The Roman Empire
Cleopatra, with Marc Antony

Obverse:

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Reverse:

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Coin Details

Origin/Country: ANCIENT - ROMAN IMPERATORIAL (1st CENT BC) PTOLEMAIC KINGDOM Cleopatra VII+Marc Antony
Design Description: Cleopatra and Marc Antony AE21
Item Description: AE21 Cleopatra VII/Marc Antony 32/1 BC. Syria, Chalcis.
Full Grade: NGC XF Strike: 4/5 Surface: 3/5
Owner: Kohaku

Set Details

Custom Sets: The Roman Empire
Competitive Sets: This coin is not competing in any sets.
Research: NGC Coin Price Guide

Owner Comments:

The name Cleopatra in Greek denotes “she who comes from glorious father,” and among the many queens bearing the name, Cleopatra VII (69-31 BC) proved herself a most worthy Ptolemaic dynast. When embroiled in an Egyptian civil war, she famously persuaded Julius Caesar to help her secure the throne. Moreover, she even lived for a while in one of the dictator’s country villas. Their love affair, scandalous since both were already legally married, came to an abrupt end on the ides of March 44 BC.

In the aftermath of Caesar's assassination, the civil war against his murderers fell to his legally named heir, Octavian, along with fellow Triumvirs Marc Antony and Lepidus. It was logical that Cleopatra sided with the Triumvirs, and after they disintegrated, she aligned herself with Antony, and the two lived together in Alexandria. Once again, Cleopatra embroiled herself in a famous and scandalous relationship. This time, her paramour was Antony, even though he was still legally married to Octavian's sister, Octavia. Octavian implored his sister to divorce, but she remained devoted, at least for a while. In 35 BC, Octavia even attempted to parley with Antony, bringing him a fleet laden with supplies. However, Antony refused, barring Octavia’s progress past Athens and sending her back to Italy. Apparently, Antony was busy experiencing the indulgences of the Egyptian way of life. The ancient historian Cassius Dio even described Antony as being “Cleopatra’s slave.” In any case, Octavia finally filed for divorce in 32 BC, and her ex-husband and Cleopatra were now sworn enemies of Octavian and the Roman State.

Whereas Cleopatra and Caesar comprised the über-power couple (both were extremely charismatic), Cleopatra and Marc Antony seemed an unlikely pair. Cleopatra’s cleverness, beauty, and charm were countered by Antony’s recklessness, rugged physical appearance, and irascibility. Even so, Cleopatra and Antony become arguably the most famous lovers of all time, sharing not only in love, but also in war, and after their defeat, in suicide. Their fascinating, tragic tale has been chronicled, with varying degrees of improvisation, for millennia.

There is a particular thrill when one contemplates firsthand an ancient coin bearing portraits of Cleopatra and Antony. This ancient bronze struck in 32-31 BC Syria provides a striking example due to the very clear portraiture for both subjects. Unlike the ancient coin featuring conjoined portraits of Antony and Octavia found elsewhere in this NGC Ancients collection, herein Cleopatra demands equal billing, as if not willing to sharing the flan with Antony. Cleopatra’s diademed and draped bust solely dominates the coin’s obverse, with Antony’s bust reserved for the reverse. The bare-headed portrait of Marc Antony is expectedly rugged. Cleopatra’s visage, however, presents somewhat of a surprise. Despite her renowned beauty, her obverse portrayal is rather ordinary looking. Moreover, her demeanor and attire are not particularly feminine. This observation is not unique; in fact, it is consistent with Cleopatra’s portrayals on other contemporary objects and coins.

The seemingly masculine rendering of Cleopatra was likely intentional, similar to the numismatic portrayal of previous Ptolemaic Queens. Given the chaos arising from Egyptian and Roman civil wars, Cleopatra strove to project a strong leadership image, and in ancient times there was no better propaganda tool than coinage.

Coin Details: SYRIA, Chalcidice, Chalcis, Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony, 32-31 BC, Æ (21mm, 7.14 g, 12h), Dated RY 21 (Egyptian) and 6 (Phoenician) of Cleopatra (32/1 BC), NGC Grade: XF, Strike: 4/5, Surface: 3/5, Obverse: Diademed and draped bust of Cleopatra right, Reverse: Bare head of Antony right, References: Svoronos 1887; Weiser 186; SNG München 1006; RPC I 4771; HGC 9, 1451; DCA 476.

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