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Sulla's grandson and a rare obverse die


After the first Social War (91-88 BC), in which Lucius Cornelius Sulla distinguished himself as a general especially in his defeat of the Samnites. He was elected consul in 88 BC with Quintus Pompeius Rufus. In the same year, his partnership with Pompeius was cemented with the marriage of Cornelia, the daughter of Sulla and his first wife Julia, and Q. Pompeius Rufus, the son of the co-consul.


Sulla, 50 years old, was married to his third wife, Cloelia, whom he pushed aside on grounds of sterility so that he could marry his fourth wife, Metella, establishing a valuable linkage with the powerful Metelli family. And another prized assignment went to Sulla in the same year, that of suppressing the revolt of Mithradates VI of Pontus. However, political maneuvers, led by Caius Marius and Publius Sulpicius Rufus, switched the assignment to Marius. Marius agreed to support Sulpicius’ legislative agenda and in exchange Marius would get command of the Mithridatic legions.


Sulla was driven to the home of Marius by a murderous mob raised by Sulpicius to promote the cause of Marius with the senate. This mob of Marius supporters murdered Sulla's son-in-law Quintus, the son of Pompeius married to Cornelia Sulla, and others.[Lives] Somehow the brief marriage of Cornelia and Quintus produced two children, Pompeia who would grow up to marry Julius Caesar, and Quintus Pompeius Rufus, same name as his father and grandfather, who would strike these coins as moneyer in 54 BC.


Crawford in Roman Republican Coinage counts 111 obverse dies for this issue in which Pompeius celebrates his paternal grandfather Q. Pompeius Rufus, and his maternal grandfather, Sulla.

Q. Pompeius Rufus, 54 BC, AR Denarius, Rome mint

Obv: Q. POMPEI. Q. F RVFVS above, curule chair flanked by arrow and laurel-branch; COS on raised tablet below

Rev: SVLLA. COS above, curule chair flanked by lituus and a wreath; Q. POMPEI. RVF on raised tablet below

Ref: Crawford 434/2


The corule chair on the reverse is a symbol of political power in the republic. Of the 111 known obverse dies for this coin - only one is produced the obverse legend on this coin - note the "RVRVS" on the obverse. This coin ex Jonathan P. Rosen Collection.

Two examples below of this obverse with two different reverse dies are in the British Museum Collection. The first one a double die match to my coin above.


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