The Roman Republic
Estimate: 25'000 CHF
Starting price: 20'000 CHF
Price realized: 38'000 CHF
Brutus Imperator with L. Plaetorius Cestianus. Denarius, mint moving with Brutus 43-42, AR 3.76 g.
Description: L·PLAET.CEST Laureate, draped and veiled bust of Ceres r., surmounted by modius. Rev. BRVT·IMP Axe and culullus. References: Babelon Junia 51 and Plaetoria 12
Sear Imperators 214
Crawford 508/2 Condition:Rare. An elegant and delicate portrait and an enchanting old cabinet tone, good extremely fine Provenance: Brüder Egger sale 14 April 1913, Ernst Herzfelder, 55
Sotheby' sale 9 June 1983, Brandt part 3, 238
NAC sale 70, 2013, Student and his Mentor part I,184
Ira & Larry Goldberg sale 80, 2014, 3088 Note: This splendid denarius of Brutus was struck in either western Asia Minor or northern Greece shortly before the decisive Battle of Philippi in October 42 B.C., which ended the Republican cause led by Brutus and Cassius when their forces were defeated by the combined armies of the triumvirs Octavian and Mark Antony. Both of the imperators committed suicide on the field – Cassius in early October when he mistakenly thought Brutus had been defeated, and Brutus after a second engagement later in the month when it became apparent that the Republican cause was lost – which left the Roman world firmly in the hands of the Second Triumvirate.
The coin was struck under the authority of the quaestor (or perhaps proquaestor) L. Plaetorius Cestianus, who was also responsible for Brutus’s final issue, the renowned Eid Mar denarius depicting the portrait of the imperator on the obverse and the cap of liberty between two daggers along with the legend commemorating the date of Caesar’s assassination on the reverse. The obverse depicts a veiled and wreathed female with a polos, or cylindrical crown, atop her head, the die wonderfully executed with remarkable skill and beauty. Although traditionally the portrait has been thought to depict the Roman goddess Ceres, Crawford in RRC called into question this identification and suggested that the figure may be Diana instead. Crawford’s suggestion seems unlikely, however, and indeed here we maintain the traditional attribution. Ceres was often used in Roman coinage to appeal to plebeian interests, especially as she was the divine protectress of the Roman grain supply (frumentarium). Here she perhaps has also a regenerative role in the liberator’s cause of restoring the Republic from the depredations of Caesar’s dictatorship. The reverse recalls Brutus’s membership in Rome’s most senior priesthood, the pontifices, the office only gained with Caesar’s direct support. The axe and culullus (a horn-shaped drinking vessel used in Roman religious rites) were used by the priests during the sacrifice of a white ox, and in art are emblems of the priesthood, the notion here to connect Brutus’ priestly duties with his cause thereby suggesting divine righteousness.