Weight: 3.690 g
Room 68: Money
Silver denarius of Marcus Junius Brutus
Macedonia (northern Greece), 43-42 BC
A coin celebrating ancient Rome's most famous murder
This 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 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, the 'Ides of March' denarius.
P. Matyszak, Chronicle of the Roman Republi (London, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2005)
M.H. Crawford, Roman republican coinage (Cambridge University Press, 1974)