An Excessively Rare Silver Tetradrachm of Marc Antony and Cleopatra, Circa 36-34 BC

The tragic love story of Marc Antony and Cleopatra has been told and retold since antiquity by everyone from Plutarch through Shakespeare to Hollywood. The suicides of Antony and Cleopatra in August, 30 BC brought an end not only to the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt, but to the entire Hellenistic age.  Thenceforth Rome was master of the whole Mediterranean and the great age of Imperial Rome commenced. 

In spite of their fame, few coins depicting the portraits of both Antony and Cleopatra were struck, and of those struck the current type is the finest, the largest and the rarest. Coins with good portraits of Cleopatra are especially rare. In fact surviving contemporary portraits of Cleopatra in any medium are rare, and coins like the current example, engraved as they were during her lifetime under joint authority with Antony, give us one of the best representations of how she and Antony actually appeared. Here we see the strong features of the virile, impetuous Antony, bareheaded and ready to plunge into some grand new earth-shaking endeavor, and on the obverse, the stately elegant bust of Cleopatra, attired in her royal robes and jewelry. An extraordinary face, haughty, arrogant, ruthless, but clearly of great intelligence and commanding presence. Without doubt this coin is one of the finest numismatic portraits of both Marc Antony and Cleopatra extant, and as such is worthy of the finest collection.

This excessively rare silver tetradrachm is believed by numismatic scholars to have been struck sometime between 36 and 34 BC, most likely at a mint in Syria where they often Summered. Michael Grant thinks it most likely that it was struck in 34 BC in connection with the great Donations of that year, in which Antony conferred much of the Eastern Mediterranean in a whole series of titles, territories and overlordships upon Cleopatra and her children. Obverse: Bust of Cleopatra facing right attired in her royal robes and diadem, wearing a necklace probably of large pearls which supports a pendant, the bust surrounded by Greek legend BACILICCA KLEOPATRA THEA NEOTERA = 'The Younger Queen Goddess Cleopatra'. Reverse: Bare head of Marc Antony facing right, surrounded by Greek legend ANTWNIOC AYTOKPATWP TPITON TPIWN ANDPWN = 'Antony Imperator Third Proclamation'. Mean Diameter: 26.5 mm. (1.04"). Weight: 15.10 gm. (0.472 Troy oz.). Metal composition: Nearly pure silver with natural toning. References: Michael Grant, Cleopatra, 1992, Barnes & Noble, pps. 168, 175 where he discusses the facts surrounding the issuance of this coin. Also, Burnett, Amandry & Ripolles, Roman Provincial Coinage, Volume I, # 4094, published jointly by the British Museum Press and the Bibliotech National, 1992. Grade: Near extra fine. Price: On request. Status: Sold. Order #C006.

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