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480/01 #9649-30 L.AEMILIVS BVCA Julius Caesar Venus Dream of Sulla -or- Selene and Endymion Denarius | by Ahala
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480/01 #9649-30 L.AEMILIVS BVCA Julius Caesar Venus Dream of Sulla -or- Selene and Endymion Denarius

Denarius. 44BC. 2.96grams. Rome mint. Julis Caesar Aemilia. Crawford 480/01 L.AEMILIVS BVCA. Obverse: hd Venus r, L.BVCA. Reverse: Sulla dreaming, Selene, victory. Or, Selene and Endymion. Rare.


J.Rufus Fears, Museum Notes 1975, argues that the reverse portrays Selene and Endymion, not the dream of Sulla. He argues, negatively, that at Plutarch Sulla 9, the figure who appears is Semele not Selene, but his arguments for the appropriateness of Semele do not seem strong. He argues, positively, that Plutarch’s account of the dream differs from the representation on the coin where there is no thunderbolt and no warlike overtones. But the attitude of the winged figure may be taken as threatening. Fears may be right on the identification of the scene. But I still regard the absence of any circumreference to Caesar on what is a small and isolated issue of the coinage of 44BC as suggesting a date at the beginning of the year rather than after the death of Caesar. I am quite sure that the significance of Selene and Endymion on late sarcophagi is unlikely to be relevant to a type of a denarius of 44BC, that the type is not a funeral tribute to a dead Dictator and that the peaceful passing of Endymion is wildly inappropriate to exemplify the eternal felicity of the murdered Caesar. C.Congrossi, Contributi dell’ Istituto di Storia Antica, 1976, doubts whether the reverse portrays the dream of Sulla, though without raising the textual problem in Plutarch Sulla 9, and draws attention to the similarity to representations of Selene and Endymion. She does not consider all the prosopographical evidence for L.Aemilius Buca and misunderstands the situation when she asserts that he necessarily celebrated Caesar on all his issues and ignores the fact that the legend on this denarius is unique among those of 44BC in bearing no reference to Caesar. Various images of Selene and Endymion are indeed suggestive of the coin scene.


In the conventional view:

The Dream of Sulla. The Cappadocian goddess Ma (whose special favour Sulla enjoyed), represented here as Luna on the right, appeared to Sulla and handed him the thunderbolt of Zeus with which to smite his enemies. Sulla is reclining covered by a mantle (bed-sheet!), with his arm above his head, in an attitude of sleep. A winged Victory stands behind Sulla. On the coin image as opposed to the literary sources, the figure of Victory may replace the thunderbolt in its effect. As this coin, part of Caesar's lifetime issue in 44BC, was struck some 40 years after the events depicted, perhaps this represents a well-known monument or art-work depicting the dream. The symbolism of the coins of 44BC deserve much more than this brief comment, and much of course remains speculative.


In the words of Plutarch:

"88BC: There appeared to Sulla in a dream a certain goddess whom the Romans learnt to worship from the Cappadocians, whether it be the Moon or Pallas or Bellona. This goddess stood by him and put into his hand thunder and lightening, then naming his enemies one by one, bade him strike them, who all of them fell on the discharge and disappeared. Encouraged by this vision, and relating to to his colleague, next day he led on towards Rome."


Northumberland Smyth 1856:

A female head ornamented with a mitella, and assumed by antiquaries to be that of Venus, at the back of which is L(ucius) Buca. Rev: — The dream of Sylla when marching from Nola against Rome, B.C. 83, as related by Plutarch. It is represented by a man lying on the ground, to whom appear Victoria alata and Diana, the latter distinctly marked by a crescent on the forehead, and wearing her peplus. The omen was propitious. A very rare and interesting type.


This coin is a plated contemporary forgery, although the plating is quite intact and the images clear.

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Taken on October 16, 2006