Ancient Coins and The Eids of March


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Ancient Coins were the News Papers of Their Day

Paper wasn't invented until the 1700s and lamb skin vellum and papyrus were expense materials.  Thus, there was no cheap method to disseminate current news.  However, since the time of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great (circa 360 to 340 BC), ancient coins were used as a medium to disseminate propaganda.  Philip II minted coins commemorating the Olympic victory of his horse (and jockey) and he advertised that on his large silver coins (silver tetradrachms) illustrated below.  


Above is an authentic coin minted by Philip II circa 350 BC.  

When Philip II was young he won two Olympic equestrian victories. His coins often commemorate those victories. This coin shows Philip II's jockey on horseback running his "Victory Lap." It was tradition to run a victory lap holding a palm branch (signifying the victor). The coin reverse shows Philip II's jockey holding the palm branch (See picture).

The Romans also used coins as a propaganda medium.  During the Roman Republic era, coins were minted by Moneyers, which were typically families of high status, including the families of Brutus and  Julius Caesar.  Brutus' family were well regarded in the Roman Republic era because their ancestor was responsible for driving the last Etruscan King from power.  Brutus' family were regarded as the "Defenders of Liberty."  Thus, Brutus minted coins featuring the Roman personification of Liberty (see below).  
Authentic Roman Republic Denarius minted by Brutus (Circa 50 BC)

Obverse:  Liberty (legend "LIBERTAS")
Reverse:  Lectors proceeding (Legend "BRVTVS")


After Julius Caesar's victories in Gaul, he rose to supreme power in Rome.  During the Roman Republic era, the Senate could designate a dictator.  Control of Roman armies were typically shared between two generals.  However, during times of crisis, a dictator was appointed by the Senate for a period of 6 months that would have singular authority.  Julius Caesar appointed himself "Dictator for Life" and minted coins announcing that.  The denarius below, minted by Julius Caesar has the legend "DICT PERPETVO CAESAR," meaning "Caesar, Dictator for perpetuity." 


Authentic Roman Republic Denarius minted by Julius Caesar (Circa Jan 44 BC)

Obverse:  Julius Caesar in Veil (legend "DICT PERPETVO CAESAR")
Reverse:  Venus holding Victory (Legend "MACER R SEPVLLIVS" The other Moneyer)


Thus, Julius Caesar set the stage for the conflict.  Brutus' family were seen as the defenders of Roman liberty and Brutus lead the plot against Julius Caesar.  After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Brutus minted coins to commemorate the assassination (See below).


Authentic Roman Republic Denarius minted by Brutus (Circa April 44 BC)

Obverse:  Brutus (legend "BRVT" etc.)
Reverse:  Liberty Cap with daggers on each side (Legend "EID MAR")

This coin announces to the Roman People that Brutus lead the assassination Julius Caesar for the their liberty (Ref Liberty Cap).



Update Jan 20, 2004, 9:48 pm

Content Copyright 2000, (Ken Martins)

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