One of the first entries I ever wrote for this here blog back in June of 2006 was about an EID MAR denarius, a silver coin commemorating the murder of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March, 44 B.C., struck by assassin Marcus Junius Brutus. That particular Brutus coin had been returned to Greece by a British coin dealer who had purchased it from two Greek looters.
Now a different EID MAR coin is coming up for sale at Heritage Auction’s Long Beach Signature World & Ancient Coins auction the second week of September. This one is in far better condition, a glossy extremely fine, and has the best metal quality of all known EID MARs. The others were struck from slightly base silver which is porous and thus highly susceptible to deterioration. This denarius was struck from sound silver.
Even more important from my perspective, once belonged to the one, the only Peter Weller, immortal Robocop, Classics professor and host of the best show the History Channel ever stumbled on, Engineering an Empire. He’s not its only illustrious owner even though he is its awesomest. The coin has been in a number of widely-published collections with clear auction records all the way back to the 1930s, so unlike the Brutus coin that British dealer owned for such a short time, this one has an iron-clad ownership history and won’t end up confiscated by an irate government.
The EID MAR coin has been voted the greatest of ancient coins by numismatists because of its rarity and immense historical significance. The coin was struck by a moving mint that traveled with Brutus’ and Cassius’ army in northern Greece in late summer of 42 B.C., just a month or two from Brutus final defeat and suicide at the Battle of Philippi. The obverse features a profile of Brutus after he was acclaimed “imperator” by his troops.
The reverse depicts the pileus, the freedman’s cap indicating a manumitted slave, with a dagger on each side representing Brutus and Cassius as the liberators who freed the Republic from Caesar’s tyrrany with their knives. It is incribed “EID MAR” for the Ides of March. Director of Ancient Coins for Heritage David S. Michaels notes that this is the only Roman coin which mentions a specific date and the only one to commemorate a murder. This was so remarkable a minting that ancient historian Cassius Dio mentioned it in his Roman History.
“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.”
There are only 75 EID MARs left that we know of, probably because they were rounded up and melted down by Augustus and Marc Anthony after the final defeat of the conspirators.