To the left is one of the two coins from last month, RIC 68, and to the right is my newest acquisition, RIC 70--
The reverses are identical; the difference lies in the obverse inscription. PONT and P M were both abbreviations for the same office, pontifex maximus, High Priest or Pope, or literally "Greatest Bridge-builder," pont- being the Latin oblique case root for the English word "bridge."
Bridge-builder between Earth and Heaven, between Man and God, isn't that the perfect description of a priest?
For easier comparison here are the two reverses side by side--
We can only imagine Domitian returning to the Praetorian Camp, newly surrounded by his state-appointed bodyguard of lictors, shortly after noon on September 16, and pressing into his empress's hands a handful of coins, still warm from the mint.
"TR P, how wonderful, darling!" she exclaims. "We're safe now, we can go home. Of course this is your all brother's fault--"
"Yes, I know."
"If he had done the right thing a year ago--I believe I said something at the time--we would have TR P and we'd be home already instead of sweating it out in this horrible place."
"Yes, well, all water under the bridge now. Are we packed for Alba?"
"Yes, all packed. But...." She furrows her almost-manly* brow.
"What's the matter, my love?" he asks her.
"Oh nothing. Some of the coins are different from the others is all. Why do some say 'P M' and some say 'PONT?'"
"Same difference. They both mean Pontifex Maximus. That's me, you know."
"I know that much, silly."
"Well, when I see PONT, it makes me think of a bridge, and then I wonder, what bridge?"
"What bridge?" he repeats, puzzled.
"A bridge from what to what, from one emperor to the next emperor? From Titus to you, or from you to, um, some other emperor?"
"Hmm...." Now it's Domitian's brow that furrows.
She takes him in a close embrace. "Baby, it just makes you seem so, I don't know, temporary."
Since the last thing a brand new emperor wants to seem is temporary, before the short ride south to Alba Longa, Domitian sends an urgent message to the mint--
PM ONLY FROM NOW ON. STOP. STOP STRIKING PONTS. STOP.
*Has anybody else ever noticed the profound family resemblance between Domitian and his wife and distant cousin Domitia? Compare these two obverse images from two Cistophoric 4drs from Asia--
I swear, switch wigs and you wouldn't know who was who.
* * *
Still another column about Domitian's earliest coinage, in case anybody's counting. I know I've mentioned it before. If I had to do it all over again, I would specialize in Domitian's first six months and ignore everything else. There is just so much there!
But, water under the bridge.
Next time: The Sinister Side of Domitian, Part I