Domitian AR Denarius - A Winged Minerva

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The iconography of this coin is most intriguing. This is the only depiction of a winged Minerva in all of Roman coinage, and indeed the concept itself has few parallels in surviving classical art. The closest comparable figure may be found in the winged statue of Minerva Victrix at Ostia, which originally formed part of the decoration of the upper gate known as the Porta Romana. This winged form of Minerva may well have been taken from earlier Greek images of Athena, such as that shown on a black-figure vase found at Orvieto and illustrated in Röm. Mitt. XII, pl. xii, which shows two representations of Athena – one winged and one without wings. With the exception of Nike-Victoria, most of the Greco-Roman gods had shed their wings by the early classical period; that such an archaism should be revived in the time of Domitian is therefore quite inexplicable, save perhaps for the possibility that it was simply an act of whimsy by an emperor who was known to favour Minerva above all other gods.

Domitian AR Denarius. Rome, AD 95-96. IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM P M TR P XV, laureate head right / IMP XXII COS XVII CENS P P, winged figure of Minerva flying left, holding spear and shield. C. 294; BMC 237; RIC 791; CBN 210. 3.56g, 19mm, 6h.

Good Extremely Fine.