Sovereign Rarities Ltd
Auction 5  15 Mar 2022
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Lot 14

Starting price: 4000 GBP
Price realized: 30 000 GBP
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Brutus with L. Plaetorius Caestianus, silver 'Eid Mar' Denarius, c.43-44 BC, struck to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March, head right, BRVT [ ] L·PLAET·CEST, rev. Pileus between two mismatching daggers, EID. MAR. below (FFC 10. B. Iunia 52 and Plaetoria 13. Syd. 1301. C 15. Sear Imperators 216. Kent-Hirmer pl. 27, 98 [these dies], Cahn, EIDibus MARtiis, Q. Tic. 18, 1989, 10b and pl. 2, 108, Cr. 508/3); together on necklace with 12 Republic/Imperatorial Denarii including Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scorpio, silver Denarius, 47-46 BC, Utica mint, struck during African campaign. An intriguing group, each coin darkened with saltwater porosity from their time in the sea, all later coated with silver plate, each holed two or three times, the Ides of March Denarius clearly identifiable with some good detail remaining, extremely rare and one of the most iconic numismatic issues of the ancient world. (13)

'Roman Coins Found at Joppa' – these coins, Spink Numismatic Circular XC, November 1982, p.306

Brutus's Ides of March Denarius is arguably the most famous ancient Roman coin of them all, avidly sought-after for its relation to one of ancient history's most significant events – the assassination of Julius Caesar. On the 15th of March – the Ides – in 44 BC, more than sixty senators led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus attacked Caesar at a senate meeting, stabbing him more than 20 times and leaving his body on the Senate floor where he fell. The dictator's murder, so soon after the civil war of 49-45 BC, threw a fresh wave of conflicts into motion, triggered a second civil war, and ultimately caused the end of the Roman Republic.

Brutus, before his death by suicide in 42 BC after defeat by Caesar's successors, oversaw the production of a new Denarii intended to commemorate his Ides of March assassination. Such was the shocking nature of this coinage that it attracted contemporary comment; the Severan politician and author Cassius Dio (c.155-235) noted that "Brutus stamped upon the coins which were being minted his own likeness and a cap​ and two daggers, indicating by this and by the inscription that he and Cassius had liberated the fatherland". (Cass. Dio 47.25.3). Brutus, clearly proud of his actions, depicted the assassination viscerally on his coinage through the daggers that killed Caesar and the date of the deed. And, like Oliver Cromwell more than 1,500 years later, arrogance led him place his own portrait on the coinage – a hypocritical act, considering he had accused Caesar of trying to be a king when he did the same.

This group of Denarii was discovered on a beach in Joppa, Palestine in the mid-19th century. Having spent centuries exposed to saltwater the coins had toned to a deep black, and so the well-meaning finder plated each coin with silver and pierced them to create a necklace. Unfortunately – and somewhat ironically – it is Brutus's coin that bears the most stab wounds.

This group is accompanied by copies of two letters, one dated 1948 from David Owen, then Director of the City Museum, Leeds, the other dated 1955 from Michael Grant, then President of the Royal Numismatic Society. Both deem the group of coins to be genuine, and the former expresses an interest in acquiring the coin.

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