Exceptional Sulla Portrait

    Q. Pomponius Rufus (54 BC). AR denarius (19mm, 3.86 gm, 8h). Head of the dictator Sulla, the moneyer's maternal grandfather, right; SVLLA before / Head of Q. Pompeius Rufus, the moneyer's paternal grandfather, right; Q POM RVFI before, RVFVS COS behind. Crawford 434/1. Sydenham 908. RSC Pompeia 4. Small area of roughness beneath Sulla's chin, otherwise a well-struck and lustrous Extremely Fine.

    The career of Lucius Cornelius Sulla served as a paradigm for the Roman imperators and emperors who came after him. Born in 138 BC to a prestigious but penniless patrician family, he joined to army and served under Marius in Africa, where he gained notoriety by engineering the capture of the rebel leader Jugurtha. He later served as a general in the Social War and won great popularity among the soldiery for his luck and pluck in battle (he later adopted the surname Felix, or "lucky"). Marriage to a wealthy woman, who conveniently died and left him an enormous legacy, helped launch his political career, which saw him reach the consulship in 88 BC. He obtained a coveted command against Mithradates of Pontus, which promised to reap a great deal of loot, but was outmaneuvered by his old mentor Marius, who had himself assigned to lead the expedition. Sulla refused to hand over his troops and instead led them in an assault on Rome itself, an unprecedented act. After a quick purge of political opponents, Sulla departed for the east to fight Mithridates, but Marius and the exiles soon returned and fought their way back to power. Sulla had to break off his Mithridatic campaign to return to Italy, where he again seized Rome and named himself dictator. He undertook savage reprisals against his enemies and stuffed his purse with their possessions. He ruled absolutely for three years, during which he rammed through a body of conservative laws intended to protect the power of aristocrats and keep the plebians down. This accomplished, he resigned the dictatorship in 79 BC and retired to a life of profound hedonistic decadence, from which he died less than a year later. His gaunt portrait appears on this denarius of his ancestor Q. Pompeius Rufus, backed by the head of an earlier, less controversial consul of the same name.

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    Auction Dates
    April, 2013
    18th-23rd Thursday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
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