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Second Known

566259. Sold For $95000

SELEUCIS and PIERIA. Mark Antony & Cleopatra. Circa 36-34 BC. AR Tetradrachm (26mm, 15.03 g, 12h). Uncertain mint of Mark Antony & Cleopatra. BACIΛICCA KΛЄOΠATPA ΘЄA [NЄωTЄPA], diademed bust of Cleopatra right, wearing earring, necklace, and embroidered dress / [AN]TωNIOC AVTOKPATωP TPITON [TPIωN ANΔPωN], bare head of Antony right; R · to left. McAlee 176 = Prieur 29 = RPC I 4096 = CHA 1 454 = Sarnakunk (IGCH 1746) 372; Butcher, pp. 55-8; HGC 9, 1361. Iridescent toning, porosity, tiny edge split. Good VF. Excellent portraits. Apparently the second known, only the Sarnakunk coin cited in references, none in CoinArchives. Extremely rare.

The joint coinage of Antony and Cleopatra, especially their tetradrachms, presents a number of challenges in their attribution. Dated to the period of Antony’s war with the Parthians, between 36 and 34 BC, this issue was struck in the theater of operations with the financial assistance of the Egyptians. Traditionally, these coins have been assigned to Antioch, based on the stylistic similarity of Antony’s portrait with an extremely rare drachm with the ethnic ANTIOXEΩN on the reverse (McAlee 177). Questions, however, arisen concerning this attribution . While the portraits are stylistically similar, the use of the Greek forms Ω and Σ are canonical at the Antioch mint until the end of the first century AD. These tetradrachms use ω and C instead, suggesting that the mint is not Antioch, but a regional mint, employing an Antiochene celator for the portrait. An examination of contemporary denarii, attributed to a military mint moving with Antony in Syria or Armenia, also show some similarity regarding the portrait (see CRI 343-4). It is then likely that the tetradrachms were also the product of a traveling mint. The portrait of Cleopatra, placed on the obverse of these tetradrachms, assumes her as the primary issuer. This fact has been used as evidence that these coins were struck at a Ptolemaic-controlled mint. Since she provided the funding for Antony’s Egyptian-Roman army, her appearance on the obverse may be out of recognition for her assistance, rather than the sign of a specific mint. This issue has three varieties, based on the presence or absence of control marks behind the head of Antony. In terms of rarity, the issue with the R · behind the head of Antony is the rarest with, prior to the current coin, only known from a single specimen.

Following the uneasy reconciliation of the Second Triumvirate at Brundisium in 40 BC, Antony gained control of Rome’s eastern provinces of Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, and Cyrene, as well as a number of client-kingdoms. Among these was Ptolemaic Egypt, one of the richest and then under the de facto rule of Cleopatra VII along with her son by Julius Caesar, Ptolemy XV Caesarion. With the rise of the Parthian Empire, beginning in the third century BC and the expansion of the Roman Republic into the Eastern Mediterranean during the second century BC, the two were in an almost perpetual war with each other for control of these client-kingdoms, especially Armenia. While Egypt remained relatively untouched by these wars, there was a great fear in Rome that the loss of this important ally would create a power vacuum, thereby threatening Rome’s eastern provinces, especially Asia. The defeat of Crassus at Carrhae in 54 BC exposed the weakness of eastern foreign policy by bringing Armenia under Parthian control. Recognizing the need to re-exert Roman control in the East and decisively check the Parthian Empire, Caesar, shortly before his assassination in 44 BC was planning a Parthian campaign. It was not until 41 BC, after the assassins had been defeated, that Rome looked to reassert its power in the East. After conquering Palmyra, which was located on the Roman-Parthian border, Antony left behind two legions, while he wintered in Alexandria with Cleopatra. This action prompted the Parthians to invade and rally those Republicans still remaining in Syria to join the Parthian side. Known as the Pompeian-Parthian invasion of 40 BC, it began a two year war between the Caesarians and the Parthian Empire that resulted in the restoration of Parthian-held territories, including Syria, by 38 BC. Antony then planned a full-scale invasion of Parthia. Since he was unable to rely on military support from Octavian, who had no intention of supporting him with additional legions, Antony allied himself with Cleopatra, who provided him with military and financial support.

Having a force twice as large as that of Crassus almost two decades earlier, Antony’s plan was to swing north into Armenia and, having reconquered it, move southward into the Parthian heartland and conquer the capital of Ekbatana. Unfortunately this ambitious plan failed and Antony was forced to retreat into Syria by late 36 BC, having lost 40% of his army in the process. A second attempt was more successful. Again, Antony invaded Armenia with Egyptian assistance. As a result of this victory, a mock Roman triumph was held in Alexandria and, in Autumn 34 BC, the event known as the ‘Donations of Alexandria’ was held wherein Antony granted his children by Cleopatra, as well as Ptolemy XV Caesarion, the lands held by Rome and Parthia, along with numerous titles. The event proved the final breaking point of the Second Triumvirate, and caused the Final War of the Roman Republic with the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at Actium in 31 BC.