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Possibly Unique Ides Of March Gold Coin to be Displayed at British Museum
Posted By CoinLink

A possibly unique gold coin celebrating the assassination of Julius Caesar will go on display at the British Museum today – the Ides of March, marking the 2,054th anniversary of his death.

The coin was struck in honour of Marcus Junius Brutus, one of the assassins of Julius Caesar. The reverse shows the cap of liberty given to freed slaves flanked by two daggers. This indicates Brutus’ intention of freeing Rome from Caesar’s imperial ambitions and the murder weapons employed to do so. Below the daggers is the day of the deed; EID.MAR, the ides of March.

Few coins capture a moment in history with such stark and brutal imagery. Brutus had carried out the attack with some fellow Roman Senators in 44 BC when Caesar had come unarmed to address the Senate on 15 March. This day was known to the Romans as the ides, or the middle day of the month and was recognised on a new calendar system that Caesar himself had established just two years before.

The assassins, or ‘freedom party’ as they regarded themselves, fled Rome to Macedonia to raise an army. However, they were defeated by Caesar’s allies led by Mark Antony and Octavian at the Battle of Philippi (42 BC). Brutus subsequently committed suicide.

The decision to flee east was probably influenced by the richness of the provinces of the eastern Roman Empire – raising an army was a very costly business. Supplies needed to be bought and soldiers needed wages. Amongst the coins the conspirators briefly struck to this end was this one.

Although numerous surviving examples of the silver version are known, including several in the British Museum’s coins and medals collection, there were only believed to be two in gold.

Curiously, King George III (reigned 1760-1820) owned one of the two gold examples as part of his large chronological sequence of coins and medals followed a system common among eighteenth-century collectors to arrange their ancient Roman coin collections. Experts now believe that this coin is a fake.

The present example on display was offered for sale to the British Museum in 1932 but they couldn’t afford to buy it. Sold privately to a number of collectors , its present owner (anonymous) has loaned the coin to the museum, and it will be displayed publicly for the first time.


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