|Lot 186. Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII. 34 B.C. AR denarius (19 mm, 3.46 g, 1 h). Mint moving with Antony in the East. CLEOPAT[RAE REGINAE REGVM FILIORVM] REGVM, diademed and draped bust of Cleopatra right; before, prow / ANTONI ARMENIA DEVIC[TA], bare head of Mark Antony right; behind, Armenian tiara. Crawford 543/1; HCRI 345; Sydenham 1210; RSC 1. An historically important type. Lightly toned, minor striking weakness in obverse legend. Good very fine.
In the autumn of 34 BC Antony celebrated an unusual and ostentatious (even by Roman standards) triumph through the streets of Alexandria. The event was staged to play up his successes in conquering Armenia, although he had summarily failed in the main objective of the campaign, which was the conquest of Parthia. The parade ended at the Gymnasium of Alexandria, where the entire citizen body hand been assembled to witness what has become known as the 'Donations of Alexandria'. For the spectacle, Antony and Cleopatra dressed as Dionysus-Osiris and Isis-Aphrodite, and sat upon massive golden thrones, with Cleopatra's young son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, dressed as Horus beside them. Cleopatra's other children were dressed in the attire of the kingdoms they were to inherit. For the Donations, Antony affirmed Cleopatra as queen of Egypt, Cyprus, Libya and parts of Syria, and bestowed upon her children the eastern provinces of Rome from Cilicia to North Africa, as well as Parthia which remained unconquered. As for Caesarion, he was proclaimed the son and legitimate heir of the deified Julius Caesar, and affirmed as King of Egypt.
Antony sent an announcement to the Senate requesting confirmation of the Donations, but the Senate refused to countenance such an affront to the dignity of Rome. Ocatavian, who was Caesar's heir through adoption, was of course threatened by Antony's claiming Caesarion Caesar's legitimate heir, and this perhaps above all else led to the outbreak of the final confrontation between Octavian and Antony.
The coin is truly remarkable. Never before had the portrait of a foreign head of state appeared on a Roman coin. Additionally, the legend joined with Cleopatra's portrait proclaims "of Cleopatra, Queen of Kings and of her sons (children) who are Kings," thus affirming the Donations that Antony had bestowed.
Estimate: US$ 7,500