Disasters and Challenges for the New Emperor


This coin was issued by Vespasian to celebrate him becoming emperor. The front is a bust of Vespasian and the reverse is Aequitas, who stood for justice and fairness. The interesting part of the coin is the reddish tint on it. This is known as boscoreale toning, which is the result of being buried under ash in Pompeii for millenia. On 24 August 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted and completely buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. This occurred only two months after he had become emperor in June. Titus responded by donating large amounts of his own money to aid the victims. He also visited the site, but while he was away in 80 AD, a great fire broke out in Rome. This damaged many public buildings and cost Titus even more out of his own treasury.

Titus Denarius of the same type as coin in question. Rome, AD 79. IMP TITVS CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M, laureate bust right / TR P VIIII IMP XV COS VII P P, capricorn left, globe below. RIC 37. 2.99g, 17mm

A coin just like the one pictured above was also discovered at Pompeii. This coin casts doubt on the commonly accepted date of Mount Vesuvius’s eruption. The obverse is a bust of Titus with his usual titles, however one stands out that creates the conflict. The legend on the front includes IMP XV, which means “acclaimed emperor for the 15th time”. Historical sources show that Titus was not awarded imperator for the 15th time until September 79 AD, which is after the date of eruption. Whether or not this disproves the current date of the eruption, it is a mystery as to why this coin was buried there.


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