Aureus depicting the head of Domitian and the she-wolf with Romulus and Remus (77-78 CE)



77 CE to 78 CE




Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
Münzkabinett Berlin
Object number: 18216944
Name of Ruler: 

Vespasian (but it is Domitian who is represented on this coin).

Obverse (Image and Inscription): 

Image: Laureate head of Domitian looking right


Reverse (Image and Inscription): 

Image: She-wolf looking left, with twins; boat in exergue.

Inscription: COS V

Diameter (mm): 
Weight (g): 

RIC II/12, Vespasian, no. 960, p. 128.

This aureus, minted between 77-78 CE, during the reign of Vespasian, depicts on the obverse the head of Domitian and on the reverse the she-wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus. The inscription refers to Domitian as Caesar, the son of Augustus, consul for the fifth time. The depiction of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus was never widespread on Roman coins. Previously it was depicted on the reverse of a didrachm minted between 275 and 270 BCE, and on the reverse of a sextans minted between 217 and 215 BCE. The she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus epitomized the foundation myth of Rome (Livy, History of Rome I.4.7-9; Dionysus of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities I.79-6-8; Plutarch, Life of Romulus 4). Vespasian, through the depiction of the she-wolf suckling the twins, wished to convey his yearning to regenerate Rome, after a dramatic civil war, and to bring it back to its original values. It may be possible to draw a parallel between the twins Romulus and Remus and Vespasian's sons, Titus and Domitian. Vespasian was in fact the first emperor who, as a main feature of imperial propaganda, emphasized the fact that his sons, who were heirs to the throne, were a guarantee of future peace after years of civil wars and uncertainty concerning the fate of the empire itself.

Keywords in the original language: 

Bibliographical references: 

Domitian: Tragic Tyrant

Southern, PatriciabookDomitian: Tragic TyrantRoman Imperial BiographiesLondonRoutledge1997
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