Mark Antony, 44-30 BC.
Denarius (Silver, 19 mm, 3.87 g, 12 h), D. Turullius, moneyer. Military mint moving with Antony (Actium?), summer 31. M•ANTONIVS•AVG•IMP•IIII•COS•TERT•III•VIR-•R•P•C Bare head of Mark Antony to right. Rev.
Victory standing front, head to left, holding wreath tied with fillet in her right hand and palm frond over her left shoulder; all within laurel wreath. Babelon (Antonia) 147 and (Turullia) 6. Crawford 545/2. CRI 388. RBW 1851. Sydenham 1211a. Rare and very likely the finest known example. A spectacular, boldly struck and lustrous piece, with an incredibly detailed portrait and a wonderful reverse. Tiny mark on Antony's cheek, otherwise,
virtually as struck.
From a European collection, formed before 2005.
Struck right before Mark Antony's and Cleopatra's dreams of world domination would be utterly crushed under the relentless blows delivered to their galleys by Agrippa's rams in the Battle of Actium on 2 September 31 BC, this wonderful coin feigns an optimism which Mark must have long abandoned at that point. Trapped in swampy terrain at the mouth of the Gulf of Ambrakia after a surprise advance by the forces of Octavian, Antony's massive army and fleet suffered from hunger, disease and desertion throughout the summer of 31 BC. The situation eventually became untenable, forcing him and his beloved queen to attempt a breakthrough through Agrippa's fleet. Their plan was for Antony to engage the opponent so that Cleopatra could slip away with her contingent and the war treasury. Antony would subsequently also break away from Agrippa and reassemble his and Cleopatra's naval and land forces further east to continue the struggle on more solid grounds, with the vast resources of the eastern provinces and Ptolemaic Egypt eventually tipping the scales of the war in their favor.
However, Agrippa's superior generalship and his forces' higher morale and tactical flexibility won him a resounding victory over Antony's fleet, and while the latter successfully fled the scene after transferring from his giant flag ship to a smaller vessel, three-quarters of his fleet was either captured or destroyed. Meanwhile, Cleopatra had successfully sailed to Egypt - a planned tactical withdrawal that would lead to numerous misogynistic accusations of cowardice and treason by ancient and modern writers - but her and her lover's fate was sealed when Antony's demoralized land army capitulated to Octavian shortly after the battle, and most of the eastern client rulers forsook their former master before long. In 30 BC, Octavian's forces entered Egypt, and both Mark Antony and Cleopatra famously committed suicide, bringing to an end the fifteen-year epic struggle that saw Octavian's rise to become the most powerful ruler the world had ever known.