The Roman Empire
Antonia

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Coin Details

Origin/Country: ANCIENT - ROMAN EMPIRE (1st CENT BC - 5th CENT AD) ROMAN EMPIRE Antonia, d.AD 37
Design Description: Antonia Dupondius
Item Description: AE Dupondius ROMAN EMPIRE Western 'branch mint'(?) posthumous under Claudius
Full Grade: NGC XF Strike: 4/5 Surface: 5/5
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:

It is remarkable how often reference to the “remarkable court” of Antonia Minor (36 BC – 37 AD) appears in the biographies of her contemporaries. Specifically, she supervised the upbringing of many children belonging to Roman patrician and foreign royal families. The Empire’ allies, client states, and even rivals had their princes and princesses educated in Rome. The list is indeed remarkable: Armenia (e.g., Tigranes V), Commagene (e.g., Antiochus IV), Egypt (e.g., Cleopatra Selene II), Judaea (e.g., Agrippa I), Mauretania (e.g., Ptolemy), Parthia (e.g., Vonones I), Pontus (e.g., Antonia Tryphaena), and Thrace (e.g., Pythodoris II), just to name a few.

From an early age, it seemed Antonia’s destiny to become an important matron of the ancient world. She never knew her father, Marc Antony, who divorced her mother, Octavia, when Antonia was four years old. Two years later, Antonia’s father committed suicide following his defeat at the legendary Battle of Actium. Consequently, Antonia grew up in the court of her uncle Octavian and Aunt Livia, amid an eclectic group of foreign and Roman royalty, including a sister (Antonia Major), half siblings from her mother’s previous marriage to Gaius Claudius Marcellus (Marcella Major, Marcella Minor, and Marcus Marcellus), half siblings from her father’s relationship with Cleopatra VII (Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene II, and Ptolemy Philadelphos), and a half sibling from her father’s previous marriage to Fulvia (Iullus Antonius). Young Antonia was exposed to various cultures, including instruction from renowned Greek philosophers. Beyond academics, she learned the etiquette and customs of an aristocrat. Antonia’s uncle Octavian, who earned the title of Augustus when he became Rome’s first Emperor in 27 BC, assigned her money from her father’s Italian estate. She also inherited many of her father’s social and business relationships in the East, not to mention properties in Egypt and Greece. Certainly, Antonia grasped the tools to effectively run a culturally complex imperial household.

Antonia married her step-cousin, Nero Claudius Drusus, who was Livia’s son from her previous marriage. Nero Claudius Drusus was a renowned general who attained quaestorship five years before the usual legal age. By all accounts, Antonia and Drusus were deeply in love and remained faithful to one another (a notable achievement for Rome’s aristocracy) until Drusus’ tragic death in 9 BC. Antonia never remarried, despite pressure from her uncle Augustus, who died in 14 AD and was succeeded by Nero Claudius Drusus’ brother, Tiberius.

Three of Antonia’s children survived to adulthood: Germanicus, Livilla, and Claudius. Like his father, Germanicus earned fame as a potent military commander until his tragic death while still in his prime years. Livilla’s destiny proved rather less heroic. She entered into an adulterous affair with Emperor TIberius’ Praetorian Prefect, the infamous Sejanus. Livilla conspired with Sejanus to murder her husband, Tiberius’ son Drusus the Younger. Moreover, Livilla and Sejanus apparently had designs to eliminate the Emperor himself. Considering the rather extensive purge of Julio-Claudian dynasts around this time, one can only imagine Antonia’s satisfaction when she obtained proof of Sejanus’ plans and personally presented the information to her brother-in-law. The Emperor ordered Sejanus’ execution, but he left Livilla’s fate up to Antonia. Remarkably, Antonia decided to lock up her daughter in her room until she starved to death. Such sentencing may seem incongruous for a gracious Roman matron, yet consider Antonia’s own personal history, in particular her father’s betrayal of her mother. Antonia also treated her surviving son, Claudius, with tough love, criticizing his physical impairments and even calling him “…a monster of a man, not finished but merely begun by Dame Nature.” It is interesting to note Antonia’s words promoted the public perception of Claudius’ ineptitude, likely a contributing factor to his survival amid the mysterious, untimely demise of numerous Julio-Claudian males.

Antonia’s no-nonsense approach to dealing with her own clan extended to her relationship with her grandson Caligula, who ascended Rome’s throne after Tiberius’ death in 37 AD. For the first few weeks of Caligula’s reign, he granted his grandmother many honors, including the privileges of Vestal Virgins and appointment as priestess of Augustus. Caligula even bestowed Antonia the title of Augusta, although she may have eschewed it. Apparently, the relationship between Antonia and her grandson soured several months into Caligula’s reign. It was around this time that Caligula fell ill, and upon his recovery began to exhibit an increasing madness. Antonia tried to counsel Caligula, but he declined to follow her advice. Caligula soon refused to even grant his grandmother an audience; moreover, he began to threaten her. If anyone knew Caligula’s potential for succumbing to his dark side it was Antonia; after all, she raised him, and reportedly even caught him violating his sister Drusilla while he was still a minor. Antonia, now in her early seventies, protested in her own fashion. By most accounts, she took her own life, although some sources cite poisoning by Caligula. In any case, Caligula did not honor his grandmother’s memory; he refused to attend her funeral, instead viewing her burning pyre from afar.

Sadly for Antonia, she missed the chance to see her surviving son Claudius ascend Rome’s throne after Caligula’s murder. Early into Claudius’ reign, he honored his mother posthumously on provisional and imperial coinage. The handful of imperial issues comprise denominations in various metals, including this bronze dupondius struck in Rome around 41-42 AD. The obverse prominently features Augusta Antonia’s draped bust, whereas Claudius appears on the coin’s verso as a togate figure holding a simpulum (a ladle used at sacrifices to make libations).

On this particular coin, Antonia’s strong features – almost masculine – manifest her unyielding demeanor and efforts to promote the Roman Empire’ succession. Antonia’s imperial lineage truly impresses: niece of Augustus, grandmother of Emperor Caligula and Empress Agrippina the Younger, mother of Emperor Claudius, not to mention maternal great-grandmother and paternal great-aunt of Emperor Nero. Equally impressive was Antonia’s impact on those not necessarily related to her by blood, i.e., the staggering array of foreign princes and princess who spent their formative years under her authority. Indeed, Antonia played a remarkable role in propagating Rome’s culture and political influence throughout the ancient world.

Additional reading: N. Kokkinos, Antonia Augusta: Portrait of a Great Roman Lady, 1993.

Coin Details: ROMAN EMPIRE, Antonia Minor, Augusta, Æ Dupondius (26.5mm, 10.61 g, 1h), Rome mint, Struck under Claudius, AD 41-42, NGC Grade: XF, Strike: 4/5, Surface: 5/5, Obverse: Draped bust right, ANTONIA AVGVSTA, Reverse: Claudius standing left, holding simpulum, TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG P M TR P IMP, S-C across field, References: RIC I 92 (Claudius); von Kaenel Type 59, BMCRE 166 (Claudius); BN 143 (Claudius); Cohen 6.

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