04 May 2023
A rare gold coin, known as the ‘Eid Mar’ (Ides of March), which celebrates the assassination of Julius Caesar, was returned to Greece in March
The coin was among 29 items, with a total value of $20 million, returned by investigators in New York, who had determined it had been looted and fraudulently put up for sale in 2020.
Valued at $4.2 million, the coin features a portrait of Marcus Junius Brutus, who, along with other Roman senators, murdered Julius Caesar on the Ides of March in 44BC. According to experts, Brutus had the coins minted in gold and silver to celebrate Caesar’s downfall. Minted in 42BC, only three are known in gold, with about 100 of the silver version known to exist, including one held by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
The imagery on the coin is loaded with political symbolism. The reverse of the coin depicts two daggers of different designs, representing the weapons used by Brutus and Cassius, a fellow conspirator, in the assassination of Caesar. They are either side of a ‘pileus’ cap – a symbol associated with the freeing of slaves. The words ‘EID MAR’ below are an abbreviation of ‘EIDIBVS MARTIIS’ – the Ides of March. Meanwhile, the obverse of the coin bears a portrait of Brutus. Just three months before his assassination, in a break with tradition, Julius Caesar had placed his own image on a coin.
It is believed the coin was discovered more than a decade ago in an area of current-day Greece, where Brutus and his army was encamped during the civil war that broke out after the assassination. It first appeared on the international market in Munich in 2016 and then ended up in London, before being sold to an American buyer for £3,240,000 ($4,188,393 US) in 2020; a record price for an ancient coin at auction. The coin was seized by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in February.
The coin, along with the other artefacts, was returned to Greek officials at a repatriation ceremony at the Greek Consulate attended by officials of the Manhattan district attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit and US Homeland Security Investigations.