An Ancient Coin for Independence Day
On July 4th, 1776 the Continental Congress
"...in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown...".
While I don't have any coins from the start of the American republic, I will post this ancient Roman coin from the Roman Republic, which is perhaps relevant. The moneyer (triumvir monetalis) who minted this coin is Marcus Junius Brutus, the Brutus of the ides of march, "et tu Brute", and "sic semper tyrannis" - although we could debate whether anyone said those two phrases in the heat of the moment:
Roman Republican, M. Junius Brutus, 54 BC, AR denarius, Rome, struck 54 BC
Obv: Bearded and bare-headed head right of L. Junius Brutus; BRVTVS.
Rev: Bearded and bare-headed head right of Caius Servilius Ahala; AHALA
Size: 3.96g, 17-19mm
Ref: Crawford 433/2; Junia 30
This obverse of this coin references the founding of the Roman Republic. The portrait of the moneyer's ancestor, Lucius Junius Brutus, tells the story of the Romans overthrowing the monarchy in 509 BC. This Brutus of 509, nephew to Rome's seventh king, Tarquinius Superbus, and grandson to Rome's 5th king, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, led the revolt that banished the king and his family. He was then elected as one of the first two consuls of the new republic. M. Junius Brutus, in 54 BC claimed this Brutus as his ancestor in his father's family.
The reverse of this coin shows another ancestor of M. Junius Brutus, Gaius Servilius Structus Ahala, who in 439 murdered Spurius Maelius for plotting to make himself king. Ahala an ancestor from Brutus' mother's family, and so he proclaims that he is the descendant of two tyrannicides.
A decade later, in 44 BC, Brutus would was one of the leaders of the conspiracy to assassinate Julius Caesar on the Ides of March. In hindsight a prescient coin. At the time, 54 BC, the coin was a celebration of liberty, freedom from tyranny, the founding of the republic, and Brutus’ ancestors. (More in this note on Cassius Conspirator)
America’s founding fathers took inspiration from the Roman Republic and the ideals, writings and characters of ancient Rome. George Washington had a play "Cato, A tragedy" performed at Valley Forge in 1778 to rally the troops....but that is another coin and another story. The Coinage Act of 1792 states:
"SEC. 10. And be it further enacted, That, upon the said coins respectively, there shall be the following devices and legends, namely: Upon one side of each of the said coins there shall be an impression emblematic of liberty, with an inscription of the word Liberty, and the year of the coinage..." -US Mint, Coinage Act of 1792
One of the first coins issued under the Coinage Act of 1792 shows the Roman goddess Libertas and her classical attributes of cap (pileus) and staff (vindicta). This coin draws inspiration from an earlier 1783 medal issued by Benjamin Franklin and designed by Augustin Dupré. (See: Libertas Americana)
The liberty cap became and important symbol in the American revolution and on American coins. The liberty cap also appears on a more famous coin of Brutus - the EID MAR.