Marching along with the Tyrannicides

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Limes, Sep 18, 2020.

  1. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

    I hope you can forgive me for posting another history lesson, but I can't help it. This part of Roman history is just too interesting! I’ve recently had the opportunity to add two coins to my collection of two of the leading characters in this absolute dramatic play: Decimus Brutus and Cassius Longinus. Two of the leading men (altough, Cassius is more 'leading', but do take notice of my remarks below!) of the conspiracy against Caesar.

    Like my other post, this post starts with the book of the historian Appian, The civil wars. In it, he mentions the following conspirators: Cassius, Brutus (yes, the one of the million-pounds aureus currently up for auction!), Caecilius and Bucolianus, Rubrius Ruga, Quintus Ligarius, Marcus Spurius, Servilius Galba, Sextius Naso, and Pontius Aquila. These were of their own faction. Of Caesar's friends, the following men had joined the conspiracy: Decimus Brutus, Gaius Casca, Trebonius, Tillius Cimber, and Minucius Basilius. These men pledged to serve the Republican cause, free Rome and the Empire from the would-be king, Caesar, and sought the time and place to carry out their ‘noble deed’. We all know what happened next, on that fateful day on the Ides of March.

    First up, Cassius.

    C. Cassius Longinus was the brother-in-law of Brutus, the other leader of the conspiracy. After the assassination, tension in Rome grew to a such a level, that Cassius and Brutus were forced to leave the city. Cassius had been awarded governorship by Caesar of Syria and headed to the east with Brutus, who had been awarded governorship of Macedonia. Instigated by Antony, it was the young and ambitious Dolabella who by the law of the people (comitia) had successfully claimed governorship of the province, and, not pleased by the situation but with little choice, the Senate granted Cassius governorship of the province of Crete instead. After arriving in the east, Dolabella however executed Trebonius, one of Caesar’s assassins and enemy of Caesarian Dolabella. The Senate, indignant of this act, declared him an enemy of the state and transferred governorship of Syria back to Cassius. Also in the east, Cassius was able to raise an army and opposed Dolabella. In the following engagement at Laodicae, Dolabella was defeated in 43 BC, and ordered a private sentry to kill him. Moving forward one year, to 42 BC, Cassius (and Brutus) would meet their fate at the battle of Philippi, one the largest (and of course inevitable) battles in the civil war. It was here, that Cassius was defeated by Antony and, after hearing a false report that Brutus had been killed in battle by Octavian’s forces, decided to commit suicide.

    An initial supporter of Pompey, Cassius - like many other senators - was pardoned by Caesar after the defeat of Pompey at the battle of Pharsalus. Cassius Longinus belonged to an old, important family, just as Lentulus Spinther, who’s name is shown on the reverse of the coin. His father probably was consul in 57 BC. The reverse shows two sacrificial implements: a jug and lituus. These are both instruments of the augur, whose task it was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds. The reverse may refer to the augurate of Spinther or Cassius, authenticating his activities as moneyer. The obverse show Libertas, the image of the noble notion the tyrannicides were trying to defend. Libertas is archaically spelled ‘LEIBERTAS’, which is a reference to ancient Roman values. Now that's a strong, political message displayed on this coin!

    Next is Decimus Brutus.

    When it comes to the assassins of Caesar, Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus is often overlooked. One cannot deny his ambiguous role in the assassination, for he was a close ally - or more appropriate, one of the closest friends - of Caesar. He is of course less ‘famous’ than his distant cousin, M. Junius Brutus, but nevertheless his part deserves more acknowledgement (if one could say so). Because it was Decimus Brutus who persuaded Caesar to attend that faithful Senate meeting, despite Caesar falling ill the night before and the dream of Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, foretelling his death.

    Decimus Brutus had already been awarded the position of governor of Cisalpine Gaul and was mentioned as adoptive-son and second-heir in the will of Caesar (if Octavian was not to accept). The fact that the murdered Caesar had added one of the assassins, a very close friend as well, in his will, had furthered negative sentiments towards the tyrannicides. Mark Antony used the sentiments of the populace of Rome - which at that time also included many veterans of Caesar’s legions - well and the subsequent chaos compelled the assassins to flee the city.

