British dealers return coin celebrating Caesar's death

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The Independent Online

A rare silver coin celebrating the most famous murder of antiquity has been handed over to Culture Ministry officials in Athens, after a groundbreaking deal that allowed its repatriation from Britain.

The tiny coin, a denarius issued in 42 BC by Brutus, the chief assassin of Julius Caesar, is one of only 58. The Greek authorities say it was illegally dug up and sold last year by two Greek suspected smugglers to the Classical Numismatic Group in London.

The Culture Minister, Giorgos Voulgarakis, said yesterday: "This has great significance ... and is a forebear of future repatriations as part of our fight against illegal excavations and antiquities trafficking."

The Roman coin - which weighs only 3.2g (0.1oz) - was returned after Greek officials initiated legal action against the British dealership, based on a European Union directive on the repatriation of cultural goods which have been illegally removed from the territory of a member state.

Mr Voulgarakis said that the Classical Numismatic Group had unconditionally handed over the denarius after Greece proved that it had been illegally excavated. "It is the first time the EU directive was enforced in Britain," he said.

The coin was issued by a mobile military mint used by Brutus to pay his soldiers during the wars that followed Caesar's assassination in 44 BC.

Decorated with the head of Brutus on the one side and a pair of daggers flanking a cap on the other, the denarius carries the inscription Eid Mar - short for the Ides of March, or 15 March, the date of Caesar's murder. A denarius corresponded to a Roman legionary's daily pay.

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