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FM20202

L. Marcius Censorinus, Denarius.

Roman Republic, L. Marcius Censorinus, silver Denarius, Rome, 82 BC, laureate head of Apollo right, rev. L·CENSOR, Marsyas walking left with right arm raised, holding wine-skin over left shoulder, behind him a statue mounted on a column, 3.92g (Sydenham 737; Crawford 363/1d; RBW 1372). Insignificant metal flaw on obverse, light iridescent tone, extremely fine.

Marsyas dared to challenge Apollo but lost and the punishment for his hubris was extreme, disproportionate, an abuse. The god flayed him alive and made a wine sack of his skin. In Ancient Rome the myth of Marsyas became associated with liberty, the right to speak truth to power, the responsibility of those with power not to abuse it. Commentators are divided as to whether or not Marsyas is shown wearing a pileus, the Cap of Liberty, but the statue depicted did stand in the Forum, was associated with plebian protest, and was dedicated by Gaius Marcius Rutilus, the first Roman Censor originally of plebian status. The coin was issued during the Sullan Civil Wars in which Sulla fought to consolidate power within the ruling classes and restrict it elsewhere. Ultimately Sulla would hold absolute power as dictator, using that position to kill and outlaw thousands of his political opponents.

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