AR Denarius (Rome, 76 BC)
O/ Bust of Libertas right, draped and wearing diadem; pileus behind; MENSOR upwards before; S C downwards behind.
R/ Warrior holding spear and reining in biga right with left hand; with right hand he assists togate figure into biga; control-mark (XXCV?) below; L FARSVLEI in exergue.
Crawford 392/1b (36 obverse dies/40 reverse dies)
- Naville Numismatics Live Auction 40, lot 553.
Lucius Farsuleius Mensor:
Mensor came from the very small gens Farsuleia, of which he is the only known magistrate. He is also only known through his coins, which nonetheless tell a lot about him.
Indeed, his denarius seems to describe the Populares' "platform" of the 70s BC. First, his name means "land surveyor", doubtless a nickname Mensor received because of his support of a land reform. The obverse features the bust of Libertas and a pileus, probably allusions to push for the restoration of the tribunate, of which Sulla had removed the right to veto the Senate and forbade its holders from getting any other magistracy. The next year (75), the Consul Gaius Aurelius Cotta restored the right of the tribunes to hold other magistracies.
The reverse carries a more obscure imagery. Crawford identifies the characters on the reverse as Mars and a citizen. He reads the scene as a push for the incorporation of newly enfranchised citizens on the electoral rolls, as advocated by the Populares. T. P. Wiseman1 indeed showed that the lustrum systematically failed between 86 and 28 BC -- except in 69 -- because the Optimates wanted to prevent the Italians, made citizens after the Social War, from being registered and thus allowed to vote. We would call such tactics "voter suppression" today.
This denarius was dated from 75 by Crawford, but Charles Hersh and Alan Walker place it a year earlier after the find of the Mesagne Hoard.
1. T. P. Wiseman, "The Census in the First Century BC", in The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 59, No. 1/2 (1969), pp. 59-75.