Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Tetradrachm (Silver, 25 mm, 14.84 g, 1 h), Antiochia on the Orontes or a mint further to the South, circa 36 BC. BACIΛICCA KΛЄOΠATPA ΘЄA NЄωTЄPA Diademed and draped bust of Cleopatra to right, wearing earring and necklace. Rev. ANTωNIOC AYTOKPATωP TRITON TPIωN ANΔPωN Bare head of Mark Antony to right. BMC 53. McAlee 174. Prieur 27. RPC I 4094. Very rare and undoubtedly among the finest known. A boldly struck and beautifully toned piece with two exceptionally sharp and attractive portraits. Extremely fine.
The tragic romance between Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony has touched generations of artists and poets and the tetradrachms depicting the Queen of Egypt and the Roman general are, unsurprisingly, among the most famous and popular coins from the Imperatorial era. Where exactly they were struck is still a matter of debate: they were traditionally attributed to Antiochia on the Orontes, but this has been questioned based on stylistic comparisons and the fact that Antiochia never formed part of Cleopatra's possessions. Die links show that her portrait is on the obverse, and the use of Greek legends and titles further strengthens the argument for a mint under her rule somewhere in the Levante. What is clear, in any case, is that the minting of coins showing the portrait of a Hellenistic queen on one side and that of a Roman general on the other was an unprecedented move, all the more since Mark Antony was still married to Octavia at the time. This offense undoubtedly played into the hands of Octavian, Octavia's brother, who used Mark Antony's love affair with the foreign, exotic queen and the alleged sellout of Roman interests for his political propaganda prior to and during the civil war to come.