Imperatorial Rome

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen ..." --

Portrait Coins of Mark Antony

The coin featured on this page is of two great Imperators and the dominant members of the Second Triumvirate : Mark Anthony and Octavian. At the time of its issue, 41 BCE, Antony's mint was on the move in Asia Minor following the hunting down and murder of Caesar's assassins, Brutus and Cassius (at Philippi). Depicted here are the places that illustrate the events which precipitated the issue of this coin -- all photographed at the Roman Forum. The center (oval) photo gives an overview of the Forum from Capitoline Hill. At the top is the Rostra from which Antony incited Romans to move against the assassins. The photo to the right of the close-ups of the Rostra places it in context : Behind the Rostra are the single-column of Phocas (built in the 6th C. CE -- the last addition to the Forum) and the two-columned Temple of Vespasian; the Temple of Saturn (5th C. BCE foundation!) is left and the Arch of Septimius Severus is right. The bottom left photo gives an overview of the Forum from Palatine Hill. Excerpted from the same photo, the star to the right highlights the Temple Divus Julius, where Caesar's body was cremated. The photo at bottom right gives a ground level close-up of the cremation site.

Ephesos(?), Silver Denarius, 41 BCE. Obverse: Bare head of Mark Antony right.

Reverse: Bare head of Octavian right, slight beard. [Crawford 517/2]

Q: Are these members of the Second Triumvirate the first to issue contemporary portrait coins?

A: No. Caesar himself, of the First Triumvirate, was the first Roman to do so. [Sear, The History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators 49-27 BC, 1998, p.70] (See Caesar's Portrait Coin on this Web Site's Roman Mint Page.)

Q: Are all the early contemporary Roman portrait coins of Imperators and men?

A: No. A Quinarius with a bust of Nike in the likeness of the powerful Fulvia (first wife of Mark Antony) was issued in 43 BCE and is the first contemporary woman's coin portrait. [Grant, Cleopatra, 1972, p.114] Below is an example of her coin [Crawford 489/6] along with a photo of its Mint Site : The hill-top Roman Fortress in Lugdunum where the Church of Notre Dame now stands in modern-day Lyon, France.