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Lot 4122

Marc Antony and Cleopatra VII. Silver Tetradrachm (12.95g) minted at Antioch (?) in Seleukis and Pieria, ca. 36 BC. BACIΛICCA KΛEOΠATPA ΘEA NEWTEPA. Diademed and draped bust right of Cleopatra VII (Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt and Antony's fifth wife), wearing a pearl-embroidered dress. Reverse: ANTWNIOC AYTOKPATWP TPITON TPIWN ANΔPWN. Bare head of Antony right. RPC 4094; Prieur 27; Sv. 1897, pl. lxiii, 22-23. Rare. Toned slate gray. Excellent portraits well centered on a full, pleasing flan. An ouststanding example of the type. Under strong magnification, we note areas of possible smoothing, the result of horn silver being expertly removed. Choice Very Fine.

In 37 BC, Marc Antony married Cleopatra in Antioch. She had already borne him twins in 40 BC, conceived while Antony was in Tarsus and Alexandria, before he was wedded to Octavian's sister, Octavia. In Rome, this new marriage was not legal, as Antony was still wedded to Octavia. But in the East, it served notice that Antony and Cleopatra intended to join the fortunes of Rome and Egypt together. The political message is clear on this tetradrachm. It simultaneously acknowledges the "sovereignty" of each individual of the couple by allowing 'Antony, the imperator and triumvir' his own side of the coin, and 'Cleopatra the Younger, the divine Queen of Egypt' her own side of the coin, as opposed to presenting conjoined busts.

Fortune, though, did not soon smile on Antony. In 36 BC, he launched his invasion of the Parthian lands. He was betrayed by his ally Artavasdes II of Armenia, and the campaign ended disastrously with Antony losing over 35,000 men. Following a disgraceful retreat, the triumvir was reduced to asking Cleopatra to restore his army. In 34 BC, Antony exacted his revenge on Armenia, annexing it and displaying Artavasdes in his triumph in Alexandria.

Antioch has long been the assigned mint for this Antony-Cleopatra issue for lack of any real alternative. Of the same weight and fineness as contemporary Antiochene tetradrachms, it also nicely fills the gap in dated tetradrachms of Antioch: Year 12 (38/7 BC) - Year 19 (31/0 BC). The Antiochene attribution, though, in recent times has become much more questioned. In his book on Roman Antioch, R. McAlee points out that the letters "C" for "sigma" and W for "omega" on these coins are inconsistent with contemporary issues. Cleopatra, moreover, never ruled in Antioch. This type was possibly struck in Cleopatra's Phoenician holdings. Perhaps more likely, though, it was struck by a legionary mint moving with Antony throughout the Eastern provinces or on his Parthian campaign. Regardless, this handsome issue served notice to the world that Rome and Egypt were one.
Estimated Value $25,000 - 30,000.
Ex M & M Numismatics 1, New York, 7 December 1997, Lot 268; Hess 252, Lucerne 1982, Lot 192.

Realized $32,200

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