Diameter: 18.000 mm
Weight: 3.900 g
De Salis Gift
CM 1860.3-28.21 (BMCRR The East 180)
Room 70: Roman Empire
Silver denarius of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony
Roman, 32 BC
Issued in the eastern part of the Empire
Antony and Cleopatra
Mark Antony is one of history's great losers. As Julius Caesar's right-hand man in 44 BC when Caesar was murdered, he had the chance to succeed to his position as effective monarch of the Roman world. Foiled in this by Caesar's adopted son, Octavian, he became embroiled in an alliance, as much romantic as military, with Cleopatra VII, queen of Egypt. They were eventually defeated by Octavian at the naval Battle of Actium in 31 BC. In August 30 BC, they committed suicide in Alexandria, the capital of Egypt.
The legendary beauty of Cleopatra is perhaps not born out by this portrait. The source of her fascination was at least as much intellectual as physical - she was the first of the Greek rulers of Egypt since its conquest by Alexander the Great in 332 BC to learn the Egyptian language. An extraordinary woman in a man's world, she used Antony to challenge Roman domination of the Mediterranean world. Despite her heroic failure, or perhaps because of it, she remains one of the best known characters from ancient history.
E. Flamarion, Cleopatra: from history to leg (London, Thames and Hudson, 1997)
P. Southern, Mark Antony (London, Tempus, 1998)
P. Green, Alexandria to Actium: the Hell (London, Thames & Hudson, 1990)