Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 30 October 2020

Blood Money

We are ever more accustomed to commemorative coins. No longer are such issues reserved for coronations and jubilees or significant wedddings or anniveraries. Now for not a few small states and territories, and many larger ones, they are a way of raising funds for national exchequers with often poor designs reflecting tenuous links to that which is commemorated. Here the poor old 50pence coin is always being given a makeover by the artists at the Royal Mint to celebrate anything and everything - remember the hideous sport themed ones for the 2012 Olympics? Best not...

A much earlier commemorative coin was in the news recently. That has a striking design and marks one of the accepted turning points of history. The MailOnline had an article about a coin issued by Brutus which celebrated the assassination of Julius Caesar. The coin has an obverse with a fine portrait of Brutus himself and on the reverse two daggers flanking a Phrygian cap and the date of the Ides of March. The article can be seen, together with an illustration of the coin, at Rare Roman gold coin expected to fetch 'up to £5 MILLION' at auction

Such a celebration of what its authors doubtless saw as tyrannicide still seems shocking over two millennia later.

The pursuit and annihilation of Caesar’s killers is recounted in a new book which is reviewed at Up yours and see you in hell! Julius Caesar's murder sparked a manhunt.  I find something rather comforting that it was not to be the popular and popularist Mark Antony, with or without Cleopatra, who finally emerged as the leader of the Roman world, but rather Caesar’s quiet great-nephew Octavian, whose achievement of power established the Principate and gave a new direction to Rome and the concept of Empire. With Augustus, whether he himself realised it or not, the world changed.

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