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(503f) Cn. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus Silver Denarius87 viewsCn. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus Silver Denarius, Sear-323, Cr-393/1a, Syd-752, RSC-Cornelia 54, struck 76-75 BC at Spanish Mint, 3.94 grams, 18 mm. EF. Obverse: GPR above Diademed, draped and bearded bust of the Genius of the Roman People facing right, sceptre over shoulder; Reverse: EX in left field, SC in right field; CN LEN Q in exergue, Sceptre with wreath, terrestrial globe and rudder. An exceptional example that is especially well centered and struck on a slightly larger flan than normally encountered with fully lustrous surfaces and a most attractive irridescent antique toning. Held back from the Superb EF/FDC by a small banker's mark in the right obverse field, but still worthy of the finest collection of Roman Republican denarii. Ex Glenn Woods.


“Cn. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus may be the same moneyer whose issues have been already described (no.s 702-704). Mommsen suggested that these coins were struck in 74 B.C. as a special issue, authorized by the Senate, to defray the cost of armaments against Mithridates of Pontus and the Mediterranean pirates. But Grueber’s view that they were struck in 76 B.C. by Cn. Cornelius Lentulus acting in the capacity of quaestor of Pompey, seems more in accordance with the evidence of finds" (see: G. ii, p. 359n and The Coinage of the Roman Republic, by Edward A. Sydenham, 1976, pgs. 1).

H. A. Seaby shows the coin with the smaller head (Roman Silver Coins Vol. I, Republic to Augustus pg. 33) while David R Sear shows a coin sporting a larger version (Roman Coins and Their Values, pg. 132).

“Cn. Lentulus strikes in Spain in his capacity as quaestor to the proconsul Pompey, who had been sent to the peninsula to assist Q. Caecillus Metellus Piusagainst sertorius”(Roman Coins and Their Values, by David Sear, Vol.1, 2000, pg. 132).

This is not an imperatorial minted coin for Pompey. At the time these coins were minted the Procounsel Pompey was sent to Spain to aid in the war against Sertorius. The moneyer Cn Lentulus served as his Quaestor where he continued to mint coins for Rome.

CN = Cneaus; LEN = Lentulus

Cneaus was his first name. His last, or family name is Lentulus and this clan is a lesser clan within the Cornelii, which is what his middle name of Cornelius implies.

Q = This tells us that he was a Quaestor, or Roman magistrate with judicial powers at the time when the coin was issued, with the responsibility for the treasury. Had this been a position that he once held it would be noted on the coin as PROQ or pro [past] Questor.

For Further Reading on the Cornelia 54 & 55:

Coins of the Roman Republic in the British Museum, by H. A. Grueber. London, 1910, Vol. II, pgs. 358, 359, 52, 57

Roman Silver Coins Vol. I, Republic to Augustus, by H.A.Seaby 1952, pgs. 32-33

The Coinage of the Roman Republic, by Edward A. Sydenham, 1976, pgs. 122, 241

Roman Coins and Their Values, by David Sear, Vol.1, 2000, pg. 132, 133

Roman Republican Coinage Volume I by Michael H. Crawford 2001, pg. 407

by Jerry Edward Cornelius, April 2006, THE 81 ROMAN COINS OF THE CORNELIA
1 commentsCleisthenes
601, Julius Caesar, Imperator and Dictator, assassinated 15 March 44 B.C.55 viewsJulius Caesar AR Denarius 40 B.C. 20 mm, 3.6 gm; aVF; Moving mint. 49-48 BC. Obverse: Pontifical emblems culullus, aspergillum, axe, and apex. Reverse: elephant right trampling dragon; CAESAR in exergue. Ex Windsor Antiquities.

It is not possible to adequately discuss Gaius Julius Caesar within the constraints of this gallery. He was born on either the 12th or the 13th of July in 100 B.C. [most scholars agree upon this date, but it is debated], and he was assassinated on 15 March 44 B.C.

Caesar is arguably the most important figure in Roman history; only Augustus and, perhaps, Constantine the Great made contributions of equivalent magnitude. Caesar was a truly gifted writer, orator, politician and soldier .

Library and book store shelves are crowded with a variety of biographies on the great man. Christian Meier, professor of Ancient History at the University of Munich, has written a scholarly as well as intriguing biography of Caesar. It is simply titled Caesar. It was first published in Germany in 1982, and a recently published paper back translation by David McLintock is now available from Fontana Press (a subsidiary of HarperCollins Publishers).

Caesar is fascinating.

J. P. Fitzgerald, Jr.
1 commentsCleisthenes
709a, Vitellius, 2 January - 20 December 69 A.D.44 viewsVITELLIUS AR silver denarius. RSC 72, RCV 2200. 19mm, 3.2 g. Obverse: A VITELLIVS GERM IMP AVG TR P, laureate head right; Reverse - PONT MAXIM, Vesta seated right, holding scepter and patera. Quite decent. Ex. Incitatus Coins. Photo courtesy of Incitatus Coins.

