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Games of Sulla's Victory

Updated: Sep 12

Coins linked to Lucius Cornelius Sulla are one of the primary themes of my collection. The reverse on this coin references games that celebrate Sulla's victory at the Colline Gate. Here are two coins of this type:

M. Nonius Sufenas. Silver Denarius, 57 BC, Rome mint

Obv: SVFENAS before, S C behind, head of Saturn right; behind, harpa and conical stone

Rev: SEX NONI in exergue, PR L V P F around, Roma seated left on cuirass and shield, holding spear, crowned by Victory standing to left behind her, holding palm

Ref: Crawford 421/1; Sydenham 885; Nonia 1


The obverse is Saturn - recognizable from the harpa, associated with Saturn as a god of the harvest, and for the story of his castration of Uranus which led to the birth of Venus. The stone recalling the trick played on him by his wife Rhea, disguising a stone as the infant Jupiter to keep Jupiter from being eaten by his father.


The reverse of this coin provides the evidence that Sextus Nonius, was "PRaetor Ludos Victoriae Primus Fecit" ("Sextus Nonius as praetor first held the games of Victory"). The Ludi Victoriae Sullanae, in 81 BC honored Sulla's victory at the Colline Gate, Celebrated October 26th (through November 1?). Paterculus writes of this:


"The siege of Marius in Praeneste was directed by Ofella Lucretius, who had been a general on the Marian side but had deserted to Sulla. Sulla commemorated the great good fortune which fell to him on this day by instituting an annual festival of games held in the circus, which are still celebrated as the games of Sulla's victory."

-Vitellius Paterculus, Roman History, 2.27.6

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