Search in The Coin Shop

CNG Bidding Platform


Products and Services

The Coin Shop


L. Sulla. 84-83 BC. AR Denarius (19.5mm, 3.96 g, 12h). Military mint moving with Sulla. Diademed head of Venus right; to right, Cupid standing left, holding palm frond / Capis and lituus between two trophies. Crawford 359/2; Sydenham 761a; Cornelia 30; RBW 1364. Broad flan; obverse struck from slightly worn die. Near EF.

Ex Numismatica Ars Classica 10 (9 April 1997), lot 1324.

This coin is from the first issue of Sulla, struck in his army camp while marching toward the allies of his nemesis, Marius, in Rome. He is the first of the great imperatores of Rome to issue his own personal coinage without the authority of the Senate, the majority of whose members were allied to the Republican-minded Marius.

The iconography of this issue is telling of the self-promotion of Sulla, as the types and legends only refer to himself rather than some ancestor as was typical of the Republican coinage up to that time. Venus appears as she is the patron of Sulla, whom he regards as responsible for his successes for which he received his two acclamations of imperator by his troops. These two acclamations are commemorated by the reverse; the legend and the two trophies are overt references. The jug and lituus, though, are more subtle, but also probably symbolic of his claim to imperium rather than a reference to his holding a position in one of the priestly colleges in Rome. This issue, which transformed Roman coinage into a form of overt propaganda for the issuer (rather than his family), set a precedent which was followed by all the later imperatores and directly led to the development of the imperial coinage.