Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Coin of the Week - a denarius of Antony and Cleopatra

This Roman silver denarius, in about Very Fine (aVF) condition features portraits of both Marc Antony and Cleopatra (Cleopatra the Seventh to be exact).

As you can see from her portrait Cleopatra would likely not win a beauty contest today. But she did have huge...tracts of land. She ruled Egypt, which was then the breadbasket of the Roman Empire, and possesed its rich treasury. Ancient writings also speak of her keen intelligence and wit, and she clearly possessed both attributes as she participated in the high-stakes power politics of the era.

Egypt at the time was a tremendous net exporter of grain, and Cleopatra was quite a catch for any ambitious Roman. First Julius Caesar and than Antony were associated with her. Cleopatra was the last of the Macedonian rulers of Egypt. She was descended from Ptolemy, one of Alexander the Great's Generals, who upon Alexander's death took Egypt as his own kingdom.

The Ptolemies ruled Egypt in much the same fashion as the Pharoahs had, and they institutes a monetary system that was closed to the outside world (For more on this see Richard Hazzard's book on Ptolemaic coinage for more information on this subject).

This picture of the coin is courtesy of Amphora Coins and is up for sale for $1,600.00, not a casual purchase, but certainly a coin the bespeaks of history and of the two tragic figures whose tale has been immortalized in writings from the ancient times, the middle and modern ages, and also on film in the modern era.

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