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Rome - The Imperators

Ruler: Mark Antony and Octavia
Held Office: born 83 BC - died 30 BC (married Octavia 40 BC)
Denomination: AR Cistophorus
Mint: Ephesus
Date of Issue: 39 BC
Obverse: Head of Antony right, wearing ivy wreath; lituus below; all within wreath of ivy and flowers; "M. ANTONIVS IMP. COS. DESIG. ITER. ET TERT." around.
Reverse: Draped bust of Octavia right above cista mystica, flanked by interlaced serpents with heads erect; "III VIR" on left, "RPC" on right.
Reference: CRI 262; Sydenham 1197; RSC 2; RPC I 2201
Weight: 10.4 gms
Diameter: 25.0 mm
Comment: This remarkable issue of silver cistophori from Asia (this coin and HCRI 263), the first for about a decade, commemorates the marriage of Antony and Octavia and celebrates the Triumvir's divine status as the 'New Dionysus', an honour which had been bestowed on him at the time of his arrival in Ephesus in 41 BC. The cistophorus had been the traditional monetary denomination of the Pergamene kingdom since the early part of the 2nd century BC and when the Romans acquired the territory on the death of Attalus III in 133 BC they continued production of the cistophorus to serve the needs of the newly constituted provincia Asia. In weight it was the equivalent of three Roman denarii. a relationship which had doubtless been intended from the inception of the coinage because of Rome's special relationship with the later Pergamene kings. Antony's titulature of 'imperator and consul designate for the second and third times' fixes the period of issue to the latter part of 39 BC, after the Pact of Misenum in July (when the consular designations were agreed for the next eight years) and before Antony's second imperatorial acclamation which probably took place in the winter of 39-38 BC. Although Octavia is not named on either type there can be no doubt over the identification of her portrait given the firm chronology of the issue.

From 'History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators 49-27 BC' by David R Sear.

MARK ANTONY (Marcus Antonius)

  • Antony was born in Rome c. 83 BC.
  • From 58 to 56 BC he served as a cavalry officer in campaigns in Palestine and Egypt, and from 54 to 50 BC in Gaul under Julius Caesar.
  • With Caesar's aid, he attained the offices of quaestor, augur, and tribune of the people.
  • At the outbreak of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey the Great, Antony was appointed Caesar's commander in chief in Italy. He commanded the left wing of Caesar's army at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC, and in 44 BC he shared the consulship with Caesar.
  • After Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, Antony's funeral speech, immortalized by Shakespeare in the play "Julius Caesar", turned the Roman people against the conspirators, leaving Antony virtually supreme in Rome.
  • His rival was Gaius Octavius, grandnephew of Caesar and his designated heir. For a time the two were reconciled, and together with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate, dividing the Roman Empire between themselves.
  • In 42 BC, at the battle of Philippi, the triumvirate crushed the forces of two of Caesar's assassins, Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus.
  • Later in 42 BC, Antony met the Egyptian queen Cleopatra in the city of Tarsus, in Cilicia (now in Turkey), and fell in love with her, returning with her to Egypt in 41 BC.
  • In 40 BC, back in Rome the triumvirate split up the Roman world, with Antony receiving the eastern portion.
  • To cement his relations with Octavius he married the latter's sister, Octavia.
  • Nevertheless, Antony soon returned to Egypt and Cleopatra.
  • In 36 BC, he was defeated in a military expedition against the Parthians, causing popular disapproval of his conduct in Rome.
  • In 34 BC Octavius declared Caesarion (Cleopatra's son by Julius Caesar) as Caesar's heir in Octavian's place and divides the east amongst Cleopatra and her children.
  • With Octavius stirring up emnity, war was inevitable.
  • In 31 BC the forces of Antony and Cleopatra were defeated by those of Octavius at the naval Battle of Actium, off the coast of Greece.
  • Cleopatra fled the battle scene, followed by Antony.
  • In 30 BC, besieged by the troops of Octavius in Alexandria and deceived by a false report of Cleopatra's suicide, Antony killed himself by falling on his sword.
  • Cleopatra then famously killed herself with an asp.

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