De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and their Families

Vitellius (69 A.D.)

John F. Donahue
College of William and Mary

It is often difficult to separate fact from fiction in assessing the life and reign of Vitellius. Maligned in the ancient sources as gluttonous and cruel, he was also a victim of a hostile biographical tradition established in the regime of the Flavians who had overthrown him. Nevertheless, his decision to march against Rome in 69 was pivotal, since his subsequent defeat signalled the end of military anarchy and the beginning of an extended period of political stability under Vespasian and his successors.

Early Life and Career

Aulus Vitellius was born in September, 15 AD, the son of Lucius Vitellius and his wife Sestilia. One of the most successful public figures of the Julio-Claudian period, Lucius Vitellius was a three-time consul and a fellow censor with the emperor Claudius. Aulus seems to have moved with equal ease in aristocratic circles, successively winning the attention of the emperors Gaius, Claudius, and Nero through flattery and political skill.

Among his attested public offices, Vitellius was a curator of public works, a senatorial post concerned with the maintenance and repair of public buildings in Rome, and he was also proconsul of North Africa, where he served as a deputy to his brother, perhaps about 55 A. D. In addition, he held at least two priesthoods, the first as a member of the Arval Brethren, in whose rituals he participated from 57 A.D., and the second, as one of the quindecemviri sacris faciundis, a sacred college famous for its feasts.

With respect to marriage and family, Vitellius first wed a certain Petroniana, the daughter of a consul, sometime in the early to mid thirties A.D. The union produced a son, Petronianus, allegedly blind in one eye and emancipated from his father's control as a result of being named his mother's heir. Tradition records that Vitellius killed the boy shortly after emancipation amid charges of parricide; the marriage soon ended in divorce. A second marriage, to Galeria Fundana, daughter of an ex-praetor, was more stable than the first. It produced another son, who was eventually killed by the Flavians after the overthrow of Vitellius, as well as a daughter. Galeria is praised by Tacitus for her good qualities, and in the end it was she who saw to Vitellius' burial.

Rise to Power and Emperorship

Without doubt, the most fortuitous moment in Vitellius' political career was his appointment as governor of Lower Germany by the emperor Galba late in 68. The decision seemed to have caught everybody by surprise, including Vitellius himself, who, according to Suetonius, was in straitened circumstances at the time. The choice may have been made to reduce the possibility of rebellion by the Rhine armies, disaffected by Galba's refusal to reward them for their part in suppressing the earlier uprising of Julius Vindex. Ironically, it was Vitellius' lack of military achievement and his reputation for gambling and gluttony that may have also figured in his selection. Galba perhaps calculated that a man with little military experience who could now plunder a province to satisfy his own stomach would never become disloyal. If so, it was a critical misjudgement by the emperor.

The rebellion began on January 1, 69 ("The Year of the Four Emperors"), when the legions of Upper Germany refused to renew their oath of allegiance to Galba. On January 2, Vitellius' own men, having heard of the previous day's events, saluted him as emperor at the instigation of the legionary legate Fabius Valens and his colleagues. Soon, in addition to the seven legions that Vitellius now had at his command in both Germanies, the forces in Gaul, Britain, and Raetia also came over to his side. Perhaps aware of his military inexperience, Vitellius did not immediately march on Rome himself. Instead, the advance was led by Valens and another legionary general, Aulus Caecina Alienus, with each man commanding a separate column. Vitellius would remain behind to mobilize a reserve force and follow later.

Caecina was already one hundred fifty miles on his way when news reached him that Galba had been overthrown and Otho had taken his place as emperor. Undeterred, he passed rapidly down the eastern borders of Gaul; Valens followed a more westerly route, quelling a mutiny along the way. By March both armies had successfully crossed the Alps and joined at Cremona, just north of the Po. Here they launced their Batavian auxiliaries against Otho's troops and routed them in the First Battle of Bedriacum. Otho killed himself on April 16, and three days later the soldiers in Rome swore their allegience to Vitellius. The senate too hailed him as emperor.

When Vitellius learned of these developments, he set out to Rome from Gaul. By all accounts the journey was a drunken feast marked by the lack of discipline of both the troops and the imperial entourage. Along the way he stopped at Lugdunum to present his six-year-old son Germanicus to the legions as his eventual successor. Later, at Cremona, Vitellius witnessed the corpse-filled battlefield of Otho's recent defeat with joy, unmoved by so many citizens denied a proper burial.

