Coins of Marcus Antonius

Roman Military and Political Leader (54-30 BC)

Marcus Antonius, “Mark Antony” as he is commonly known, was born c. 83 BC. He was Julius Caesar’s second cousin, once removed. Antonius was a major supporter of Caesar in the civil wars of the 50s and 40s BC. Caesar made certain that Antonius rose through the cursus honorum, the public offices, to eventually hold the office of tribune of the plebs and its crucial veto. Antonius furthered Caesar’s interests with (and often against) the Senate, but he was not a master politican. His temper and his tendency toward debauchery detracted from his ability to govern and put him at a disadvantage in his relationship with Octavian, Caesar’s adopted son.

After Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC, Antonius and Octavian entered into a power-sharing agreement called the Second Triumvirate. However, the Triumvirate was an unstable affair and the triumvirs were incapable of consensus. Antonius married Octavian’s sister, Octavia, in 40 BC, but by 35 BC the two men were in conflict over the division of the provinces. Antonius divorced Octavia in 32 BC and took up residence in Egypt with the Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra, by whom he already had three children. Octavian gained support in the face of this, Antonius’ “betrayal” of the Roman people, and the conflict came to a head at the naval Battle of Actium in 31 BC. After an overwhelming defeat, Antonius committed suicide.

Cistophorus, Rome
39 BC

Obverse:
Head of Antonius r., wearing ivy wreath; lituus below; encircled by M ANTONIVS IMP COS DESIC ITER ET TERT; the whole within a wreath of ivy leaves and berries.

Reverse:
Cista mystica surmounted by the draped bust of Octavia r.; cista mystica is placed between two interlaced serpants with heads erect; inscribed at the sides on l., IIIVIR, on the r., R P C.

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AR Denarius, Rome
31 BC

Obverse:
Galley r. with standard at prow; inscribed above ANT AVG, below IIIVIR R P C

Reverse:
Legionary eagle between two standards; inscribed below in field LEG XXI