• sulla80

Where to start and end?

Updated: 3 days ago

The question often posed by family members caught up with me this morning: "Is your collection done?" A fair question, but not one I have an easy answer for.

My collection of RR denarii started with a fourree denarius of L. Piso Frugi from the Social Wars that led to Rome granting citizenship to the Italians and dominating the Italian peninsula. It is a coin that I no longer own, that initiated my interest in Roman republican denarii more than 40 years ago. Eventually the focus moved to "Coins related to the time of Lucius Cornelius Sulla" and hence the title of this blog.


While this is true, the reality is that the path hasn't been linear and looking at the coins that I own, even I can't declare this focus as obvious. Mostly I have purchased coins that I find historically interesting and/or aesthetically pleasing, gravitating toward the 1st century BC. Connections to Sulla during this period are hard to avoid given Rome's influence on the western world of the time and Sulla's influence and impact on the politics and history of the Roman republic.

Is the collection complete? Where are the boundaries? Perhaps I could define some...

- a coin from each Crawford series between the first and last year of Sulla as consul or dictator. By this measure I am fairly close to complete, however there is at least one coin that I cannot expect to own: Crawford 358, known by only one example that probably depicts L. Cornelius Sulla in triumph from ~81 BC:


Not my coin, see: Campana, A. (2019). IL DENARIO DI LATERENSES (RRC 358/1). Monete Antiche, 104.


Even excluding this unique coin, I am still missing several Crawford numbers that are more common and then there are coins that seem relevant that would not fit this category - such as the Athenian New Style Tetradrachm issued by Sulla or the denarii of his son Faustus Cornelius Sulla. And what of the coins of Mithridates, rival to Sulla in the First Mithridatic War? And what of the many variants and other denominations and control marks, and coins of different styles, and the Parthians, encountered first in a diplomatic mission led by Sulla, or the American revolutionaries who were inspired by Rome's history and saw cautionary examples in the end of the republic to which Sulla was a key contributor... can there be any such thing as "done"?


In a book published by Spink in 1903: Roman Coins, Elementary Manual by Francesco Gnecchi, translated by Alfred Watson Hands, Gnecchi writes:


"Among a hundred individuals who begin to collect one can count on ninety at least setting to work on a general collection, and that because nearly all are ignorant of the vastness of the material before them."


I have to admit that I am forming a general collection with a focus on the first century BC, centered on the life of Sulla an the Roman republic, but the collection has and will likely continue to wander far from there. Today, certainly aware of the vastness of the material, I am content with an incomplete (never complete?), but carefully chosen selection. For coins that are all uniquely struck by hand perhaps there is no other choice.


A recent addition was a beautiful example from the son of L. Piso Frugi who's coin was imitated by my first Roman Republican denarius.

C. Calpurnius L.f. Frugi, 61 BC, Denarius, Rome

Obv: Laureate head of Apollo to right; behind, standing eagle behind

Rev: C PISO L F FRVGI Horseman galloping right, winged, not wearing a hat, carrying nothing, with scorpion behind

Ref: Babelon (Calpurnia) 24. Crawford 408/1b. RBW, 319 in Hersh's 1976 catalogue of die combinations which is Obverse die 4 with Reverse die 10007 from Hersh C. (1976). A Study of the Coinage of the Moneyer C. Calpurnius Piso L. F. Frugi. The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-),16 (136), 7-63.


For now my collection is not complete, but it is satisfying with many examples of the coins from the period of history that I find both fascinating and vast enough to keep me entertained.


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