Sulla the Dictator

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by CharlesTheBald, Mar 25, 2023.

  1. CharlesTheBald

    CharlesTheBald Well-Known Member

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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: Helmeted head of Roma right, L MANLI PROQ
    REVERSE: Triumphator in quadriga right, crowned by Victory, L SVLLA IMP in ex.
    Rome 82 BC
    3.9g, 17mm
    Cr367/5; Cornelia39
  4. The Meat man

    The Meat man Supporter! Supporter

    Cool! I have a very similar type:


    Also funny you should start a topic like this because I have just recently purchased one of the famous Sulla portrait denarii (admittedly, a mediocre specimen but for the price I'm not complaining!)

  5. Dafydd

    Dafydd Supporter! Supporter


    This is my example.

    L. Cornelius Sulla. Denarius mint moving with Sulla 84-83, AR 18.5mm., 3.77g. Diademed head of Venus r.; in Sydenham 761a. Crawford 359/2.
    r.; in r. field, Cupid standing l., holding palm branch; below, L·SVLLA. Rev. IMPER Jug and lituus between two trophies; below, ITERV. Babelon Cornelia 30.

    Ex Gorny & Mosch sale 176, 2009, 1864.
  6. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    Don't have a Sulla coin, just sharing this:
    After the fall of Praeneste, where according to ancient sources about 50,000 died, Sulla used the name Felix (only the temple of Fortuna Primigenia was left standing when Sulla ordered the total destruction of the city) and systematically began to restore the power of the aristocratic party. He had himself elected as dictator perpetuo and with this started, but just not in name, a monarchical-absolutist rule in Rome.
    Sulla decided to get rid of all leaders and followers of the Populares, and published a first proscription list with 80 names. Every Roman who encountered one of the persons on this list had the duty to kill him. Every one that did this deed, even an executioner, received a “gift” of 12,000 denarii, and these payments were recorded in the official expenditure books.
    The list of the proscribed grew up to 4700 names, among them were 15 former consuls, 90 senators and more than 2000 equestres.
    The rule of Sulla was short; he retired in 79 BC to his fabulous Villa in Cumae, where he started to write his memoirs – they are not preserved - and a quick death surprised him in 78 BC. Fortuna was definitely with him....
  7. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    I think the Sulla denarius is the first Roman coin ever to show the image of a living person. On the reverse one can see Sulla crowned by Victory and driving the triumphal quadriga.

    Ancient Greek and Roman coins never represented living people, unless they were kings (or satraps in the Achemenid Empire). So you can see gods and heroes, kings (or assimilated) and deceased people (assimilated to heroes). Showing a living person who was not a king on a coin was a great taboo. Julius Caesar was assassinated for that: denarii with his portrait started to be minted a few weeks before 3/15/BC44...

    This taboo is still valid, at least in Europe. On our €uro coins we can see the images of Felipe king of Spain, Philippe king of the Belgians, Willem Alexander king of the Netherlands, Henri grand duke of Luxembourg... But no president or prime minister for the countries which are republics. Even under the IIIrd Reich German coins never depicted the Fuehrer, even the USSR did not have Stalin on the coins. When France was occupied by Germany from 1940 to 1944 the Vichy regime attempted to mint coins with the head of Marechal Pétain. The Germans said it was streng verboten and these coins never circulated.

    Thus, the Sulla triumphal denarius is an interesting document: it's Sulla, but so small one cannot be certain... If people had started to protest saying Sulla was attempting to pose as king and restore monarchy in Rome, they could pretend it was not him, just the parking valet.
  8. CharlesTheBald

    CharlesTheBald Well-Known Member

    No living president of the US can be on any coins or bills, they must be deceased at least 2 years previous and I believe it requires an act of Congress to allow it (FDR on the dime, JFK on the half dollar, Eisenhower on the dollar, recently deceased president(s) on the presidential dollars).
  9. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    The oldest coin with the head of a living Roman is an Aureus of Titus Quinctius Flaminius (consul 198 BC), struck in 196 BC (RRC 548/1a):

    As for Julius Caesar, the type Bithynia, Nicaea, BMC Nicea 8, RPC I 2026, Proconsul C. Vibius Pansa was the first anywhere to feature the portrait of Julius Caesar. C. Vibius Pansa was part of the Caesarian faction at Rome and probably owed his proconsulship to his patron.
    Mr.MonkeySwag96 likes this.
  10. Mr.MonkeySwag96

    Mr.MonkeySwag96 Well-Known Member


    Roman Republic, L. Sulla & L. Manlius Torquatus, 82 BC Silver Denarius, Military Mint Moving with Sulla, 17mm, 4.01 grams Obverse: Helmeted head of Roma right. Reverse: Sulla holding branch and reings driving triumphal quadriga right, Victory flying above crowning him with laurels. Crawford 367/5 // Manlia 4

    Ex. Ken Dorney
  11. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    You are right. But the T. Quinctius Flamininus aurei were not Roman coins. They were Greek coins and the proconsul's name was not on the same side as the portrait. In Greece, Roman consuls or proconsuls commanding the Roman legions overseas were seen as kings without a diadem. But this gold stater would never have been accepted in Rome... I suppose the same thing can be said of the Nicaea coins (Greek legends, and no written mention of Julius Cesar's name).
    Mr.MonkeySwag96 likes this.
  12. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    However, the British Museum categorizes it as Roman Republic period, the reference is RRC and he certainly was a Roman, the first living Roman depicted on a coin, even if it was minted in Greece and probably, if as you say, not accepted in Rome :)
    Mr.MonkeySwag96 likes this.
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