One of the finest known examples of the most famous ancient Roman coin, and the only example certified by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., highlights Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles’ June 3 auction.
The circa late fall 42 B.C. silver denarius is known as the Eid Mar or “Ides of March” coin for the Latin legend EID MAR on the reverse. The reference is to the assassination of Caesar two years earlier, on March 15, 44 B.C.
The auction house calls the reverse design “highly provocative” and said that the Eid Mar denarius “presents us with the fait accompli of Caesar’s assassins. The coin loudly proclaims that the hated tyrant is dead and that the deed was done in the name of liberty.”
The coin is famous for the act is commemorates, as well as the irony of the image on the obverse.
In 44 B.C., M. Junius Brutus and C. Cassius Longinus led the charge in the Roman senate to topple the rule of Julius Caesar, who had been proclaimed dictator for life and ruled with absolute authority. Three months before he was assassinated, Caesar placed his own image on Roman coinage, upending tradition and decorum — never before had a living ruler’s portrait appeared on Roman coinage.
“Caesar paid with his life, and the fabric of the Republic was torn asunder,” according to the auction house.
Civil war broke out in the months after the assassination, and the conspirators were sent fleeing from Rome, to join forces in early 42 B.C. as war loomed.
The conspirators faced off with the armies of Octavian and Mark Antony (who were among those leading the empire), first with the Battle of Philippi on Oct. 3 and, 20 days later, with the final showdown.
Brutus beat back the forces of Octavian in the first battle, but Cassius and his legions were routed by Antony. Hearing (incorrectly) that Brutus had been defeated and killed, Cassius committed suicide.
Brutus led all the forces in the second battle but was overmatched. After being soundly defeated, he committed suicide.