The Flavian Ampitheater

Titus completed the Flavian Ampitheater, better known as the Colosseum, in 80 AD. It was built as a monument to the triumph of the Flavians as well as to provide entertainment for Rome. These coins were issued to celebrate the the opening. The reverse side of the top coin displays an image of an elephant. The elephant symbolizes the inaugural games of the Colosseum. The inaugural games lasted for over 100 days. Many exotic animals, including elephants, fought against each or were hunted, resulting in over 5000 being killed. One Roman historian tells a story of an elephant defeating a bull, and then kneeling for Titus in recognition of his power. The second coin displays the Colosseum on the front, probably to serve as an advertisement for the Colosseum and to show the impressive structure to people who lived far away from Rome. The reverse is Titus seated and surrounded by a pile of arms.


Titus’s Reign

Titus reigned only a short two years as emperor from 79 AD until his death in 81 AD. Although there were difficult challenges early on, he is considered to have been a great ruler. These are two coins minted from 80-81 AD. The top coin has an image of Securitas on the reverse, who was the Roman deity for security and stability. This image could have been chosen to reassure the people after Terentius Maximus posed as Nero, who he resembled closely, and rebelled against the emperor. The bottom coin pictures Felicitas on the reverse, who stood for prosperity or good fortune. Even though Titus gave lots of money after Vesuvius and the fire Rome, he was able to create a surplus in the treasury by the time of his death. His reign lacked any significant political or military conflict.

Propagating Legitimacy

Propagating Legitimacy

Throughout this class we have discussed the necessity to maintain an image of legitimacy in regards to ruling the Roman Empire. Vespasian minted the first coin in 73 AD and the obverse shows Domitian as Caesar. This was a title that was given to him without any real power, a theme that will be continued by his brother Titus. The second coin is virtually the same image, but Titus minted it nearly eight years later in 80-81 AD. The Flavian Dynasty began from a power vacuum with the year of four emperors so they wanted to maintain and propagate the image of their lineage and heirs.

Named Emperor 81 AD

Named Emperor 81 AD

Domitian became emperor in 81 AD with the death of his brother Titus (it is rumored that he also help the process along.) He left his dying brother so that the Praetorian Guard could name him emperor. When news of Titus’s death reached the senate they chose to honor the dead emperor before honoring the new one. This instantly created tension between Domitian and the senate that continues throughout his reign. Once the senate honored Domitian as emperor one of the titles he gained was that of Augustus. This is one of the earliest coins from when he became emperor and on the obverse lists his multitude of new titles and honors. This interesting detail of this coin is on the reverse though, the dolphin intertwined with an anchor. This is a symbol of Augustus, the first emperor, and he may ne trying to impose a relation between the two of them. It is also thought that the reverse could be honoring Neptune as Titus had created a series that honored the various gods after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplonti, and Stabiae.

Domitian’s Patron Goddess Minerva

Domitian's Patron Goddess Minerva

Domitian’s patron goddess was Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and war. She quickly became the image on most of the reverses of Domitian’s coins. As seen above are the four most common types seen and are shown in the following order: M1, M2, M3, and, M4.

M1: Minerva is advancing, facing right, and wielding a spear.

M2: Minerva is advancing right, wielding a spear, standing on the capital of a rostral column, and accompanied by an owl.

M3: Minerva is standing, facing left, and is holding a spear and thunderbolt with a shield at her feet.

M4: Minerva is standing left and is holding a spear.

Domitia Longina and the Deified Son

Domitia Longina and the Deified Son

In late 70 AD Domitian married Domitia Longina, after she had divorced her husband Lucius Aelianus Lamia. She was the daughter of the famous general Gnaeus Domitus Corbulo who Nero had forced to commit suicide in 66 AD. The first coin shows Domitian as emperor on the obverse and Domitia on the reverse. Together the two had a son in 73 AD that only lived briefly and Domitian honored their lost child by deifying him. The second coin is the bust of Domitia and the third coin is the bust of Domitian. Both these coins were minted in 81-82 AD. Domitian divorced and exiled Domitia in 83 AD but at some point she was brought back to the palace. Toward the end of his reign Domitian became increasingly suspicion and would exile and or execute all whom he believed to be disloyal. It is believed that Domitia helped lead the assassination of Domitian because she believed that she was considered disloyal.

Exotic Game and the Flavian Amphitheater

Exotic Game and the Flavian Amphitheater

The Flavian Amphitheater, better known as the Colosseum, was commissioned by Vespasian around 70-72 AD but was finished and opened by Titus in 80 AD. As a part of the dynasty, Domitian continued on the legacy once Titus had died. The amphitheater was a gift for the people and the games were used to curry favor with the masses. This coin has the image of a rhinoceros on the obverse that would remind the people of the great games that Domitian would throw and how exotic the animals were. This image serves as propaganda for Domitian to circulate and celebrate the games he threw. This coin was minted in 84-84 AD.



Vespasian and Titus were both successful generals and were known for their victories. Domitian, himself, was not a military man but he saw himself as one. He rarely campaigned, but he often sent letters to the real generals in the field giving advice and making recommendations. With no real experience he set out on a campaign to Germany in 83 AD to engage the Chatti, a tribe in Germany who occupied the land along the Rhine and Danube rivers. His rare success pushed the tribe further out and expanded the empire to the Lahn and Main rivers. Having been successful, Domitian awarded himself the title of Germanicus to celebrate his success. Shortly after this success he raised the army’s pay from 300 to 400 sesterces. This clearly made him very popular amongst the soldiers. Domitian made many reforms when it came to coins beginning when he first came to office where he raised the silver content of the denarius by 12%, this was back to level of the Augustan era. But with high expenses from the military and public he then highly debased the denarius in 85 AD and that level stayed consistent throughout the rest of his rule. This specific coin’s reverse displayed above shows Domitian riding a horse that is trampling a German; it was minted in 85 AD.

Fire of Rome 80 AD

Fire of Rome 80 AD

The civil wars from 68-69 AD and a devastating fire in 80 AD left Rome extensively damaged and destroyed. During his rule Domitian took it upon himself to improve and fix Rome and erected, restored, or completed some fifty structures. One of the most notable is the image on the reverse of the coin, the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. This temple is the most important one in Rome and is located on the Capitoline hill. This temple also honors Juno and Minerva, but Jupiter is the main focus. In the temple itself Juno is on the left, Minerva on the right, and Jupiter in the middle. This is also scene in the coin’s reverse were there is one central seated figure, Jupiter, and then two other figures of standing women to the immediate left and right, in this case Juno and Minerva. Domitian minted his coin with this image to claim responsibility for fixing the temple. As it was the most important temple in Rome the public would have been very happy to have it restored. Domitian put many other buildings on coins to celebrate his role. It is interesting to note that at this point the coins were highly debased and the silver taken out of these coins, even this one specifically, were being used to fund the restorations.

The fourth and present temple was both built and dedicated by Domitian [in AD 89].… Even the gilding alone of this temple’s roof, costing more than 12,000 talents, is beyond the means of the richest private citizen in Rome today. Its columns were cut from Pentelic marble and were originally of beautiful proportions, as I saw for myself in Athens. When they were shaped and polished in Rome, however, they didn’t gain as much in smoothness as they lost in symmetry and beauty, and now appear too thin and meager.

Plutarch, Publicola, 15.1-4