Bocchus Monument, Sulla’s Monuments

Hölscher in 1980 proposed that this monument was the base of the Bocchus Monument, so well known from literary descriptions (Plutarch, Marius 32,  Sulla 6).  The best discussion of the literary sources is Mackay.  If this is true the statues on the top of this base would look something like this:

Reverse Image

This coin was struck by Sulla’s son, Faustus and probably copied his father’s seal ring (cf. Marius 10, Sulla 3).  So far so good by way of background.  It has been suggested that the base is not the original base BUT was restored after Sulla’s return.  The logic being that Marius would not have let such an offensive monument remain standing when he controlled the city.  The two trophies of the relief are seen as representations of the Sullan trophies of Chaeronea (again see Mackay, link above), just like on this coin:

Reverse Image

[There is also a regular denarius with the same design, but I am showing the aureus because it’s prettier.]  This image is also associated with a Sullan seal ring by Crawford based on Dio 43.18.3 and the iconography is also seen on the Athenian New Style Tetradrachms (BM specimen):


Already Crawford brought in the Sant’Omobono relief into the discussion, with reference to the other block:

He sees an analogy between the two wreaths hanging out from the palm branch and the two trophies.  I’m interested in same detail but because of how it echoes the iconographic strategy of a later coin type (Pompeian?).



Notice how the four wreaths hang from the palm branch to presumably symbolize multiple victories.  And, NOW, as I type this and check my RRC entry for 436/1, I see that Crawford saw the exact same connection…. [Insert footsteps-of-giants sentiment here.]

Not everyone thinks the Sant’Omobono Reliefs are the Bocchus Monument.  Detractors include: Hafner German. – Zu den vermeintlich sullanischen Waffenreliefs von S. Omobono. Rivista di archeologia 1989 XIII : 46-54 and Alexander Thein’s unpublished dissertation on Sulla of 2002.  Another dissenting opinion is  Reusser, C. 1993, Der Fidestempel auf dem Kapitol in Rom und seine Ausstattung: ein Beitrag zu den Ausgrabungen an der Via delMare und um das Kapitol 1926–1943, Rome, p. 121-37.

Santangelo gives a concise up-to-date survey of the literature and its conclusions (p. 2-3, n. 7), but also see his later discussion at  p. 206.

Minor reference updates 27 August 2013 & 16 June 2014

2/15/2016 addition:

Flower, Art of Forgetting, p. 113:


4 thoughts on “Bocchus Monument, Sulla’s Monuments”

  1. I just came across this while preparing my Dresden talk…. 🙂
    Schaefer suggests that the Bocchus monument is the first known monument that shows the sella curulis, but I realise just now that he must be basing this conclusion off the coin – it is not shown on the Sant’Omobono reliefs. I wonder how accurate this numismatic representation was……. Schaefer himself admits that the sella is played around with by different die engravers to emphasise different aspects of Sulla’s imperium (sometimes a sella curulis is shown, sometimes a sella quaestoria). At any rate, this means I think that the earliest dated EVIDENCE we have for the sella as a symbol of Roman power comes from Macedonia (the Aesillas coinage), which fits in nicely with my thesis that Roman ideology is formed in the provinces. 🙂

    1. If you’re thinking about these things you might like two other posts of mine:


      To my eyes the Aesellius’ chair seems iconographically distinct from the curule chair. I enjoy how the same iconography is repeated on Sosius’ coins c. 38BC. On the republican series the best parallel to my mind is the bench of the quaestors on the Piso Caepio coin. And then again on RRC 351/1 for the Plebian Aediles. Have you seen examples of the Faustus coin where the chair is clearly curule? I haven’t but maybe I wasn’t looking. You might also like the reference to Polybius in the second post as it shows awareness of the chairs in the provinces at an early date. Can’t wait to talk more about this with you in person!

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