What often brings history alive isn't text or even movies. There are two things that get kids in history's grip--speakers with firsthand knowledge, and stuff. This post is about stuff.
Enter the Associated Press, which today has an amazing story about a small coin, a coin that will excite world history, English, and even Latin teachers. It will excite all of them because it deals with Julius Caesar.
By NICHOLAS PAPHITIS, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jun 27, 6:11 PM ET
ATHENS, Greece - A rare silver coin celebrating the most famous murder of antiquity was handed over to Greek Culture Ministry officials, after a groundbreaking deal that allowed its repatriation from Britain.
The tiny coin, a denarius issued in 42 B.C. 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.
Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis hailed the 2,000-year-old artifact's return on Tuesday 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 Tuesday.
The Roman coin — which weighs only 0.1 ounces — was returned after Greek officials initiated legal action against the British dealership, based on a European Union directive on the return 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.
The coin was issued by a mobile military mint used by Brutus to pay his soldiers during the wars that followed Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C. by a group of his friends and proteges — immortalized in Shakespeare's play, "Julius Caesar."
Decorated with the head of Brutus on 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 equaled a Roman legionary's daily pay.
For as long as this link holds (I can't even find the story on AP's own web site), you can even see a picture of this denarius. Wow.
As a coin collector, I get excited over stories like this. Coins interest me like almost no other facet of history. They cover just about every topic--politics, personalities, geography, everyday life and times, you name it. They're often inexpensive antiques you can hold in your hand and imagine.... And they're money. They're portable. They're easy to come by. And kids love holding them. This AP story is, pardon the pun, a gold mine.
But we don't get to see this coin, Darren; how does this help us teachers? I'm glad you asked! Enter Ancient Coins in Education, a generous academic program if ever there was one. These people will actually give you ancient (Roman) coins to use in your classroom--that the students can keep! And they won't just dump this on you with no background knowledge--no, there's plenty of information supplied so that you can effective use these coins to augment your state-approved curriculum in history! Even more, their web site has additional teacher-supplied resources and activities. And you have to appreciate this more-than-reasonable comment at the bottom of their main page: Through the generous help of ACE sponsors we strive to supply first-time participating schools with all necessary coins and materials at no cost. The nominal fees charged for continuing participants may be waived, or financial aid may be available for those schools finding it too burdensome.
Contact them, see what they can do to help you make your instruction even more valuable to your students. Bona Fortuna!
Update: 3/9/07: The Yahoo link is dead. Here's a link to a picture of the coin.