Collection Highlights: Heberden Coin Room
Domitianus (AD c.271)
Roman, base silver radiate, 20 mm diameter. Radiate bust of Domitianus / Concordia.
This remarkable coin provides definitive proof that a man named Domitianus claimed to be emperor in early 270s. It was discovered in April 2003 by Brian Malin, a long-standing friend of the Ashmolean's Heberden Coin Room, on farmland near Chalgrove, less than ten miles from Oxford. The coin was fused in a mass of nearly five thousand superficially similar coins in a largely intact Roman jar. Domitianus' bid for power is unlikely to have lasted more than a few days, but he caught the popular imagination when news of the find was released in February 2004. The story was covered on the front page of The Times on 25 February, which gave it a nationalistic spin (‘Is this Britain's lost emperor?'), and Private Eye had a delightful spoof on Britain's Lost Leader, ‘Duncansmithonius'.