are a feature of the coinage of some of the larger cities in Asia: Pergamum and Ephesus, Ephesus and Smyrna, Philadephia and Ephesus, Sardis and Smyrna, Aezani and Cadi (fig. 20.20). (p. 388)

Key to Illustrations

  1. Fig. 20.1. Vespasian, BMCRE 3, denarius, Rome, AD 70 (obv and rev, RIC 16). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  2. Fig. 20.2. Vespasian, BMCRE 565, sestertius, Rome, AD 71 (obv and rev, RIC 195). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  3. Fig. 20.3 Vespasian, L 1937–7–23–3, denarius, uncertain mint in Moesia, AD 69–70 (obv and rev, RIC 1342). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  4. Fig. 20.4. Vespasian, BMCRE 465, aureus, Ephesus, AD 71 (Titus) (obv and rev, RIC 1439). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  5. Fig. 20.5. Vespasian, L 1935–4–4–7, sestertius, Lyon, AD 77–78 (Titus) (obv and rev, RIC 1245). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  6. Fig. 20.6. Vespasian, BMC 22, Cyprus, AD 75–76 (obv and rev, RPC 1818). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  7. Fig. 20.7. Titus, BMCRE 44, denarius, Rome, AD 80–81 (obv and rev, RIC 115). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  8. Fig. 20.8. Titus, BMCRE 178, sestertius, Rome, AD 80–81 (obv and rev, RIC 162). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  9. Fig. 20.9. Titus, L 1948–7–4–1, cistophoric 4 drachm, Rome, AD 80–81 (obv and rev, RIC 515). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  10. Fig. 20.10. Titus, BMCRE 309/310, sestertius, “Thrace,” AD 80–81 (obv and rev, RIC 498/499). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  11. Fig. 20.11. Vespasian, BMCRE 47, denarius, Rome, AD 74 (obv and rev, RIC 689). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  12. Fig. 20.12. Titus, BMCRE 190, sestertius, Rome, AD 80–81 (obv, RIC 184, depicting Flavian amphitheater). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  13. Fig. 20.13. Titus, BMCRE 301, “restored” as of the deified Claudius, AD 80–81 (obv and rev, RIC 484). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  14. Fig. 20.14. Domitian, BMCRE 62, aureus, Rome, AD 82–83 (obv and rev, RIC 152). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  15. Fig. 20.15. Domitian, L 1982–10–1–3, denarius, Rome, AD 85 (obv and rev, RIC 321). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  16. Fig. 20.16. Domitian, BMCRE 91, aureus, Rome, AD 86 (obv and rev, RIC 432). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  17. Fig. 20.17. Domitian, BMCRE 297, sestertius, Rome, AD 85 (obv and rev, RIC 277). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  18. Fig. 20.18. Domitian, L 1978–10–21–5, sestertius, Rome, AD 95–96 (obv and rev, RIC 797). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  19. (p. 389) Fig. 20.19. Domitian, BMC 320, Smyrna, c. AD 94–95 (Vespasian the Younger) (obv ad rev, RPC 1028). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.

  20. Fig. 20.20. Domitian, L 1979–1–1–2118, Aezani and Cadi alliance (obv and rev, RPC 1369). British Museum. © Trustees of the British Museum.


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