    Decimus Brutus took up his position as governor of Cisalpine Gaul, which was a strategically positioned region in north at the border of Italy and which had been used as a base by Caesar to launch his overthrow of Pompey in Italy, in 49 BC. The Senate and Antony, recognizing the strategical importance of this province, quarreled it’s governorship. In order to grab the position of governor via the law of the comitia, Antony had to reconcile with Octavian, but that reconciliation did not last long and Octavian was forced to leave Rome and raise support amongst Caesar’s veterans. Meanwhile, Antony raised an army for the upcoming battle with Decimus Brutus, but his attitude caused friction with the soldiers and two legions defected to Octavian. Decimus Brutus, aware of the friction between the Senate and Antony, refused to give up his position as governor of Cisalpine Gaul, and entrenched himself in Mutina, current Modena. Meanwhile, the Senate raised an army led by the consuls Aulus Hirtius and Gaius Vibius Pansa, and supported by the legions loyal to Octavian. This army marched on Mutina, that was already under siege by Antony. A first battle between the armies of Antony and the Senate (talk about utter chaos!) was fought in the marshes along the Via Aemilia, at Forum Gallorum. The outcome was devastating for both factions and one of the two consuls, Pansa, was mortally wounded, but it was nevertheless indecisive. In the following battle at Mutina (where Antony was under attack by the army of the Senate and the men of Decimus Brutus!) the other consul, Hirtius, was killed, leaving Octavian in command of eight legions. Antony chose the leave the scene and regroup further to the east. The Senate subsequently ordered that Octavian hand over command of these legions to Decimus Brutus, but he reclined arguing that he would not turn over his legions to a murderer of Caesar. The position of Decimus Brutus became even more desperate when his legions defected to Octavian. Decimus Brutus decided to flee Mutina, hoping to join Cassius and Brutus in the east. During his flight however, he was captured by a Gallic chief loyal to Antony and subsequently executed, in 43 BC.

    The reverse of the coin shows two carnyces (Gallic trumpets) and shield. The obverse depicts Mars, the god of war. Both sides refer to the service of Decimus Brutus to Caesar. Decimus Brutus served Caesar during the Gallic wars and was given the command of the fleet in the war against the Veneti in 56 BC. He also served against Vercingetorix in 52 BC. A mere 4 years after this denarius was struck however, he would become one of his former commander and close friends’ assassin. Talk about being stabbed in the back literally and figuratively...!

    Please do post whatever you like!
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  3. Robert Ransom

    Robert Ransom Well-Known Member

    Nice coins and history lesson.
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  4. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Nice coins, and nice write up, @Limes .


    RR Gaius Cassius Longinus & P Corn Lentulus Spinther AR den 42 BCE military mint Brutus Cassius Smyrna Libertas r- jug & lituus 18mm 3.3g
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  5. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter


    RImp Albinus Bruti AR Den 48 BC Mars Carnyces Cr 450-1a
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  6. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    @Limes , that's a very nice writeup.

    Here is another type of D. Junius Brutus Albinus. This one is Crawford 450/3a whereas the original-post coin was Crawford 450/1a.


    Denarius. 18 mm. 3.72 grams.
    Struck 48 BC.
    A.POSTVMIVS COS Crawford says [p. 466] "There is no convincing candidate to whom to assign the portrait."
    BRVTI F in wreath of ears of grain
    Crawford 450/3a. Sear I 428.
    ex Kern, 2013 Chicago summer ANA.
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  7. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for the replies everyone, and sharing your coins!

    @Valentinian, as far as I know, Decimus struck three types: the two types shown here, and the type with PIETAS on the obverse, and two clasped hands on the reverse.
    I will update my description, adding 'a': Cr. 450/1a.
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