At the beginning of the civil war, Julius Caesar minted a denarius that carried rather unusual imagery: religious implements on the obverse and an elephant trampling on a snake (or a dragon) on the reverse. This coin has conventionally been understood to refer to the campaigns in Gaul. The iconography was designed to bolster Caesar’s claim to rightful authority in the face of his political opponents.
It is estimated that 22 million of these were minted, making them the third most minted coin of the Roman Republic and enough to pay eight legions. This coin coincides with the time when Caesar took gold and silver bouillon from the Temple of Saturn treasury in Rome, which is likely the source of the metals used in this coinage.
It has been suggested that Caesar’s use of the elephant was intended to humiliate the self-important Pompey, who had tried to associate himself with Alexander the Great by riding one of Alexander’s symbols, the elephant, in his triumphal procession. Pompey had embarrassingly failed to fit the beast into the city.
The religious symbols associate Caesar with his prestigious pontifical position as the head of Rome’s religious hierarchy. Caesar had been Pontifex Maximus since 63 BC.
Elephant walking right, trampling dragon
CAESAR in ex
Emblems of the pontificate: simpulum, aspergillum, securis (surmounted by wolf’s head), and apex
A perfect choice for Numismatists, Historians, Military Veterans, Collectors.