Caesar Elephant Coin

17 May 2022  Tue

This is the first coinage to bear Julius Caesar's name, commencing after Caesar crossed the Rubicon in January 49 BC and seized control of the bullion stores in the public treasury left behind by the panic-stricken senate and their champion, Pompey the Great. Despite being the most widespread of all Caesar’s coins, the types still are somewhat mysterious.

The symbolism is commonly held to show the triumph of good (elephant) over evil (serpent or dragon). Alternatively, the “horned serpent” may represent a carnyx, a dragon-shaped horn used by the Celtic tribes in Gaul, whom Caesar had recently overcome in his epic eight-year conquest, in which case the elephant would represent Caesar himself or Rome.

The obverse depicts religious implements associated with Caesar’s office of Pontifex Maximus: a culullus (a ritual cap), an aspergillum (a brush used to sprinkle holy water), a securis (a single-bladed, double-handed, and animal-headed ax), and a simpulum (a long-handled ladle used at sacrifices, for example, to share libations). These religious symbols emphasize Caesar’s religious post as well as provide a reminder of his claimed relationship with the gods, such as Venus.

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