Julius Caesar v. Pompeians
The First Triumvirate was a powerful coalition between Julius Caesar, a young and charismatic populist, two more senior leaders who both rose to power under L. Cornelius Sulla and had served in 70 BC as joint consuls. The three all brought strengths to the alliance, but it wasn't an easy relationship as their political beliefs and personal ambitions were at odds.
Julius Caesar, circa 31 years old in 69 BC, giving the eulogy for his Aunt Julia's funeral had no doubt about his family's importance in the world: a descendant of gods & kings. Julia was the wife of Marius and sister to Caesar's father. He describes his family's ancestry:
"The family of my aunt Julia is descended by her mother from the kings, and on her father's side is akin to the immortal Gods; for the Marcii Reges (her mother's family name) go back to Ancus Marcius, and the Julii, the family of which ours is a branch, to Venus. Our stock therefore has at once the sanctity of kings, whose power is supreme among mortal men, and the claim to reverence which attaches to the Gods, who hold sway over kings themselves." - Suetonius, The Life of Julius Caesar, 6.1
Pompey was married to Caesar's daughter Julia, who died in childbirth in 54 BC along with the child. Crassus died in a humiliating defeat at Carrhae by the Parthians in 53 BC. The alliance was broken and civil war between Pompey and Caesar followed.
Returning from Gaul under orders to stand down his armies and face charges for violating senate orders, Julius Caesar crossed the line between the province of Cisalpine Gaul and Italy, the Rubicon. Crossing the border in command of his armies was a treasonous act. He took control of Rome and restructured the senate to ensure control. Pompey raised armies in the East to fight Caesar and this coin was struck by Sicinius for Pompeian fleet commander Coponius. Coponius was in command of teh Rhodian fleet. It was probably struck somewhere in Asia minor. Woytek refined Crawford's "moving with Pompey" to "west coast of Asia Minor". The S.C. added for the appearance of senatorial authority.
Q. Sicinius and C. Coponius AR Denarius, military mint, west coast of Asia Minor in 49 BC.
Obv: Head of Apollo to right, hair tied with band; star below, Q•SICINIVS before, III•VIR behind
Rev: Club upright, on which hangs lion's skin, arrow on left, bow on right; C•COPONIVS on left, •PR•S•C on right
Ref: Crawford 444/1a
Pompey was soon defeated by Caesar. According to Plutarch, Pompey worried about Caesar's divine roots the night before he faced him in battle at the Battle of Pharsalus in North Africa (9-Aug-48 BC by the calendar at the time).
"That night Pompey dreamed that as he entered his theater the people clapped their hands, and that he decorated a temple of Venus Victrix with many spoils. On some accounts he was encouraged, but on others depressed, by the dream; he feared lest the race of Caesar, which went back to Venus, was to receive glory and splendour through him; and certain panic tumults which went rushing through the camp roused him from sleep." -Plutarch, Pompey, 68.2
At the center of Pompey's forces was Metellus Scipio. Pompey was married to Scipio's daughter Cornelia, who was ~30 years younger than him. The marriage was another sign of the break between Pompey and Caesar.
"The centre of Pompey's formation was commanded by his father-in-law, Scipio, the left wing by Domitius Ahenobarbus, and the right by Lentulus. Afranius and Pompey guarded the camp. On Cæsar's side the commanders were P. Sulla, Antony, and Cn. Domitius. Cæsar took a convenient place in the tenth legion, as was his custom." -Appian, The Civil Wars, Book II 11.76
Pompey was defeated by Caesar and assassinated in Egypt by 10-year-old Ptolemy XIII's soldiers to ingratiate themselves to Caesar. This didn't have the intended result as Caesar would have preferred to pardon Pompey. Caesar found Cleopatra VII irresistibly attractive. By the time Caesar left Egypt she was pregnant with the future "Caeserion", Cleopatra was sole Queen of Egypt and he young Ptolemy XIII ended up dead.
