ATHENS – Et tu, Brute? A rare, ancient gold coin minted by Roman politician Brutus, who led the band of assassins against his friend Emperor Caesar, to celebrate the killing, has been returned to Greece, where it was found and taken.
Experts believe the coin was likely discovered more than a decade ago near where Brutus and his civil war ally, Gaius Cassius Longinus, were encamped before they were defeated at the Battle of Philippi and committed suicide.
The New York Times reported that the coin, known as Eid Mar after the March 15 Ides of March on which Caesar was slain, was sent back to Greece by investigators in New York who said it was put up in a fraudulent auction in 2020. The return was made at a ceremony attended by officials from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, who cooperated on the case.
The coin, one of 29 artifacts returned to Greek officials, was given up earlier this year by an unidentified American billionaire who investigators said did not know it was looted.
Experts said the coin is about the size of a nickel and weighs about 8 grams and is one of only three known to be in circulation. A silver version of the coin was also minted, and about 100 are known to exist, selling for up to $400,000.
The coin is valued at $4.2 million, features the face of Marcus Junius Brutus, who led the 44 B.C. assassination. Historians say he made gold and silver coins to mark it and pay his soldiers in a following civil war.
“The Eid Mar is an undisputed masterpiece of ancient coinage,” said Mark Salzberg, Chairman of Numismatic Guaranty, who verified the coin but does not research provenances, in a statement in 2020.
Investigators said the coin came on the market between 2013-14, and Richard Beale, 38, Director of the London-based auction house Roma Numismatics, put it up for sale on his company’s website. He also sold it at coin shows in the United States and Europe before it was sold in October 2020. The $4.2 million was the most ever paid for an ancient coin, according to the Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
Beale was charged with grand larceny in the first degree and several other felonies and was released on his own recognizance. His lawyer, Henry E. Mazurek, would not comment, the paper said.
The return came at a ceremony where other Greek antiquities repatriated were figurines of people and animals; marble, silver, bronze, and clay vessels; and gold and bronze jewelry, said to be worth $20 million.
Konstantinos Konstantinou, Greece’s Consul General in New York, said at the event that Greece has lost too many treasures to the illicit trading of antiquities and is seeking their return “in every possible way.” He praised investigators for “striking down the illegal international criminal networks whose activity distorts the identity of peoples, as it cuts off archaeological finds from their context and transforms them from evidence of people’s history into mere works of art,” the paper also said.