Greece Gets Rare Roman Coin Back

By Malcolm Brabant

The Greek-American Herald

A rare Roman coin has returned to Greece from Britain after a landmark settlement, which Athens hopes will bring back more classical treasures.

The 1st-Century denarius - equivalent to a day's wages for a Roman foot soldier or labourer - is set to be unveiled at the Greek Culture Ministry. A British coin dealer is urging the Greek government to start paying market rates to those who find antiquities.

The coin was handed over after Greece proved it had been unearthed illegally. A year ago, the London coin dealer Classical Numismatic Group paid £12,500 ($23,000) for the silver denarius, minted by Brutus in 42 BC after he participated in the murder of the emperor Julius Caesar.

Compensation plea

ric McFadden, director of the dealership, said they made the purchase from two Greeks, in good faith.

But the Greek embassy in London proved that the coin had been illegally excavated, probably from the Roman city of Philippi, in the province of Macedonia.

Mr McFadden's dealership handed the coin to the Greek embassy earlier this month, after Athens successfully invoked a European Union directive which demands that stolen cultural objects be returned to the country of origin.

Greece insists that all antiquities are the property of the state and must be surrendered without compensation.

Mr McFadden argues that confiscating antiquities without a reward is a prime reason that so many ancient treasures are either melted down or sold to private dealers.

He says there is no incentive to report important historical discoveries and has urged the Greek government to start paying finders the market value, as usually happens in Britain with treasure trove.

The two Greek men who sold the coin were forced to hand over the £12,500 proceeds to British customs as they attempted to leave the country last year.

There is due to be a magistrates court hearing at Harlow in August, where the two sellers will be invited to explain why they should be given the money back.

The British coin dealer's lawyer Phillip Barden told the BBC he was hopeful the magistrates would award Mr McFadden the money.

(Posting date 27 July 2006)

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