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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 61, Lot: 1560. Estimate $2000. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 25 September 2002. 
Sold For $1750. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

L. Aemilius Buca. January 44 BC. AR Denarius (4.15 gm). Diademed head of Venus Victrix right / Allegedly “Sulla’s Dream” - Reclining male figure left; before him, Luna seated left on rock, extending lighted torch in right hand; behind him, Victory standing almost to front, holding cursor’s long palmae staff in raised right hand. Crawford 480/1; Sear, CRI 164; Sydenham 1064; Aemilia 12; A. Alföldi, Monarchie, pl. 1.1-4; Kraay, Num Chron 1954, pl. 4, 3. Good VF, slightly uneven strike. Very rare. ($2000)

From the Tony Hardy Collection.

Plutarch relates that while Sulla was marching on Rome in 82 B.C., “It is said, also, that there appeared to Sulla himself, in a dream, a certain godess, whom the Romans learnt to worship from the Cappadocians, whether it be the Moon, or Pallas, or Bellona. This same goddess, to his thinking, stood by him, and put into his hand thunder and lightning, then naming his enemies one by one, bade him strike them/” The lack of any war-like thunderbolts and the improbabilit that Luna was the goddess involved, would seem to indicate that the reverse scene of this coin is not a representation of such an insignificant event as the vaguely reported dream of Sulla. It is also much more likely that the protagonist goddess of the reputed dream was the early Roma war goddess Bellonna, identified wit Ma the Mother Goddess of Cappadocia. The earlier suggestion by Babelon and Oman that the reverese scene represents the myth of Selene, who fell in love with the handsome shepherd Endymion and caused her father Zeus to cast him into eternal sleep in a cave on Mount Latmos, does not explain the presence of Victory in the background.

Analternative interpretation for this scene is that it is a very early Caesarian posthumous issue and portrays the apotheosis of Julius Caesar. A victorious and heroic figure reclining on a bier greeted by Luna, patroness of Caesar’s great publc spectacles, with the uright torch of immortality, may be seen as indicating Divus Julius.