The coin will be on view at Heritage’sBeverly Hills offices, 9478 West Olympic Blvd., Friday, Sept. 2, with a special Roman-themed reception held on Saturday, Sept. 3, from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM.
The‘Ides of March’ denarius, struck in 42 B.C., is the only Roman coin to openly celebrate an act of murder, the only Roman coin to mention a specific date and one of the very few ancient coins to enter the popular imagination.
Should the coin reach its pre-auction estimate of $500,000+, it will establish a record price for a Roman silver coin.
Not only is this one of the finest examples known of this historic rarity, this ‘Ides of March’ denarius once resided in the collections of well-known Hollywood producer Sy Weintraub and the actor Peter Weller. It was also in the world-famous Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection, sold in 1990, with an auction pedigree going back to the early 1900s. As an important historic coin with a distinguished pedigree, it is one of the most desirable collectible of any kind that one could ever imagine acquiring.
The event celebrated on the coin, of course, is the assassination of Julius Caesar on the “Ides of March,” March 15, 44 BC. The dime-sized silver coin depicts the head of Marcus Junius Brutus, one of the ringleaders of the assassination plot, on its obverse. The reverse depicts a dome-shaped liberty cap, flanked by two drawn daggers, and the Latin inscription EID MAR.
Since the early part of the 2000s, the coin has been part of a private Arizona private holding, dubbed TheRubicon CollectionforHeritage’s Sept. 7 auction.
In the 21 centuries since the “Ides of March,” Brutus has been hailed as both a champion of liberty and damned as a vile traitor. Born about 85 BC, Brutus was from a long line of Romans famous for resisting tyranny and defending Republican liberty. He was a close friend and protégé of Julius Caesar, but when Caesar seized power as Dictator in 49 BC, Brutus joined the Republican forces opposed to him. After the defeat of the Republicans the following year, Caesar pardoned Brutus and gave him every preferment. As Caesar became more megalomaniacal, however, Brutus joined the conspiracy against him and is said to have delivered the fatal dagger thrust, prompting Caesar’s final words (spoken in Greek), “You too, my child?”
The line was made famous, and forever entered popular culture, when Shakespeare later changed it slightly in his masterpieceJulius Caesar, creating the immortal line,“Et tu, Brute?”
After the murder, the conspirators fled Rome in a rush, barely ahead of a lynch mob. Brutus assembled a pro-Republican power base in Greece where he could wage war against Caesar’s successors,Mark Antony and Octavian. Looting gold and silver from the local population, he began to strike coins to pay his growing army.
His early coinage follows traditional themes, but his final type, the EID MAR issue of mid-42 BC, breaks the old Republican taboo by placing his own portrait on the obverse, coupled with thepileusor “cap of liberty” (traditionally given to freed slaves) between the daggers that executed Caesar. The choice of types could be seen as a brazen act of defiance as the armies closed for an ultimate clash in northern Greece.
In a final twist of fate, Brutus used the same dagger he had plunged into Caesar to take his own life following final his defeat at the second battle of Philippi on October 23, 42 BC.
The great rarity of Eid Mar denarii today is doubtless because the type was deliberately recalled and melted down by the victors, Mark Antony and Octavian.