The Roman Republic
Marcus Antonius. Aureus, mint moving with M. Antony 32-31, AV 8.04 g. ANT·AVG Galley r. with sceptre tied with fillet on prow; below, III·VIR·R·P·C. Rev. LEG – II Aquila between two standards. Babelon –. C –. Sydenham –. Sear Imperators 349a (this coin). Biaggi 53 (this coin). Crawford –. Calicó 92 (this coin).
Apparently unique and possibly the finest of only eleven legionary aurei known.
An issue of tremendous importance and fascination. Flan crack at nine o'clock
on obverse and minor marks, otherwise about extremely fine / good very fine
Privately purchased from Bank Leu in January 1955.
Leo Biaggi de Blasys Collection, acquired privately in 1978 by Bank Leu (Zürich) and a partner.
Nelson Bunker Hunt (1926-2014) Collection, sold by Sotheby's, auction 6044, New York 21-22 June 1990, lot 663.
Sold by Numismatic Fine Arts, Beverly Hills, auction XXX, New York 8 December 1992, lot 203.
From Merrill-Lynch's "Athena Fund" sold by Sotheby's, Zürich, auction 26 October 1993, lot 90.
Student and his Mentor Collection, sold by Numismatica Ars Classica, Zürich, auction 70, 16 May 2013, lot 199.
Marc Antony struck his 'legionary' coinage in very large quantities as he and Queen Cleopatra VII prepared for war with Octavian and Agrippa. In the end, however, all of their efforts were futile. Upon realizing they would not win the day at Actium, Antony and Cleopatra fled the battle and sailed separately to the territories of Egypt. Both chose suicide over dealing with the consequences that would have been enforced by Octavian.
Twenty-three legions are named on Antony's 'legionary' coinage. Of the numbered legions, most are indicated strictly with Roman numerals. However, the first legion is named PRI, and three legions are honored with supplementary issues that also list their honorific title: XII Antiqvae, XVII Classicae and XVIII Lybicae.
Antony struck untold millions of debased denarii, yet this cannot be said of his high-purity aurei, for which only a handful of examples survive. Aurei are known for just seven numbered legions and the named units of the cohortes speculatorum and the cohortes praetoriarum. It is possible that aurei were struck as companions to every denarius issue, but that a low survival rate has left us with an incomplete record.
Antony began coining his issues in 32 B.C., precisely 50 years after the imperator C. Valerius Flaccus had produced an issue of denarii (Cr. 365/1) with a reverse design that many researchers believe was the prototype of Antony's iconic reverse design. The design, which features a legionary eagle between two legionary standards, was later recycled on several occasions.
In A.D. 68-69, one century after Antony's production, a flood coinage was struck that copied this memorable reverse type. Nero introduced it on his denarii in A.D. 67-68, and in the rebellions that followed his overthrow this type was used by Galba, Vitellius, Clodius Macer and by some of those who struck anonymous 'Civil Wars' coinages. One hundred years after that – apparently in honor of the bicentennial of Actium – Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus restored Antony's legionary types in a remarkable issue of denarii.
The type remained popular even without commemorative occasions. It was a mainstay for Imperial cistophori in Asia Minor, and all three Flavians struck middle bronzes with reverse types inspired by this design. Trajan used it for coins in all metals. Quadrantes with this type were struck 'anonymously' and by Hadrian (whose issue of c. A.D. 118 may commemorate the 150th anniversary of Actium) and Antoninus Pius. Still other coinages that copied Antony's legionary reverse were struck by the later emperors Clodius Albinus, Septimius Severus, Caracalla, Elagabalus, Gallienus, Constantine I, Maximinus Daia, Licinius I and Alexander of Carthage.