Jul 23, 2011

One of the Largest Gold Coins of the Ancient World to be Auctioned (Mnaieion of Arsinoe II)

The ancient Greek states did not mint many pieces of gold, and when they did, they produced usually only small coins. This coin (which will be auctioned soon by Harlan J. Berk) is the exception. Struck in honor of Arsinoe II, sister and wife of Ptolemy II, it weighs 27.72 grams and has a diameter of approx. 28 mm. It is a Mnaieion, equivalent to 100 drachmas of silver.

This extraordinary coin was not, for sure, used for everyday commercial exchange. Because of its enormous value, it was a good way to treasure wealth. This unusually large coin may also have had, at least in part, a ceremonial function related to a festival in honor of Queen Arsinoe, who was deified in her lifetime.

About three years ago, a treasure of Ptolemaic gold coins appeared on the ancient coin market, causing prices of coins like this one to go down, so the estimated value for the auction of this piece is "only" $ 12,000.

Jul 15, 2011

The Most Famous Ancient Coin and its History

Heritage will auction in September a silver denarius minted by Brutus to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar. Should it reach its pre-auction estimate of $500,000+, it will establish a record price. 

This denarius is rightly considered the most important Roman coin. It ranked first in the vote among some of the world's leading collectors, curators and numismatists organized by Harlan J. Berk  for his book 100 Greatest Ancient Coins.

The Assassination of Julius Caesar

On 15 March (date known in the Roman calendar as "Ides of March") 44 BC, a group of conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus assassinated Julius Caesar in an attempt to restore the Roman Republic. But the dictator's death could not change a political reality that had long become irreversible. The power vacuum caused by the death of Caesar was quickly followed by a civil war between those who wanted to take charge of his political inheritance and those who aspired to restore the power of the Senate. Brutus and Cassius were forced to leave Italy, retreating to the eastern provinces in search of support and resources to fight Mark Antony and Octavian, the leaders of the Caesarian party.

The EID MAR Denarius

Both Cassius and Brutus minted many different types of coins in the following two years, not only to pay their troops but also to make propaganda for their cause. In an age without mass media, in which a very small percentage of the population could read, coins were one of the most effective means to quickly spread a message. The most famous of the coins minted by Brutus is the silver denarius depicted above. It refers directly to the murder of Caesar in its reverse. The meaning of the daggers represented there is unmistakable, but it is still made clear by the legend EID • MAR, Ides of March, the date of the murder. The pileus, depicted among the daggers, was a hat worn by Roman slaves when they gained freedom. Here, it symbolizes the justification of Caesar’s assassination: the tyrant must die because this was necessary to free the roman people from bondage. 

The obverse of this coin depicts the bust of Brutus. This is in sharp contradiction to the message of political liberation in the reverse. The representation of living people on a coin was a recent development in Rome. In fact, it was a novelty introduced by Caesar, and it had clear autocratic associations. It was one of the reasons why he was accused of aiming at the monarchy.

Jul 11, 2011

Beginning a Blog about ancient coins

For over two years now, I’ve been running a blog in Spanish about ancient numismatics (monedas antiguas). Now I begin this blog in English in hope of reaching a wider audience and of being able to discuss with other people sharing these interests. 
I'm not really a collector of ancient coins. I see myself more as a passionate student of Ancient History and Ancient Numismatics. While within my doctoral studies at the German University of Tübingen I had occasion to attend some courses in numismatics, I am far, far away from being an expert on the subject. Learning is the main goal of this blog.