L. Manlius Torquatus

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AR Denarius, 17mm (3.96 gm), Struck 82 BC, Rome

OBVERSE
Head of Roma right, wearing winged helmet with peaked visor, cruciform earring and necklace; hair in three locks; L MANLI before and PRO Q behind

REVERSE
Sulla togate in triumphal quadriga right, holding branch and crowned by Victory flying above; L SVLLA IM in exergue

REFERENCES
RSC Manlia 4; RCV I 286; CRR 757

 
HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Lucius Manlius Torquatus was proquaestor to Lucius Cornelius Sulla during the 1st Mithradatic War (88 - 86 BC). The 1st Mithradatic War began in 88 BC with the slaughter of 80,000 Romans living in Asia Minor. In response, the Senate granted command of the war against Mithradates VI of Pontus to Sulla. However, the people of Rome opposed this decision and gave the command to Marius. Sulla eventually ousted Marius and took command on behalf of the Senate. While Sulla was tending to the war in the east, Marius and Lucius Cornelius Cinna regained control of Rome and instituted a reign of terror in Rome. With the help of Crassus and Pompey the Great, Sulla defeated the Marians, opening the door to his eventual dictatorship. This issue celebrates Sulla's victory against Mithradates and the Greeks... with Sulla in a triumphal quadriga being crowned by Victory.

Sulla's dictatorship set the stage for the demise of the Republic and rule by one man. The office of Dictator was designed to be temporary, with tenures to last for only six months and called into service only at times of great need. Sulla held this office for two years, resigning shortly before his death in 78 BC. It had been 140 years since the last Dictator was appointed. Sulla's brief tenure as Dictator saw the murder of hundreds of his enemies, including many in the Senate. This led to a huge backlash of anti-Dictatorial rule and an upsurge of pro-Republic sentiment. Though his brief rule as Dictator led to this resurgence of pro-Republic sentiment, it did set the stage for rule by one man... the first of many parallels between between the careers of Sulla and Julius Caesar, including:

Sulla had his Marius, Caesar his Pompey
Both marched on Rome to seize control from the Senate
Both served as Dictator for a brief tenure

 
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