The emperor entered Rome in late June-early July. Conscious of making a break with the Julio-Claudian past, Vitellius was reluctant to assume the traditional titles of the princes, even though he enthusiastically made offerings to Nero and declared himself consul for life. To his credit, Vitellius did seem to show a measure of moderation in the transition to the principate. He assumed his powers gradually and was generally lenient to Otho's supporters, even pardoning Otho's brother Salvius Titianus, who had played a key role in the earlier regime. In addition, he participated in Senate meetings and continued the practice of providing entertainments for the Roman masses. An important practical change involved the awarding of posts customarily held by freedmen to equites, an indication of the growth of the imperial bureaucracy and its attractiveness to men of ambition.

In other matters, he replaced the existing praetorian guard and urban cohorts with sixteen praetorian cohorts and four urban units, all comprised of soldiers from the German armies. According to Tacitus, the decision prompted a mad scramble, with the men, and not their officers, choosing the branch of service that they preferred. The situation was clearly unsatisfactory but not surprising, given that Vitellius was a creation of his own troops. To secure his position further, he sent back to their old postings the legions that had fought for Otho, or he reassigned them to distant provinces. Yet discontent remained: the troops who had been defeated or betrayed at Bedriacum remained bitter, and detachments of three Moesian legions called upon by Otho were returned to their bases, having agitated against Vitellius at Aquileia.

Flavian Revolt

The Vitellian era at Rome was short-lived. By mid-July news had arrived that the legions of Egypt under Tiberius Julius Alexander had sworn allegiance to a rival emperor, Titus Flavius Vespasianus, the governor of Judaea and a successful and popular general. Vespasian was to hold Egypt while his colleague Mucianus, governor of Syria, was to invade Italy. Before the plan could be enacted, however, the Danube legions, former supporters of Otho, joined Vespasian's cause. Under the leadership of Antonius Primus, commander of the Sixth legion in Pannonia, and Cornelius Fuscus, imperial procurator in Illyricum, the legions made a rapid descent on Italy.

Although his forces were only half of what Vitellius commanded in Italy, Primus struck first before the emperor could muster additional reinforcements from Germany. To make matters worse for the Vitellians, Valens was ill, and Caecina, now consul, had begun collaborating with the Flavians. His troops refused to follow his lead, however, and arrested him at Hostilia near Cremona. They then joined the rest of the Vitellian forces trying to hold the Po River. With Vitellius still in Rome and his forces virtually leaderless, the two sides met in October in the Second Battle of Bedriacum. The emperor's troops were soundly defeated and Cremona was brutally sacked by the victors. In addition, Valens, whose health had recovered, was captured while raising an army for Vitellius in Gaul and Germany; he was eventually executed.

Meanwhile, Primus continued towards Rome. Vitellius made a weak attempt to thwart the advance at the Apennine passes, but his forces switched to the Flavian side without a fight at Narnia in mid-December. At Rome, matters were no better. Vespasian's elder brother, Titus Flavius Sabinus, the city prefect, was successful in an effort to convince Vitellius to abdicate but was frustrated by the mob in Rome and the emperor's soldiers. Forced to flee to the Capitol, Sabinus was set upon by Vitellius' German troops and soon killed, with the venerable Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus set ablaze in the process. Within two days, the Flavian army fought its way into Rome. In a pathetic final move, Vitellius disguised himself in dirty clothing and hid in the imperial doorkeeper's quarters, leaning a couch and a mattress against the door for protection. Dragged from his hiding place by the Flavian forces, he was hauled off half-naked to the Forum, where he was tortured, killed, and tossed into the Tiber. The principate could now pass to Vespasian.


Vitellius has not escaped the hostility of his biographers. While he may well have been gluttonous, his depiction as indolent, cruel, and extravagant is based almost entirely on the propaganda of his enemies. On the other hand, whatever moderating tendencies he did show were overshadowed by his clear lack of military expertise, a deficiency that forced him to rely in critical situations on largely inneffective lieutenants. As a result he was no match for his Flavian successors, and his humiliating demise was perfectly in keeping with the overall failure of his reign.

Copyright (C) 1999, John Donahue.
Published: De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and their Families Used by permission.

Edited by J. P. Fitzgerald, Jr.
712a, Domitian, 13 September 81 - 18 September 96 A.D.160 viewsDomitian, as Caesar, AR Denarius. 77-78 AD; RIC 242, VF, 18mm, 3.18grams. Obverse: CAESAR AVG F DOMITIA[NVS], laureate head right ; Reverse: COS V below man with hand raised out behind him on horse prancing right. RSC 49a. Scarce. Ex Zuzim Judaea.

De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and their Families

Titus Flavius Domitianus(A.D. 81-96)

John Donahue
College of William and Mary

Domitian was born in Rome on 24 October A.D. 51, the youngest son of Vespasian, Roman emperor (A.D. 69-79) and Domitilla I, a treasury clerk's daughter. Little is known about Domitian in the turbulent 18 months of the four (five?) emperors, but in the aftermath of the downfall of Vitellius in A.D. 69 he presented himself to the invading Flavian forces, was hailed as Caesar, and moved into the imperial residence.

