Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 94   |   6 October 2016
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Lot 1





Estimate: 100'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 80'000 CHF Price realized: 85'000 CHF
The Roman Republic
L. Cornelius Sulla Imperator with L. Manlius Torquatus Proquaestor. Aureus, mint moving with Sulla 82, AV 10.78 g. L·MANLI – PRO Q. Helmeted head of Roma r. Rev. Triumphator, crowned by flying Victory in quadriga r., holding reins and caduceus; in exergue, L·SVLLA·IM. Bahrfeldt 13. Babelon Manlia 3, Cornelia 38. Sydenham 756. ANS exhibit September 1996, 64 (this coin). Calicó 16. RBW 1385 (this coin). Crawford 367/4.
Very rare and among the finest specimens known of this intriguing issue.
Struck on a full flan and extremely fine
Ex Superior Galleries May 1988, Moreira, 1736; Leu 52, 1991, 144; Triton III, 1999, 816 and NAC 63, RBW part II, 161 sales. In the Roman Republic gold coinage was struck only on rare occasions. It was introduced during the Second Punic War, when Rome and her Italian allies struggled to defeat the Carthaginian invader Hannibal, and it was not struck again for nearly 125 years. This next occasion was a crisis that equally tested the Romans, the uprising of their Italian allies in 91 B.C. After suffering initial defeats, Rome was able in 90 and 89 to satisfy most of its former allies with promises of Roman citizenship. Despite Rome pacified most of its opponents, the Samnites continued to resist, and in 88 even appealed to king Mithradates VI of Pontus for help. Mithradates sent financial aid and, in the meantime, he caused the murder of 80,000 Romans and Italians living in Asia before ravaging Roman territories in Asia Minor and Greece. These two crises – the resistance of the Samnites and the aggressions of Mithradates – set the stage for a conflict between the Roman warlords Sulla and Marius. Despite many tribulations, Sulla overcame all of his opponents, in part by unleashing Rome’s own armies against the capital, something which had never before occurred. Sulla was able to impose what later Roman historians called the Regnum Sullanum, a dictatorial era during which he executed his enemies with appalling cruelty. However, he eventually restored the senate’s power, and in 79 retired to Campania shortly before he died. This rare aureus celebrates the triumphs Sulla was awarded for his defeat of Mithradates, and of the Samnites at the Battle of the Colline Gate in 82. On the reverse a triumphal quadriga bears the figure of Sulla, who is crowned by a Victory flying above. The inscription L SVLLA IM makes it clear that Sulla is the figure in the quadriga. This aspect should not be overlooked, for it is an early example of a Roman coin depicting a living person – something that would eventually become a defining feature of coins of the Imperatorial period. In this aureus we have a precursor to the royal portraiture initiated by Julius Caesar nearly four decades later. Also, since this coin was issued either contemporarily or soon after Sulla’s triumphal procession through the streets of Rome, it serves as a document of that great event.

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