Signs & Superstitions

Among the few of my possessions is a 49 B.C. Julius Caesar famous coin issue, the elephant denarius. The 2,000 year old coin is one of my valuable collections (the rest are books), and so my love for antiques makes me prefer it over my other neck pieces. Just recently, as I was going for an interview, of course wearing the Caesar pendant, I mistakenly grabbed it off as I was removing my earphones after receiving a call. The necklace broke and the pendant fell. My heart stopped when I realized that the pendant was missing, I don’t even remember breathing. I held on to the necklace and started looking for the pendant, still breathless. When I found it inside my shirt, I put it back in my bag and carried on the day.

This would not be the first time I have had these panicky episodes. There are numerous times when I have had these anxieties that neared that of panic when I thought that I had misplaced it. My jewellery, besides being an adornment, is something I fiddle with when I am thinking or facing a situation that needs my focus. Since most of the time I am wearing Caesar’s elephant denarius, I am always fiddling with it. When I managed to pull through, I attributed it to a superstitious belief that the necklace was the coin that Jesus took out of the fish’s mouth to pay his taxes. Of course it is highly unlikely that the coin Jesus retrieved is the Caesar Denarius (many speculate that is was likely the Tyrian shekel). Regardless, for some reason I am attached to the necklace because of its symbolism.

The coin is one of the most famous and iconic coinage. It was one of the first coins of Julius Caesar which he minted to pay his military troops when they were against his opponents. Caesar made the famous ‘crossing of the Rubicon’ into Italy defying orders of the Senate and confirmed a civil war against his rival, Pompey the Great. But due to money problems, he needed sums of silver to pay his troops and thus he barged into the treasury of the Temple of Saturn in Rome and used its silver reserves to mint about  22 million pieces of the coin.

The coin has no portrait of Caesar whatsoever, but has his name inscribed on it. This is partly due to the fact that it was unacceptable in ancient Rome to depict a living person on coinage, and it was only after his death that coins depicting Caesar were widely used. Although the elephant denarius coin has no image of Caesar, it portrays Caesar’s influence. One side of the coin shows a right-facing elephant treading on a snake to symbolize Rome’s victory of good over evil forces. The other side of the coin are the pontifical emblems (a ritual ladle, a water sprinkler and a sacrificial axe with a wolf’s head, and an apex) of the Roman high priest, who at that time was Caesar.

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Front side of Caesar’s elephant denarius

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Back side of Caesar’s elephant denarius

It is notable that in Caesar’s time, Romans were religious tolerant and had adopted many gods and vague spirits of different kind and origin before the advent of Christianity. In fact, the adoption of a foreign cult was seen as means of overcoming an enemy people. Their tolerance was mainly due to their belief that all perceptions of deities were actually one universal god, thus structures such as the temple of Isis and Saturn (where silver was taken to mint the elephant denarii) were erected in honor of these gods and Caesar would offer sacrifices in them, as the Pontifex Maximus.

With the conversion of Emperor Constantine, Christianity became the state religion of Rome, and with the religion’s fundamental that salvation is in no other except Christ, Rome had to break out of their pagan past. Thus, many temples were converted to churches and magic, witchcraft and offering of sacrifices were forbidden[1]. Although Christians in Rome had suffered martyrdom greatly when Christianity was at its infant stages, the Romans who were to acknowledge only the Emperor himself as ‘Lord’ had now embraced Christianity.

Flash forward some 2,000+ years later, and one of the coins of the legendary Caesar landed in an unknown girl’s hands whose belief underwent the same metamorphosis like that of Rome. Although Christianity had been my way of life for 15 years now, God had (and still has) something new to reveal to me every day, and this has kept me on my feet, and grounded in my faith. I have never been much of a signs and wonders person, but what I do know though is that when Caesar’s elephant denarius pendant fell and I had to walk into an interview without it, that was God’s sign of reassuring me of four things; one– I didn’t need the pendant for victory, because Jesus Christ already did that; two– fidgeting on something in an interview would send a bad sign, a really bad sign; three, it was time I changed the pendant (which I have), and lastly, nothing on earth is ever to held so dearly, yes, even antiques.


[1] David Burnett, Dawning of the Pagan moon (Monarch publication: Sussex 1991), p 50-52

 

3 thoughts on “Signs & Superstitions

  1. Well, I hope it is. I have had it for quite some time and it hasn’t rusted or changed colour. Plus the impressions on both sides seem really authentic, and the edges are not so rounded.
    I got it from some coin collections I found in the house.

  2. Pingback: I was nominated for the Liebster Award! – whatsheethinks

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