As emperor, Domitian was to become one of Rome's foremost micromanagers, especially concerning the economy. Shortly after taking office, he raised the silver content of the denarius by about 12% (to the earlier level of Augustus), only to devaluate it in A.D. 85, when the imperial income must have proved insufficient to meet military and public expenses.

Domitian's reach extended well beyond the economy. Late in A.D. 85 he made himself censor perpetuus, censor for life, with a general supervision of conduct and morals. The move was without precedent and, although largely symbolic, it nevertheless revealed Domitian's obsessive interest in all aspects of Roman life. An ardent supporter of traditional Roman religion, he also closely identified himself with Minerva and Jupiter, publicly linking the latter divinity to his regime through the Ludi Capitolini, the Capitoline Games, begun in A.D.86. Held every four years in the early summer, the Games consisted of chariot races, athletics and gymnastics, and music, oratory and poetry.

Beyond Rome, Domitian taxed provincials rigorously and was not afraid to impose his will on officials of every rank. Consistent with his concern for the details of administration, he also made essential changes in the organization of several provinces and established the office of curator to investigate financial mismanagement in the cities. Other evidence points to a concern with civic improvements of all kinds, from road building in Asia Minor, Sardinia and near the Danube to building and defensive improvements in North Africa.

While the military abilities of Vespasian and Titus were genuine, those of Domitian were not. Partly as an attempt to remedy this deficiency, Domitian frequently became involved in his own military exploits outside of Rome. He claimed a triumph in A.D. 83 for subduing the Chatti in Gaul, but the conquest was illusory. Final victory did not really come until A.D. 89. In Britain, similar propaganda masked the withdrawal of Roman forces from the northern borders to positions farther south, a clear sign of Domitian's rejection of expansionist warfare in the province.

Domitian's autocratic tendencies meant that the real seat of power during his reign resided with his court. The features typically associated with later courts - a small band of favored courtiers, a keen interest in the bizarre and the unusual (e.g., wrestlers, jesters, and dwarves), and a highly mannered, if somewhat artificial atmosphere, characterized Domitian's palace too, whether at Rome or at his Alban villa, some 20 kilometers outside of the capital.

On 18 September, A.D. 96, Domitian was assassinated and was succeeded on the very same day by M. Cocceius Nerva, a senator and one of his amici. The sources are unanimous in stressing that this was a palace plot, yet it is difficult to determine the level of culpability among the various potential conspirators.
In many ways, Domitian is still a mystery - a lazy and licentious ruler by some accounts, an ambitious administrator and keeper of traditional Roman religion by others. As many of his economic, provincial, and military policies reveal, he was efficient and practical in much that he undertook, yet he also did nothing to hide the harsher despotic realities of his rule. This fact, combined with his solitary personality and frequent absences from Rome, guaranteed a harsh portrayal of his rule. The ultimate truths of his reign remain difficult to know.

Copyright (C) 1997, John Donahue.
Published: De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and their Families Used by permission.

Perhaps the reverse of this Domitian/Horseman specimen depicts Domitian as he rode a white horse behind his father, Vespasian, and his brother, Titus, during their joint triumph celebrating their victory over Judaea (see: Suetonius. The Twelve Caesars. Trans. Robert Graves. London: Penguin, 2003. 304).

Edited by J. P. Fitzgerald, Jr.
ROMAN IMPERATORIAL - Julius Caesar - AR Denarius68 viewsRome, The Imperators.
Julius Caesar, 48 BCE.
AR Denarius (3.71g; 20mm).

Obverse: Head of Venus facing right; LII behind.

Reverse: Trophy with Gallic shield, carnyx and axe; CAESAR below.

References: Crawford 452/2; Sydenham 1009; HCRI 11; RSC 18.

Provenance: Ex Student/Mentor Collection [NAC 83 (15 May 2015) Lot 407]; ex Glendining's October 1965, Lot 22.

The Roman numeral LII behind the goddess' head on the obverse of this coin is accepted as a reference to Caesar's age at the time of the issue. There is some disagreement on the identity of the obverse goddess. Crawford identifies her as Venus, who is often depicted on Caesar's coins. Sear, in History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators, suggests Clementia (clemency) as the goddess, and a reference to Caesar's fairness to his countrymen following the defeat of Pompey at Pharsalus.
4 commentsCarausius
TEMPLE, Augustus, AR Denarius MAR VLT586 viewsAugustus, AR Denarius (3.61 gm). Laureate head right, CAESARI AVGVSTO / Domed hexastyle temple of Mars Ultor (the Avenger) containing legionary eagle between two standards, MAR VLT. RIC I 105a (pg.48); BMCRE 373; RSC 190.4 commentssocalcoins
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