sabato 26 luglio 2014

Julius Caesar, the first of the Twelve Caesars

image of a Julius Caesar Denarius, exceptional style
Denarius with Laureate head,
exceptional style for era.
Deanius with laureate head

Picture of  Julius Caesar denarius with star behind bust
Denarius with Comet or "star"

One of the first words that come to mind when considering ancient Rome is the name Caesar.  The name has stood for conquering authority, imperial domination and absolute power for over two thousand years.  Today, the name is synonymous with that of Rome itself.

Gaius Julius Caesar was the nephew of the republican revolutionary general, Gaius Marius, and he married the daughter of Marius' compatriot, Lucius Cornelius Cinna.  Marius and Cinna battled Sulla for ruling power.  Marius died of natural causes, and Cinna was murdered by his own troops.  Resulting from these familial associations, Caesar was a marked man early in his military career, and had to proceed cautiously.
julius caesar denarius elephant type
Priestly implements
julius caesar denarius elephant type
Elephant crushing serpent
Caesar was gifted with great oratory skills, and a natural political acumen.  He rose in political standing, and sought alliances with like-minded generals, Pompey and Crassus, with whom he formed a ruling triumvirate. During this time period, Caesar conquered Gaul and invaded both Britain and Germany.

Power struggles within the triumvirate caused Pompey to flee to Egypt, where he was executed by Ptolemy, who was hoping to gain the favor of Caesar.  Caesar instead used the execution as a political tool to side with Ptolemy's wife, Cleopatra, whose goal was to rule Egypt as sole monarch.  Once this end was achieved, Egypt became a loyal ally of Rome during Caesar's time.

When Caesar returned to Rome in victory, he was made Dictator for Life.  Fear of Caesar making himself king caused the rise of a conspiracy against him, led by Brutus and Cassius.

The numismatic legacy of Julius Caesar is primarily minted in silver, with portrait coins in silver, but none in bronze.  Gold coins generally show female deities on the obverse.  Portraits of Caesar on coinage include those representing him in life, and the deified Caesar of the coinage of Augustus.  They also in some cases show the comet or "star" which was interpreted as a personal omen.

Many of the coins issued under Caesar's authority were coined by traveling mints during his military campaigns.

Portraits of Caesar are usually laureate and facing right.  They tend to show crepey folds of skin on a long neck, most likely to show him as a thin figure.  Depending on the quality of the portrait, he is usually depicted as confident and striving forward in his gaze.

Victory supported by Venus
Non-portrait coinage usually shows female deities such as Victory, Ceres, Venus, Minerva, Pietas, and the famous elephant crushing the serpent on the obverse.  Reverses commonly depict military trophies, priestly implements and images of Victory supported by Venus.

Victory, bronze
Image of a Julius Caesar Denarius with Ceres portrait
Denarius with Venus portrait

Image of a Julius Caesar Denarius with Ceres portrait
Denarius with Ceres portrait

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