One of the most important gold coins from the ancient world, which is thought to have been worn by one of the murderers of Julius Caesar, will be auctioned in May 2022, by the leading ancient coin firm, Numismatica Ars Classica. The ‘Eid Mar’ coin was minted by Caesar’s betrayer, Marcus Junius Brutus, to celebrate the assassination of Caesar on the 15th March (the Ides of March), 44 BC; an event widely recognised as one of the great moments in Western European history.
The rare Eid Mar aureus has been on display at the British Museum for the last decade, on long-term loan from a private collector, and is the only one of its type with exceptional provenance, dating from before WWII. The coin was first brought to the Museum in 1932 by the expert numismatist, Oscar Ravel. A plaster cast of the coin, which was made during that visit, is still retained by the Museum today. The coin also featured prominently in the Museum’s exhibition ‘Shakespeare: Staging the World’ for the London 2012 Olympics.
Caesar was brutally murdered by a group of Roman senators led by Brutus and Cassius, in the Senate in Rome. This Eid Mar coin was produced by a mobile military mint by Caesar’s former ally and later lead conspirator, Brutus, once he had fled to Greece, to celebrate the freeing of Rome from Caesar’s tyrannical rule.
The coin’s design has important distinguishable features. The head of the coin shows a portrait of Brutus with an inscription of BRVT IMP, denoting him as an acclaimed military victor. The reverse of the coin celebrates the assassination: two daggers represent Brutus and Cassius, whilst Rome’s freedom is illustrated by a ‘cap of liberty’, the Phrygian cap traditionally given to emancipated slaves. Together this iconography reflects the symbolic rhetoric that followed Caesar’s death around the liberation of Rome, iconography that was adopted in future historical moments to symbolise liberty including the French revolution in 1789-99. So remarkable was this coin that it was mentioned in the writing of ancient historian Cassius Dio in the 3rd century AD.
Coins of this design in gold, rather than silver, were extremely rare, and almost certainly intended as gifts for senior army officers. This particular coin, having been expertly pierced just above the head of Brutus, was highly likely to have been worn by a high-ranking supporter and, it has been speculated, even one of Caesar’s murderers.
The coin will be auctioned by Numismatica Ars Classica at Hotel Baur au Lac, Zurich on the 30th May 2022.
“The Eid Mar coin commemorates one of the most important moments in Western history: the assassination of the dictator Julius Caesar. It is extremely rare to come across an ancient coin with such exceptional provenance, a point illustrated by its inclusion in the British Museum’s display for over a decade. We are thrilled to present the opportunity for a Museum or collector to become part of the story of such a significant piece of ancient history, at our auction in May. ” Arturo Russo, Numismatica Ars Classica.