• sulla80

Unencrypting Crawford RRC

Updated: Jul 18


One of the cryptic codes that you can recognize in Crawford’s Roman Republican Coinage (RRC) is “RE” as for this coin in the sentence on p.330 for the coin that I will share today (Crawford 329 LENT. MAR. F.). Crawford's cryptic reference gives us a large volume of information in one sentence:


“The moneyer is P. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus, son of M. Claudius Marcellus (RE Claudius 226) and father of no. 393.”


In 100 BC, Marius was the consul for his 6th time, with L. Valerius Flaccus as co-consul. On December 10th, 100 BC, the senate declared a senatus consultum ultimum - the "ultimate decree of the senate" which overruled due process. They did this to take down Lucius Appuleius Saturninus, who was inciting violence in the interest of Marius. Before we get the the coin of Publius Cornelius Lentulus Marcellus, here is a coins of Saturninus from a few years earlier:

Lucius Appuleius Saturninus, 104 BC, AR Denarius, Rome mint

Obv: Helmeted head of Roma left

Rev: L.SATVRN, Saturn driving quadriga right, holding harpa and reins; B facing down with dot below

Ref: Crawford 317/3b; Sydenham 578a; Appuleia 1


What is RE?

The RE refers to this publication in German: Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, a publication of August Friedrich Pauly (1796–1845) and was revised by Georg Wissowa (1859–1931)and published in 1890 and completed in 1980…and for which a nmber of volumes are now available on-line. This is a helpful place to visit with the references from Crawford.


Who is our moneyer?

Let’s start with info about our moneyer, who is also in RE, as Cornelius 230.


P. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus,was the biological son of M. Claudius Marcellus (Claudius 226), brother of M. Claudius Marcellus Aeserninus, like his father was respected as a speaker(Cicero, Brutus, 136) It is not known which (P.)? Lentulus adopted him.


Cicero describes our moneyer, P. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus, and his father, M. Marcellus, favorably as a speakers. And the brother of the moneyer was “Aeserninus”.


“M. Marcellus, the father of Aeserninus, though not reckoned a professed pleader, was a prompt, and, in some degree, a practiced speaker; as was also his son P. Lentulus.”

-Cicero, Brutus, 136


He was a moneyer around 90 BC (Crawford assigns this moneyer to 100 BC). Unlike P. Lentulus Sura, he names himself on his coins after his biological father LENT(ulus) MAR(celli) f(ilius). His wife was Cornelia (No. 411), and his sons Cn. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus and P. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus (No. 228 and 231).


Who was his father?

RE Claudius 226 gives us a few clues about the moneyer of this coin and much more about his father. Here I've expanded the sources and added links so that we can read most of the references.


Legate to Marius

In 652 AUC / 102 BC, M. Claudius Marcellus was legate to C. Marius, general, 7-time consul of the Roman republic, commander and eventually rival to Sulla in civil wars. Marcellus was an important contributor to the victories at Aquae Sextae:


“At Aquae Sextiae, Marius, purposing to fight a decisive battle with the Teutons on the morrow, sent Marcellus by night with a small detachment of horse and foot to the rear of the enemy, and, to complete the illusion of a large force, ordered armed grooms and camp-followers to go along with them, and also a large part of the pack-animals, wearing saddle-cloths, in order by this means to present the appearance of cavalry. He commanded these men to fall upon the enemy from the rear, as soon as they should notice that the engagement had begun. This scheme struck such terror into the enemy that despite their great ferocity they turned and fled.”

- Sextus Julius Frontinus, Stratagems, II.4.6


“But Marius, sending his officers to all parts of the line, exhorted the soldiers to stand firmly in their lines, and when the enemy had got within reach to hurl their javelins, then take to their swords and crowd the Barbarians back with their shields; for since the enemy were on precarious ground their blows would have no force and the locking of their shields no strength, but the unevenness of the ground would keep them turning and tossing about. This was the advice he gave his men, and they saw that he was first to act accordingly; for he was in better training than any of them, and in daring far surpassed them all.”

- Plutarch, Lives, Marius 20.5


“For Marcellus had watched his opportunity, and when the cries of battle were borne up over the hills he put his men upon the run and fell with loud shouts upon the enemy's rear, where he cut down the hindmost of them.”

- Plutarch, Lives, Marius 21.1


Acquitted in Court

L. Licinius Crassus, who died in 663 AUC / 91 BC , appeared as a witness against him in one trial, but Marcellus was nevertheless acquitted.


