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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numism  |  Reading For the Advanced Collector  |  Topic: The Coin that Killed Caesar 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: The Coin that Killed Caesar  (Read 2752 times)
Jochen
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« on: January 03, 2017, 01:07:59 pm »

(1) The coin:

Gaius Iulius Caesar, 13.6.100-15.3.44 BC, gens Iulia
AR - Denarius, 3.83g, 19.7mm, 90°
         Rome, Febr.-March 44 BC, moneyer P. Sepullius Macer
obv. CAESAR - DICT PERPETVO (from upper r. clockwise)
        Head of Caesar, veiled and wreathed, r.
rev. Venus Victrix with bare l. breast stg. l., holding in extended r. hand Victory with  
        raised wreath and in raised l. hand long sceptre at which a shield is leaning  
ref. Crawford 480/13; Sydenham 1074; RSC I Julius Caesar 39; BMCRR I Rome
         4173; SRCV I 1414; Vagi 56; Sear CRI 107d
VF, portrait!, scratches, light toned, somewhat excentric
From Forum Ancient Coins, thanks!
 
Note: This coin was struck for Caesar's planned war against the Parthians. This type is often struck very carelessly indicating the mint was working under great pressure. This coin is not rare but because of its historical importance sought-after.

(2) Iconography, historical meaning:

The rev. can be understand easily: The Iulians ascribed their gens back to Aeneas who was the son of Venus (Aphrodite) and Anchises.Venus was the tutelary goddess of the gens Iulia and hence of Caesar. 46 BC Caesar has consecrated together with his new built forum also the temple of Venus Genetrix, the ancestress of his gens. On this denarius with Victory, spear and shield it is rather Venus Victrix.

The portrait on obv. is imposing by its realistic depiction. It was for the first time that a living ruler was pictured on a Roman coin. This too raised suspicion that Caesar - even if he wasn't acclaimed king - would behave as such.
 
Caesar's portrait attracts attention by the wreath he is wearing. It protrudes notable wide beyond his forehead. Furthermore it is padded and very ragged. This characteristic received  too little attention until now. There is every indication that it is not a usual wreath but a corona graminea, a Grass or Blockade crown. This crown was dedicated by the army to that commander who has freed them from an encirclement and saved them from certain death. The crown was composed from flowers and tuft of grass which was plucked at the location of their liberation. This crown was regarded as the highest of all crowns! Pliny (nat. 22, 6) has known only of 8 persons with this honour:
1. Lucius Siccius Dentatus, tribunus plebis 454 BC
2. Publius Decius Mus, 343 BC, 1st Samnite War, dedicated even by 2 armies!
3. Marcus Calpurnius Flamma, 258 BC, at Carmina on Sicily
4. Quintus Fabius Maximus, after the departure of the Carthaginians from Italy, 203 BC
    (dedicated by the Senate and the people of Rome, possibly posthumous)
5. Scipio Aemilianus Africanus
6. Gnaeus Petreius Atinas, centurio during the war against the Cimbri
7. Lucius Cornelius Sulla, during the Allied War at Nola 89 BC
8. Quintus Sertorius, 97 BC as military tribune in Spain under Titus Didius.
To Caesar and Augustus the crown was dedicated by the Senate!

The veil Caesar is wearing as Pontifex Maximus for lifetime.

(3) DICTATOR PERPETVVS
      
During Republican times a dictator was designated when the state was in an emergency situation. His position was always temporally limited, yes, sometimes designated only for a single task. In the beginning Caesar too was dictator limited to 1 year and had to be designated again for the next year. Already 46 BC Caesar has been nominated dictator for 10 years but the title had to be renewed each year. So we know of coins with DICT, DICT ITER (= again, for the second time), DIC TER (for the third time) and DICT QVART.

Since the proclamation as king has failed the title dictator disappeared from the denarii and were replaced by IMP. But soon behind Caesar's head appeares a star, a crescent, or Victory's spear stands on a star. These celestial signs - and that was understod by all - stand for divinity and should raise Caesar high above all Romans. Incompatible with the idea of a republican constituted Rome.

The point of culmination in this series is the legend DICT PERPETVO of this coin. Now the title of dictator was no more temporally limited but was valid like his office as Pontifex Maximus for all his life and it no more was necessary to confirm the title each year. That actually was a spectacular violation of the Roman constitution! The fact that he appeared at the Lupercalia on February 15. 44 BC in the ancient robe of kings strengthened the suspicion that he was looking for the kingship. In fact he has publicly
refused the royal crown that was offered to him by Marcus Antonius, but his authority to exert power was equal a king even without bearing the title of king. That was the most hateful title of the Roman Republic.

