Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 97   |   12 December 2016 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 49

Estimate: 20'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 16'000 CHF Price realized: 32'000 CHF
The Roman Republic
C. Cassius and M. Servilius. Denarius, mint moving with Brutus and Cassius 43-42, AR 3.49 g.
Description: C CASSI IMP Laureate head of Libertas r. Rev. M SERVILIVS – LEG Aplustre, the branches ending in flowers. References: Babelon Cassia 21 and Servilia 42
Sydenham 1312
Sear Imperators 225
RBW 1773
Crawford 505/2 Condition:Very rare and possibly the finest specimen known of this very difficult issue. Well struck and centred on a full flan and with a superb old cabinet tone. Good extremely fine Provenance: Heritage sale 3015, 2011, 23269
The Rubicon collection Note: Plutarch held Cassius in low regard, describing him as a man who was not well liked and who ruled his soldiers through fear. He says: ”...Cassius was known to be a man of violent and uncontrolled passions, whose craving for money had often tempted him to stray from the path of justice, and it therefore seemed natural that his motive for fighting, wandering about the empire and risking his life was not to win liberty for his fellow-countrymen, but to secure some great place for himself.” Plutarch has precisely the opposite to say of Cassius’ co-conspirator: ”Brutus’ virtues, on the other hand, made him popular with the rank and file, beloved by his friends, and admired by the nobility, while even his enemies found it impossible to hate him.” With this in mind one can imagine the simmering conflict between the two leaders, with Cassius being increasingly resentful of Brutus’ popularity while he himself suffered from doing the lion’s share of the hard work, regardless of how it tarnished his reputation. In point of truth, their rivalry was no less significant than the one being experienced by their opponents, Marc Antony and Octavian. By the time they met at Sardis and were hailed imperator by their troops, the strains of partnership reached an intolerable pitch. Plutarch states: ” often happens in great enterprises in which a large number of friends and commanders are engaged, there had been some sharp differences and mutual accusations had been exchanged. So...their first action was to meet in a room face to face. The doors were shut, and with no one else present the two men first began blaming one another and then fell to recriminations and counter-charges. These soon led to indignant reproaches and tears, and their friends, who were amazed at the vehemence and bitterness of their anger, were afraid that the quarrel might end in violence.” This confrontation occurred just before Brutus departed to campaign disastrously in Lycia and Cassius set out to capture Rhodes, which he did successfully, but with extreme severity. We may be sure this denarius was struck after Cassius’ defeat of the Rhodians, for the reverse depicts an aplustre, a ship ornament that symbolized naval victory. The flowers at the extremities of the ornament suggest Rhodes since the rose had been the symbol of that island for many centuries. Its symbolism is sealed when the other issue of this legate is considered: it shows a crab holding an aplustre in its claws, above a loose diadem and a rose. This rose is a certain reference to Rhodes, and it appears below the crab, the badge of the island of Cos, near where the decisive battle took place. The loosened diadem might symbolize the kingship Cassius claimed to have undone at Rhodes (Plutarch, Brutus, 30) or it could be a reference to the undoing of Julius Caesar’s tyranny some two years before.

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