Roman Republic M. Junius Brutus AR Denarius, Rome mint, struck 54 BC Dia.: 20.5 mm Wt.: 3.56 g Obv.: LIBERTAS; Head of Liberty right Rev.: BRVTVS; Consul L. Junius Brutus walking left between two lictors, each carrying fasces over shoulder, preceded by accensus Ref.: Crawford 433/1, Sydenham 906, Sear 397 Ex Michael Kelly Collection This coin was struck in 54 BC by the most famous of Julius Caesar’s assassins. On it he proudly commemorates his ancestor (Lucius Junius Brutus) who according to legend expelled the last king of Rome in 509 BC. This was obviously a pointed message at a potential tyrant… but which tyrant? Brutus Opposes Pompey Because Brutus famously chose to side with Pompey after Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC it is often forgotten that an alliance between the two men would have seemed unthinkable 54 BC. For one thing, Pompey defeated, captured and treacherously executed Brutus’s father as part of the chaotic wars that followed the death of Sulla. Just as importantly, Pompey would probably have seemed like the biggest threat to the Republic in 54 BC. When Pompey and Crassus stood for the consulship of 55 BC they conducted a campaign of violence in order to intimidate the senate and their candidates. Despite this, Plutarch tells us that Cato the Younger “persuaded Lucius Domitius [candidate for consul] not to desist, for the struggle with the tyrants, he said, was not for office, but for Liberty.” In response Pompey had his armed supporter’s attack Domitius on his way to the forum and in the fighting Cato was wounded in the arm while defending Domitius. In this way Pompey and Crassus cleared all opposition and established themselves as potential tyrants in the eyes of the Optimates. By 54 BC the Triumvirs had divided up the Republic between them. Caesar’s governorship was extended in Gaul and Crassus was given the governorship of Syria. Pompey became governor of Africa but chose to govern by delegates so he could stay in Italy and maintain control of Rome. Thus the above coin was probably meant as a symbol of Brutus’s opposition to Pompey both on a personal and political level. The LIBERTAS on the obverse can be seen as a reference to the liberty sentiment mentioned by Plutarch in the above quotation. The reverse is a self-explanatory reference to a family member who opposed the ultimate tyrant. Further Notes and Figures The year the coins was struck was the last year of the “First Triumvirate”. Pompey’s wife and Caesar’s daughter, Julia would die in child birth thus ending the familial bond between the two men. Additionally, before the end of the following year Crassus would be killed in battle with the Parthians. This bronze sculpture was discovered in Rome during the Renaissance (sometime before AD 1532) and since that time has been attributed as a representation of Brutus’s ancestor Lucius Junius Brutus. It dates as early as the late 4th century BC. Modern opinions cast doubt on the attribution to Brutus and it is true that there is no direct evidence for the attribution. Despite that disclaimer, Plutarch does mention that there was a statue of L. Junius Brutus on the Capitoline Hill and the style bears some resemblance to coins struck be M. Junius Brutus so it is not impossible that this statue is meant to depict the early Republican hero. I took this photo in the Capitoline Museum in 2018. While Pompey was tyrant-ing around as consul in 55 BC he completed the construction of the first permanent theatre in Rome. Because permanent theatres were prohibited by law he decided to build the structure in the Campus Martius (technically outside the city). He also built a temple to Venus at the top so he could claim the structure was a temple with a theatre merely attached. The street layout of modern Rome preserves the layout of the theatre and you can even see part of the theatre by going to the basement of a restaurant called Da Pancrazio which is where I took all of the above photos. In one of history’s great ironies the Theatre of Pompey is where Brutus (issuer of the OP coin) would assassinate Julius Caesar on the Ides of March in 44 BC. The curia attached to the theatre is where this assassination took place. You can see the remains of this building in the background of the above photo that I took in 2012. In the foreground are the remains and columns of three temples that were built just to the east of the curia building. Behind these at the base of the tree in the center of the photo you can see the remains of the building in which Julius Caesar was killed. Today the area is an unofficial cat colony. Please post your: Coins of Brutus! Coins showing Pompey! Coins showing Caesar! Imperatorial Coins! Whatever cool stuff you think would be good.