Now he has passed a line that his republican enimies couldn't tolerate any more if they still wanted to be taken seriously. So this coin actually led to his murder by the conspirators. So "The coin that killed Caesar" is by no means an exaggeration.

Only few weeks later at the Ides of March (15th of March) 44 BC Caesar was stabbed to death by 60 conspirators led by Brutus and Cassius. According to Plutarch he has been warned by a seer of the Ides of March. On his way to the theatre of Pompey, where he was killed, he met this seer and joked: "The Ides of March have come" to say, that his forecast has been wrong. But the seer answered: "Yes, Caesar, but they are not yet over." This scene is dramatically depicted in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar".
 
(4) The planned Parthian War:

Caesar has planned a war against the Parthians. In March 44 BC he wanted to start for a campaign to the east. His assassination inhibited this intention. In science disputed are the goals which Caesar has had in mind with his war. They are reaching from a boundary adjustment, as Mommsen suggested, to world domination like Alexander the Great, as Plutarch is writing: According to him Caesar after the submission of the Parthians would go across Hyrcania at the Caspian Sea, then round the Black Sea via the Caucasus, invade the land of the Scyths, attack Germania and would finally return to Italy through the land of the Celts. In this way he would have conquered the world known to the Ancients and his limits were only the shores of the surrounding Okeanos.

Probably Sueton who was sitting directly at the sources was more realistic. And we know of the campaigns of Marcus Antonius and Augustus who surely have known Caesar's plans and have used them for their own purposes. It's clear that Caesar doesn't want to repeat the errors of Crassus who perished at Carrhae, and has tried to avoid he Parthian cavalry units. Therefore a route through Lesser Armenia is most probable. And there was hope that the Mesopotamian cities would raise against the Parthians. Caesar had gathered an army of 16(!) legions, a huge power that alone by its mere bigness would ensure the victory. Caesar was no gambler, rather a cautious and prudential commander.The famous "veni, vidi, vici" doesn't exist longer. What he actually had in mind we don't know. It's speculative. But there is every indication that it was a reorganisation of the east. And that rather by establishing client-kingdoms than creating new Roman provinces.

Probably the conspirators were afraid of Caesar's Parthian War, because a victory, which was possible or even probable, would have strengthen Caesar's position and has made him practically invulnerable.
  
(5) Literature:

- Appian
- Cassius Dio
- Livius
- Plutarch
- Sueton

- Shakespeare
- Mommsen
- Jürgen Malitz, Caesars Partherkrieg, Historia 33, 1984, S. 21-59
- Andreas Alföldi, Der Denar des P. Sepvllivs Macer mit CAESAR IMP - *,
  Schweizer Münzblätter, Band (Jahr): 13-17 (1963-1967), Heft 61, S. 4-17
- Wikipedia

Best regards
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Joe Sermarini
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« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2017, 01:13:10 pm »

The best write up on the type I have seen.  Thanks!
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Joseph Sermarini
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« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2017, 01:34:38 pm »

Congratulations Jochen , a very historic coin and  valued enjoyable write up.
Impressive purchase.
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Sam Mansourati
Jochen
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« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2017, 02:37:50 pm »

Thanks for your comments!

Jochen
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Jay GT4
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« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2017, 02:48:30 pm »

Excellent!  I may just copy and paste it for my Caesar! afro
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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2017, 02:54:45 pm »

Superb, Jochen!
I always learn from you.
PeteB
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Sam
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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2017, 03:15:28 pm »

Honestly , I am always impressed by your provincial knowledge .Now Jochen is like the perfect Crystal , wherever you touch it will give  beautiful and magic sound. Thumbs Up

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Sam Mansourati
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2017, 03:21:37 pm »

I agree with Joe, the best write-up I've seen for the type as well. A perfect combination of scholarship and collecting.
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« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2017, 05:04:30 pm »

Thanks Jochen, very interesting!
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Harry M
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« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2017, 07:47:19 am »

Like the saying goes: History, its the greatest story ever told! Than you for an interesting read and education!
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« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2017, 04:32:12 pm »

Great writeup and an excellent coin. Many thanks @Jochen
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