“Who is there who does not know how great was the modesty, how great the abilities, how great the influence of Lucius Crassus? And yet he, whose mere conversation had the authority of evidence, could not, by his actual evidence, establish the things which he had stated against Marcus Marcellus with hostile feelings.”

- Cicero for Marcus Fonteius, 24


And a similar reference to Lucius Crassus speaking passionately and thunderously against Marcellus to judges and senators in Valerius Maximus VIII.5.3


Legate to Sextus Julius Caesar in the Social Wars

In the Social war of 664 AUC / 90 BC, he was legate of the Consul Sextus Julius Caesar and after his defeat was locked in the fortress Aesernia in Samnium. The city was cut off from all aid, and withstood a lengthy siege before hunger forced a surrender.


“To show the varying fortunes of war, the colony at Aeserna, together with Marcus Marcellus, fell in the hands of the Samnites, but Gaius Marius routed the Marsians, and Hierius Asinius, the commander of the Marrucinians, was killed.”

-Livy Periochae 73.9


“Vettius Scaton [Italian commander against Rome] defeated Sextus Julius, killed 200 of his men, and marched against Aesernia, which adhered to Rome. L. Scipio and L. Acilius, who were in command here, escaped in the disguise of slaves. The enemy, after a considerable time, reduced it by famine.”

- Appian, Civil Wars, I.40


If a son of Marcellus, who was a youth in 684 AUC / 70 BC and therefore born at the time of this battle, had the nickname Aeserninus, this might not be a mockery of the father, but rather in honor of his valiant defense of Aesernia.


“And in the first place, O judges, that man said that the people of Tyndaris had sold this statue to Caius Marcellus Aeserninus, who is here present. And he hoped that Caius Marcellus himself would assert thus much for his sake though it never seemed to me to be very likely that a young man born in that rank, the patron of Sicily, would lend his name to that fellow to enable him to transfer his guilt to another.”

- Cicero, Against Verres, 2.4.91


Judge in a Trial argued by Cicero

He is also likely the M. Marcellus, who, in 673 AUC / 81 BC, was one of the judges of P. Quinctius.


“I ask of you, Caius Aquillius, Lucius Lucilius, Publius Quintilius, and Marcus Marcellus—A certain partner and relation of mine has not appeared to his recognizances; a man with whom I have a long standing intimacy, but a recent dispute about money matters. Can I demand of the praetor to be allowed to take possession of his goods?”

-Cicero, for Publius Quinctus, 54


More speculatively

He could also be the aedile of the same name from 663 AUC / 91 (cf. No. 227. Mommsen Herm. XX282).


Borghesi (Oeuvres II 309f.) Suspects that he might have been the originator of the lex Clodia de victoriatis, the Plin. n. h. XXXIII 46 mentioned, and which may have been issued around the year 650 AUC / 104 BC (cf. Mommsen Münzw. 399; Tr. Bl. II 104ff.), but this is quite uncertain.


“Shortly after, in accordance with the Law of Papirius, asses were coined weighing half an ounce only. Livius Drusus, when tribune of the people, alloyed the silver with one-eighth part of copper. The coin that is known at the present day as the "victoriatus", [lege Clodia percussus est] which was first struck in accordance with the Clodian Law: before which period, a coin of this name was imported from Illyricum, but was only looked upon as an article of merchandise. The impression upon it is a figure of Victory, and hence its name.”

- Pliny, Natural History, XXXIII.46


After chasing down the references, I almost forgot to share the coin.

P. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus, 100 BC, AR Denarius (17.5mm, 3.08 g, 11h), Rome mint

Obv: Bareheaded bust of young Hercules right, seen from behind, wearing lion skin and holding club; to left, shield and •/R /

Rev: LENT.MAR.F. Roma standing facing, holding spear, being crowned by Genius of the Roman People, holding wreath and cornucopia; •/R between them; all within laurel wreath

Ref: Crawford 329/1a; Sydenham 604; Cornelia 25; RBW 1186 var. (control letter)

Note: ex CNG, from the "Benito Collection", formed by the Spanish ambassador Ramón Sáenz de Heredia y Alonso, who passed away in 2016.


The surprise with this coin is that it appears in the Richard Schaefer die notebooks which adds a bit of provenance to this coin: from Andrew McCabe.



21 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All