Sic Sempter Tyrannis – A Blow For Freedom & The Roman Republic
The second coin in our Roman Empire Series has recently dropped. We sure hope you were able to get one for yourself. Do you know why the coin has a picture of 2 daggers and a cap?
The original coin was ordered minted by Brutus. He was using it to both pay for and motivate his army. The coin commemorates the assassination of Julius Caesar. Do you know why he felt this would motivate his army?
Did you know that…
• Brutus’s mother and Caesar were known to be lovers?
• In Caesar’s Civil War, Brutus allied himself against Caesar?
• Cicero felt Brutus was a great orator and dedicated a book he wrote to him?
• The Virginia State seal quote “sic sempter tyrannus” which means, “thus always to tyrants”, is attributed to Brutus.
• Brutus’s assassination of Julius Caesar lead to another civil war?
Here is the story of Marcus Junius Brutus, who was also known as Quintus Caepio Brutus 85 BC – 42 BC.
Brutus – beginnings…
Brutus was his family name. His was an ancient Roman family. They descended from the Roman hero who ended the tyranny of the last Roman king. He established a government of the people called the Roman Republic.
There was public pressure for Brutus to live up to his family name. Archeologists have found ancient Roman “graffiti” from this era claiming that he was not a true Brutus because of his friendship with Caesar. But by March 44 BC everyone knew that Marcus Junius Brutus was a true Brutus. It would cost him his life.
Alliances and Betrayals …
Brutus grew up in a world of political intrigue and war. Politics and family life were intertwined. Your alliances could lead to political advancement or death. Brutus’s father was killed by Pompey during one of these power struggles when Brutus was only 7 or 8 years old.
Brutus was then raised by his Uncle Cato the Younger. Cato the Younger was Caesar’s political enemy. Perhaps because of Caesar’s love affair with his sister which he felt was inappropriate.
Brutus was educated by the best teachers in Rome. He was known to be a scholar with a silver tongue. He became one of Rome’s best public speakers. He was known to be both proud and ambitious. He loved both the idea of the Roman Republic and being the leader of his nation. He thought of himself as the champion of Roman liberty.
Brutus was known to be Caesar’s friend. However when Caesar defied the senate, Brutus allied himself against Caesar. He even joined his father’s murderer, Pompey, in fighting against Caesar.
When Caesar won the war Brutus begged to be pardoned. Not only did Caesar pardon Brutus, he treated him like a son. Brutus was appointed to political and religious offices over the next few years of increasing importance.
Brutus was governor of Gaul, then Praetor. Brutus’s political star was rising. Caesar named him second in line to the succession of his titles and property. Everyone was convinced that Brutus was on Caesar’s side and would be for the rest of his life.
In February, Caesar was appointed “Dictator for Life”. This new position was equal to being a king or emperor. In the Roman Republic there was a dictator position, but it was supposed to only be used in extreme emergencies. It also was not supposed to last more than 6 months.
Normally Rome would be ruled by the annual election of 2 consuls who would share the executive power of the government. Under the Roman Republic the Senate was supposed to rule. Caesar wanted all the power and now he had it with the creation of this new position. The Roman government had been radically altered.
This unconstitutional usurping of power was ‘the last straw’ for many of the senators. They knew legalizing Caesar’s power was death to the Roman Republic and the liberty it represented. They were under the government of a supreme world leader, Julius Caesar. This was why a group of 60 senators created the conspiracy to publically execute the tyrant.
The conspirators, which included Cassius and Brutus as its leaders, felt that Rome would love them for killing Caesar. But the opposite was true. The people felt that assassinating Caesar was a blow for liberty and the republic. The consipirators were shocked when it actually started another civil war. Most of the people loved Caesar more than the politically corrupt senate.
“et tu brute”? – You too Brutus?
The famous line “et tu brute” comes from the play “Julius Caesar” by Shakespeare. In Act 3, Scene 1 Caesar says “et tu brute?” to communicate to us the betrayal. Brutus was rumored to possibly be Caesar’s own naturally born son as the result of an illicit affair between Caesar and Brutus’ mother. An account from an eye witness claims that Caesar actually said “You too, child?” to Brutus as he died.
Civil war and a Coin…
The group of senators ran out to the crowd that had gathered outside the senate with Caesar’s blood still dripping from their hands. Caesar had been stabbed 27 times and likely died from loss of blood. The Senators proclaimed that the tyrant was dead and Rome was free. The crowd loved Caesar and was stunned. It took armed guards to keep the conspirators safe from the crowd.
The funeral and public reading of Caesar’s will was 5 days later. Mark Anthony stirred up the crowd as he read Caesar’s will. When they learned that Caesar had included them in his will promising an inheritance of 75 denarii (around $6,000 in today’s money) for each of them, they were ready to go to war against the conspirators.
The conspirators fled the city of Rome. Cassius and Brutus were sent to be governors of Greek provinces. It was during this time that Brutus had the coin minted. He needed to pay for his soldiers and wanted their money to remind them why they were fighting.
The 2 daggers represent that more than one person had been involved in the conspiracy. It was not a private murder, but a public stand against a tyrant. In between the daggers is a liberty cap called a pileus. The cap represented liberty in Rome. If a slave was given his freedom, he was given a liberty cap. Eid Mar refers to the “Ides of March”, the date when Caesar was assassinated. It was meant to be a rallying cry for the troops that fought for Cassius and Brutus. They were the “Freedom Party”. They were fighting against tyranny.
The symbolism of this coin found new meaning to the colonists of Virginia. They included both the phrase “sic semper tyrannous” – translated “thus always to tyrants” in their seal and flag. The image of liberty standing over a dead tyrant is referring to the same event commemorated by this coin!
When Caesar’s heir Octavian arrived in Greece he won decisive battles in Phillipi. After the defeats, first Cassius then Brutus, killed themselves. The Roman Republic was replaced by The Roman Empire. What Julius Caesar had started became official. Caesar’s name came to be synonymous with the title emperor. Caesar’s heir became the first official emperor, Caesar Augustus.
Coin #2 in the Roman Empire Series – Commemorating Brutus’s coin.
The original coin is extremely rare. Only about 60 of the original coins are known to exist today. The new commemorative coin includes only 500 minted. It will certainly have excellent numismatic value too. Just like the coin it commemorates.
Here are the details:
Year of Issue : 2021
Country of Issue : Cook Islands
Face Value : 5 Dollars
Coin Weight : 1 Troy Ounce
Metal Purity : .999
Metal Composition : Fine Silver
Mintage : 500