Brutus, † 42 BC. Denarius (Silver, 19 mm, 3.68 g, 12 h), with L. Plaetorius Cestianus, magistrate. Military mint traveling with Brutus and Cassius in western Asia Minor or northern Greece, late summer-autumn 42. BRVT IMP - L•PLAET•CEST Bare head of Brutus to right. Rev. EID•MAR Pileus between two daggers pointing downwards. Babelon (Junia) 52 and (Plaetoria) 13. BMC 68-70. Cahn, EIDibus MARtiis, p. 217, 12 (same dies). Cohen 15. Crawford 508/3. CRI 216. Franke-Hirmer pl. 26, 99 (same obverse die). Sydenham 1301. Very rare. An attractive example of this exceptionally important issue, with a very sharp and clear reverse. Somewhat porous, and struck from a worn obverse die and the reverse a bit off center, otherwise, very fine.
Arguably the most famous Roman coin type in existence, Brutus' EID MAR issue relates to one of world history's crucial turning points, the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March. On 15 March 44 BC, a group of more than sixty senators led by Marcus Iunius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus attacked the dictator during a senate meeting and stabbed him to death. The murder of Rome's most powerful man so shortly after the conclusion of the civil war of 49-45 set in motion another series of devastating conflicts between Caesar's proclaimed successors Mark Antony, Octavian, the Senate factions, Republican traditionalists such as Brutus and Cassius and a multitude of condottieri.
Brutus himself fled Rome in the aftermath of the successful assassination, but he was rehabilitated in early 43 and appointed proconsul first of Crete, then of Macedon, Achaea and Illyricum. With the rise of Octavian, however, and the capture of Rome in the summer of 43, he was declared hostis, an enemy of the state. Brutus now assembled a large army in northern Greece, together with his ally Cassius, facing the united armies of Mark Antony and Octavian in the Battle(s) of Philippi in October 42. Albeit successful in his initial attack against Octavian, Brutus' luck turned when Cassius lost to Mark Antony and committed suicide. Brutus then followed suit, bringing ultimate victory to the Caesarians.
Brutus EID MAR-coinage is extraordinary in many ways, and it is hence one of the few ancient coin types to be mentioned by a classical author, namely, by the Severan politician and author Cassius Dio (circa 155-235): 'In addition to these activities Brutus stamped upon the coins which were being minted his own likeness and a cap and two daggers, indicating by this and by the inscription that he and Cassius had liberated the fatherland.' (Cass. Dio 47.25.3). The great historian sums up in this sentence all of the remarkable characteristics of Brutus' innovative coin design. Unlike Cassius, whose coinage adheres to Republican values, Brutus obviously had no scruples throwing them overboard when the need arose, placing his own portrait on his coin, despite accusing Julius Caesar of aiming at kingship when he had done the same thing two years before. Even more interesting is the reverse, which shows a pileus, a liberty cap, between two daggers above the legend EID MAR. This blatant reference to the murder of Julius Caesar is what made the issue so famous and gave it its name. In this way, Brutus publicly stylized himself as the assassin of Julius Caesar, which, in his self-portrayal, gave liberty back to the Romans on the Ides of March, or in Latin, Eidibus Martiis of 44.