Happy Ides of March! – unless you happen to be Julius Caesar.
What is the Ides of March?
On the 15th of March, 44 BCE, Brutus and members of the Roman senate stabbed Julius Caesar – the would-be King of Rome – 23 times. Many aspects of this event made their way into the modern world.
- “Et tu, Brute?” The Shakespearian line that Caesar uttered with his dying breath.
- “Brutal” Based on the name of Brutus the assassin.
- “You’re such a brute.” Brute means a barbaric and violent man.
- “Beware the Ides of March.” The annual warning we utter to each other, two millennia after the fact.
Scholars agree that Brutus’ motivation was to re-establish the Representative Republic. He was not a fan of Julius’ one-man show. Dictatorships rarely end well…
Two years after the murder, the people thanked their assassin by minting two celebratory coins; one, a silver Denarius, and the second, a gold Aureus that is one of the rarest coins in the world.
The reverse sides of the two Assassin’s coins are pictured above. The inscription reads EID•MAR which is a Latin abbreviation for Eidibus Martiis, meaning, Ides of March. It’s important to note that Ides does not indicate the 15th, but the middle day of any given month. So the Ides of February is the 14th day of the month.
The Caesars went through a series of calendar mock-ups trying to perfect the timekeeping method and Julius Caesar was no different. He changed the calendar shortly before his assassination. Some historians believe that decision pushed his enemies into action because his changes negatively affected the weight of the murderous senators’ coin purses. We may never know the full list of motivations that caused the brutal and premeditated murder of Julius Caesar but we can speculate!
Above the inscription on both coins, is a Pileus flanked by the murder weapons, twin daggers. A Pileus was a felt cap popular in the ancient world. The hat served as a pattern for the first helmets, also called Pileus’. Minted on the move, by Brutus’ soldiers, the coin design was probably inspired by looking at the things the soldiers had on hand including their weapons and helmets. At the time of writing, there are only three gold Aureus coins known to exist. That makes this coin one of the rarest in the world.
Thank you for joining us today! We hope you enjoyed this post and that your Ides of March is perfectly uneventful.
See you next time on Pendant and Ring.
2 thoughts on “The coins that celebrate the Ides of March”
Interesting thank you. As regards ‘pileus’ it is an anagram of ‘I pulse’. Perhaps the soldiers took their pulses! Or may it is simpler. ‘Pileus’ is ‘Pile us’, i.e. they wanted their own pile of gold coins so made their own!!
“I pulse?” Really? That is so cool. I could also have been a pronouncement like “I matter” in a world where soldiers were often used as fodder in wars they did not care about. It’s fun to theorize; thanks for sharing!
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