MA-Shops: Sulla and Venus. A new coin tradition. Part 2

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Post 15.03.2017Coins minted during the time of Sulla 85-79 B.C. – Part 2 of 2

It was tradition during the time of the Late Republic that coins were minted with a iconography that was related to the family of the moneyers (the so called Triumviri monetales). Coins were a part of the group of media that propagated the ancestors of important families in Rome.1 These media consists of monuments, buildings, statues with their inscriptions, the games and celebrations held in Rome, paintings, triumphs and of course coins.2 This this particular medium referred to family-gods and virtues and to which famous people these families we related. Furthermore, the achievements of ancestors in several areas like military, politics and religion where used in these media. During 85-79 B.C. a new nature of coins in the Late Republic appeared, namely a tradition that is characterized by references to contemporary events and persons. Sulla had Venus as his personal deity because he thought his military achievements were successful because of her.3 It seems that therefor a lot of coins during this period had the reference to Venus.

A few examples will be illustrated in this blog of the Venus types during the period 85-73 B.C. The first example is from a type of coin that is minted in 84 or 83 B.C. on the name of Sulla himself but during ordinary circumstances. It is therefore partly odd that this coin referred to his favourite deity. So it is still a small but probably an important break with the current coin tradition in this period, this coin referred to a contemporary person although it is not surprising that Sulla choose for Venus. Furthermore we should keep in mind that this first coin was not minted in Rome but on a traveling mint with the army of Sulla.4 The second coin that will be discussed is a denarius that was minted around the year 85 B.C. by the quaestor of Sulla named L. Licinius Lucullus. This coin also displays Venus. By the minting of this coin something more strange happened than with the first example. This coin referred to someone else, namely Sulla, instead to the family of the moneyer.5 What the precise intentions were for Licinius is unknown but it isn’t strange to think that this coin was to flatter Sulla.

1 See for a good overview of these coins: Flower, H. (1996). Ancestor masks and aristocratic power in Roman culture. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 333-338.

2 Flower, Ancestor masks, 79-88.; Crawford, Roman Republican coinage, 712-734.

3 Plut. Sulla 19.5, 34.2.

4 Crawford 359/1; there was also a denarius minted with the same iconography Crawford 359/2

5 Crawford 375; Fig 1

The third coin is a similar coin but is unfortunately minted by an anonymous moneyer. The iconography of the coin displays Venus of course but also EX-SC and it is unknown were this issue is minted precisely.6 

The last example is a coin minted in the year 82 B.C.

ar;denarius 82BC. Roman Republic L.Censorinus with P. Crepusius and C.Limetanus

Denarius 82 BC.  L. Censorinus with P. Crepusius and C. Limetanus

350.00 US$

A coin that was minted by three moneyers L. Marcius Censorinus, P. Crepusius, and C. Mamilius Limetanus.7 

This coin also has the portrait of Venus. This coin is probably minted to congratulate Sulla with his dictatorship.8

6 Crawford 384/1

7 Crawford 360/1a/b; fig.2

8 Luce, T. (1968). Political Propaganda on Roman Republican Coins: Circa 92-82 B. C. American Journal of Archaeology, 72(1), 25-39

The coins that I have illustrated above are in contrast with the coin tradition of the first part of the Late Republic in Rome. These coins don’t refer to the family’s past of the moneyer but to contemporary event and persons, and in this case to Sulla. It seems safe to conclude that we can detect a new phenomenon in Rome’s monetary history here. Although it is now a little bit indirect with a reference to Venus. Later in the Late Roman Republic there are people like Marcus Antonius, Julius Caesar, Octavianus and Brutus who are very direct in propagating themselves with sometimes even their own portrait on the coins they are minting.

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