Cn. Lentulus (RRC 345)

RRC 345/1

I can’t say I’ve ever thought much about this type or its moneyer before, except perhaps in terms of the representation of Mars (earlier post). The fashion for showing the obverse deity seen from behind started with RRC 294/4, RRC 297/1 (I would have reverse the issue numbers of Ti. Q. and Blasio to make the Bronze come after the Silver but that’s just me.), and RRC 298/1. The are all assumed to be a single college of moneyers which Crawford put c. 112-111 BCE and Mattingly might nudge down to 109 BCE. About 10 years later a Lentulus Marcellinus (presumed identity; RRC 329/1) revived the seen from behind bust but made it face the other way. Then another 10 years and we get our Lentulus, different god, same view point. It occurs just two more times after that.

The moneyer of RRC 329 is connected with this passage:

M. Marcellus, the father of Aeserninus, though not reckoned a professed pleader, was a prompt, and, in some degree, a practised speaker; as was also his son P. Lentulus.

Cic. Brut. 136

If this is right it is hard to find any close family connect to the moneyer of RRC 345 even as they are both apparently adopted into the Cornelii Lentuli, but different branches.

It is typically assumed that the Moneyer of 88 BCE is also the Consul of 72 and the same man who served on Pompeius Strabo’s concilium at Asculum the year before.

Bronze tablet on which are engraved two decrees by Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo; in the first, Roman citizenship is granted to several Iberian equestrians. 89 BCE (or a copy from the reign of Vespasian, 69—79 CE). Photo of Copy in MRC. Photo: Olga Lyubimova (CC BY-SA 4.0). CIL I2 709 = CIL VI 37045 = ILS 8888. Inv. No. MCR 149.

If true this makes the moneyer a life-long supporter of Pompey through a connection with his father. There are however other identifications of the “Cn. Cornelius Cn. f. (trib.) Pal.” in the inscription. It would, however, be a very neat connection because the Consuls of 72 BCE carried bills to validate grants of citizenship by Pompey in Spain (Cic. Balb. 19 and 32-33, cf. 38), which were not unlike the action of Pompey’s own father at Asculum documented in the above inscription!

Just two years after being consul (70 BCE), he became Censor, and the very first censorship held since Sulla’s dicatorship, and thus the first to enroll the new Italian citizens. This was also the year of Pompey’s first consulship. Should we imagine them campaigning together? I think we perhaps should. By 67 BCE Lentulus (cos. 72) was rewarded by Pompey with the role of Legatus pro Praetore under Pompey’s command (imperium maius) against the Pirates and probably stayed with Pompey through the war against Mithridates but this isn’t certain.

It is hard to retroject these later allegiances earlier, but it does seem highly unlikely a Marian or Cinnan partisan would have been so trusted by Pompey. We might say that if we are right to put RRC 345/1 in 88BCE and put Lentulus and Censorinus in the same college, that they represent the polar opposites of the factional politics of the day. We must imagine Lentulus looking to the consuls Sulla and Pompeius Rufus (cf. RRC 434), not the Marians for leadership in this dangerous political moment.

Finally I’ll note that Victory in a Biga, a conservative, even old fashioned reverse choice, had been used by two huge and recent issues RRC 337 and RRC 344/3.

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