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Daily telegraph

Roman coin confirms emperor's existence
February 26th, 2004

It is made of bronze and it is not much bigger than a 5eurocents piece and 1,700 years ago it would not have bought a piece of bread.
But its discovery in a field in Oxfordshire rewrites a small part of history. The coin confirms the existence of an almost unknown Roman emperor, Domitian or Domitianus (the second?), who ruled Britain briefly in AD 271.
It was found one evening last spring by an amateur archaeologist with a metal detector.

Yesterday its discovery was described by experts at the British Museum as "thrilling" and "amazing".
The coin bears the likeness of Domitian wearing a crown of rays and the inscription Imp(erator) C(aesar) Domitianus P(ius) F(elix) Aug(ustus).

"Domitian ruled for a week or maybe two, probably no more, before he was overthrown and possibly killed," said Roger Bland, the museum's former curator of coins.
"But here at last we have evidence that he minted his own coin, which proves that he was emperor. It is a very exciting piece of the jigsaw puzzle."
Domitian's reign was over the secessionist Gallic Empire, comprising Gaul, Germany, Britain and Spain, and with its headquarters in Cologne or Trier.

It was founded by Postumus a decade earlier as Rome's authority crumbled after the capture by the Persians of Emperor Valerian who, according to legend, spent the rest of his days as a live footstool for the Persian king.
A century later two historians in Rome referred elliptically to a senior army officer called Domitianus playing a part in the affairs of the Gallic Empire. But they provided no hard evidence that he had declared himself ruler.
The only other clue to Domitian's existence was the discovery in the Loire region of France in 1900 of a single coin bearing his impression. But it was dismissed as a modern forgery.

The discovery of the second coin proves that it was not, the British Museum says. "They are identical," Mr Bland said. "There is no question at all now - they are both genuine."
The Oxfordshire coin was found among a hoard of more than 5,000 unexceptional 4th-century coins which had corroded into a solid lump inside an earthenware pot buried 14in below ground.
It was not until this month, after conservators had separated the coins, that Richard Abdy, Mr Bland's successor, started to study them. Most came from the reigns of Victorinus and Tetricus. Then he found an inscription he had never seen before.

Mr Abdy said: "I dived into the reference books and sent an e-mail to my opposite number in France who had just written a paper on the French coin and soon we had a result.
"It can't get much rarer than this. We don't have documents, only coins, and it is frustrating that we do not know more about Domitianus. We do not know where he came from and we do not know how or when he died. But we know he existed."
The find was made by Brian Malin, 30, a factory supervisor from Chipping Norton. He said yesterday: "I was about to give up for the day and go home when I picked up a faint signal on my metal detector. I found this pot and it was so heavy that it was like picking up a cannonball."
A decade ago his family found a hoard of 3,000 Roman coins which are now in the Ashmolean in Oxford. Mr Malin said: "It is like lightning striking twice. Now my ambition is to find some gold coins."

 

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