This coin celebrates Caesar's victory over Pompey and his family heritage, with Venus on the obverse and Aeneas, son of Venus, carrying his father, Anchises, and the Palladium of Troy at the end of the Trojan War. Aeneas, went on to found Lavinium in Italy, and in the mythology of Rome is an ancestor to Romulus and Remus - worth noting that there are competing and conflicting versions of this chronology.
Julius Caesar, 47-46 BC, AR Denarius, 19mm, 3.6g, North Africa mint
Obv:Diademed head of Venus facing right.
Rev:CAESAR, Aeneas advancing left, carrying his father Anchises on left shoulder and palladium
Ref: Crawford 458/1
After the defeat at Pharsalus and the death of Pompey in Egypt, opposition to Caesar continued in Africa under Metellus Scipio. Scipio held that prophesy ensured his success in Africa. Crawford writes, "The coinage of Metellus Scipio is pathetically true to its author's belief in the felix et invictum Scipionum nomen (Suetonius Caes. 59)" - the Scipios being blessed and invincible. For this reason Suetonius tells us that Caesar brought a relative of Scipio's as a mascot to counter this divine support and invincibility, or at least to give courage to his troops.
"Furthermore, to make the prophecies ridiculous which declared that the stock of the Scipios was fated to be fortunate and invincible in that province, he kept with him in camp a contemptible fellow belonging to the Cornelian family, to whom the nickname Salvito had been given as a reproach for his manner of life."
The Pompeians, Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio, 47 BC - Spring 46 BC, AR denarius, African mint
Obv: Q•METEL PIVS, laureate head of Jupiter right
Rev: African elephant walking right, SCIPIO above, IMP below
Ref: Crawford 459/1
This RR denarius is my most recent addition:
The Pompeians, Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio, AR Denarius, military mint travelling with Scipio in Africa, 47-46 BC. Eppius, legate
Obv: Head of Africa right, wearing elephant skin headdress; grain ear before, plough below, Q•METELL downwards to right, SCIPIO•IMP upwards to left
Rev: Hercules standing facing, right hand on hip, leaning on club draped with lion skin and set on rock; LEG•F•C upwards to left, EPPIVS downwards to right
Ref: Crawford 461/1
Metellus Scipio was born the son of Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica a family which had produced multiple Roman consuls. He was adopted into the Caecillius-Metellus family as an adult by Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius (QCMP coins and notes) who was a key supporter of Sulla in the civil wars of 88-80 BC and was elected consul with Sulla in 80 BC. Elephants are the symbol of the Caecillius-Metellus family, recognizing the battle of Panormous, in 250 BC. During the First Punic War between Carthage and Rome at Panormous, Caecilius Metellus (cos. 25I BC) defeated Carthaginian general Hasdrubal, son of Hanno, and captured his elephants.
Metellus Scipio met his end after the February 6, 46 BC Battle of Thapsus (a Carthaginian and Roman port city near the modern city of Bakalta, Tunisia).
Crawford, Michael, Roman Republican Coinage, Cambridge University Press, 1974 reprinted in 2019
Rowan C. (2019). From Caesar to Augustus (c. 49 BC - AD 14). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Nousek, D. (2008). Turning Points in Roman History: the Case of Caesar's Elephant Denarius. Phoenix, 62(3/4), 290-307.
J.Linderski, Roman Questions II, Stuttgart 2007
Plutarch. Plutarch's Lives. with an English Translation by. Bernadotte Perrin. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press. London. William Heinemann Ltd. 1917.
C. Suetonius Tranquillus, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, The Life of Julius Caesar, Loeb Classical Library, 1913.
Mommsen, T. (1908). The History of the Roman republic. C. Scribner's Sons, NY, NY.
Appianus of Alexandria, Civil Wars, Translated by Horace White, 1899
Livius.org: Caesar's Civil Wars
William E. Metcalf, “Arma et Nummi [Bernhard Woytek]”, Zeitschrift: Schweizerische numismatische Rundschau, 85 (2006)
Arma et Nummi, Forschungen zur römischen Finanzgeschichte und Münzprägung der Jahre 49 bis 42 v. Chr. , ÖAW, Bernhard WOYTEK, ISBN-13: 978-3-7001-3159-5 ISBN-13 Online: 978-3-7001-3525-8
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