Smuggled Ancient
Coin Returns to Greece

A RARE silver coin celebrating the most famous murder of antiquity was handed over on June 27 to culture ministry officials in Athens, after a groundbreaking deal that allowed its repatriation from Britain.

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

The 3.2-gram coin is decorated with the head of
Brutus on the one side and a pair of daggers
flanking a cap on the other

Culture Minister George Voulgarakis hailed the 2,OOO-year-old artefact's return as an important success in Greece's struggle to reclaim smuggled antiquities. 'This has great significance... and is a forebear of future repatriations as part of our fight against illegal excavations and antiquities trafficking," he said.

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

Voulgarakis said the Classical Numismatic Group unconditionally handed over the denarius this month to a lawyer representing the Greek state"after Greece was able to prove it had been illegally excavated.

''It is the first time the EU directive was enforced in Britain,"Voulgarakis said. The coin was issued by a mobile military mint by used by Brutus to pay his soldiers during the wars that followed Caesar's assassination in 44BC by a group of his friends and proteges - immortalised in Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar.

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 March 15, the date of Caesar's murder.

A denarius corresponded to a Roman legionary's daily pay. Brutus - whose full name was Marcus Junius Brutus - committed suicide after being defeated in 42BC at Philippi in Greece by Octavian, who became Rome's first emperor.

(Nicholas Paphitis, AP)

(Posting date 2006)

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