Coin Portrait of Cleopatra Selene II

Coin Portrait of Cleopatra Selene II


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Wheaton Blog

Most people don’t think very much about the coins in their pockets. Coins are such mundane objects that one might not realize that they are also little artistic masterpieces. They serve as pieces of propaganda, not only telling us how to view the state, but also how to envision ourselves. I, however, do think about coins. I am a numismatist.

My name is Dalton Adams, Class of 2021, and I am a Classical Civilizations major in the Classics Department. Over the past 3 years, I have been working to identify a collection of over 300 Greek and Roman coins that were donated to Wheaton College in 1983 by Rhoda A. Hendricks, Class of 1932. At the advice of Leah Niederstadt, Curator of the Permanent Collection and Associate Professor of Museum Studies and History of Art, and Joel Relihan, Professor of Classics, I made this project the subject of my honors thesis.

In my thesis, titled The Potentiality of Value: The Identification and Worth of the Hendricks Bequest within an Academic Collection, I discuss the process of identifying the coins and how that process has changed as I have learned and grown as a numismatist. I catalog every single coin with an accompanying photo. Finally, I conclude my thesis with a discussion of the future of the Hendricks Collection and the overall benefit of coins to an academic collection like the one here at Wheaton.

Spanning at least 70 cities and over 1,600 years, what this collection lacked in the quality of its coins, it made up for in their diversity. I want to share some of my favorites.

Bronze coin of Kainon, Sicily

Some coins speak to us because of their simplicity. This bronze coin from Kainon, Sicily has no text, but instead has simple designs on each side. A griffin is depicted one side and a horse on the other, one mythical, one real. The griffin and horse leap in almost the same pose, visually telling us to see them as equals. What does this tell us about the Greek worldview and the construction of myth versus reality?

Bronze Coin of Kainon, Sicily, c. 365 BCE – 360 BCE

Bronze Litra of Syracuse, Sicily, Reign of the Tyrant Dionysius I

We don’t have to travel far to find more mythical creatures on Sicilian coinage. The obverse (heads side) of the coin depicts a classic Syracusan bust of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. The reverse (tails side) depicts a hippocamp, half horse and half fish.

Bronze Litra of Syracuse, Sicily, Reign of of Dionysius I, 406 BCE -367 BCE

Bronze Coin of Phaistos, Crete

This is one of my favorite coins from the entire collection. This rare coin depicts the winged bronze automaton Talos, who protected Crete, as he is about to hurl a stone at some unwanted invader. The reverse shows a hound on the scent, maybe (if we let our imaginations run) scavenging whatever enemy Talos has just slain.

Bronze Coin of Phaistos, Crete, 350 BCE – 250 BCE

Bronze Coin of Abydos, Troas

This might be the rarest coin in the entire Hendricks Bequest. While it does not appear very well in the photo, the letters ABY are visible on the reverse behind the seated god Apollo. This is the ethnic (city name on a coin) of Abydos. Using that information, I found the only other known example of this coin, which is housed in the Münzkabinett, the National Numismatic Collection of Berlin.

Bronze Coin of Abydos, Troas, c. 120 BCE – 50 BCE

Bronze Dupondius of Nero, Emperor of Rome

Not all coins of the Hendricks Collection come from ancient Greece, many come from Rome. This Dupondius, minted in Lugdunum, Gallia (modern-day Lyon, France), depicts Emperor Nero in great detail and stunningly high relief. Nero’s portraits are famously grotesque, accurately depicting the overweight emperor in an unflattering light.

Bronze Dupondius of Nero, 62 CE – 68 CE

Bronze Sestertius of Lucilla

Though this coin is worn, it is one of my favorite types among all ancient coins. The obverse features a portrait of Lucilla, second wife of Emperor Lucius Verus. The reverse depicts the goddess Fecunditas, goddess of fertility, holding an infant as a boy and girl stand about her. This is a stunning look into the (perceived) everyday lives of Roman women, especially those in the royal family. While this scene of Fecunditas does not lend us much insight into actual ideas and performances of femininity in Rome, it tells us a lot about how the emperor wanted the everyday Roman to perceive femininity.

Bronze Sestertius of Lucilla, 164 CE – 169 CE

Bronze Dirham of the Artuqids of Mardin, Reign of Nasir al-Din Artuq Arslan

While most of the coins in the Hendricks Collection are from ancient Greece and Rome, a few coins slipped in from other regions and later time periods. This coin from the early 13 th Century was minted in an Islamic state in modern-day Turkey. The obverse has the bust of an unknown male figure looking directly at the viewer, and the reverse has a five-line Kufic legend (the text of a coin).

Bronze Dirham of the Artuqids of Mardin, Reign of Nasir al-Din Artuq Arslan, 1221 CE – 1222 CE

These last two coins do not come from the Hendricks Collection, but are some other coins I have worked with over the last three years.

Bronze Coin of Ptolemy II, King of Egypt

This bronze coin minted in Alexandria, Egypt simply brings me joy. Almost everyone holds it breaks into laughter. While scale is lost in these photos, this coin weighs over 70 grams and is nearly 2 inches in diameter. To give you a sense of scale, an American quarter weighs just under 7.8 grams

Bronze Coin of Ptolemy II, King of Egypt, 283 BCE – 246 BCE

Silver Tetradrachm of Antiochus VIII & Cleopatra II Selene of Syria

This beautiful silver coin comes from the Seleucid Empire (spanning Western Asia) and was minted at the Ake mint (modern-day Acre, Israel). The obverse depicts the jugate (side-by-side) busts of Antiochus VIII and Cleopatra I Selene of Syria, great-grandmother to Cleopatra VII (the one of Antony and Cleopatra fame). This is one of my favorite portrait styles in all of ancient coinage, and this example is absolutely stunning.

Silver Tetradrachm of Antiochus VIII and Cleopatra I of Syria, 125 BCE – 121 BCE

Finally, I want to thank everyone that has supported me over the past three years as I work on this massive project. I can’t thank you all enough.


Just history.

Sculpture of Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene at Dendra Photo Credit – Google Images

The affair between Cleopatra and Marc Antony was one of the biggest scandals of the ancient world. Reports of how Antony had given up Roman ways for the decadent East was the talk of Rome. Eventually, in 40 BCE, Antony went back to Rome to marry Octavia and try to forge a peace with her brother, Octavian. What he didn’t know was he left Cleopatra pregnant. Later that year, the twins were born- Alexander Helios (Sun) and Cleopatra Selene (Moon)

Antony did not acknowledge his children until he met with Cleopatra in Antioch three years later. The family then returned to Egypt much to Octavian’s chagrin. A year later, Ptolemy Philadelphos was born. The twins already had one half brother, Caesarion, from their mother’s previous marriage to Julius Caesar and five half siblings from the father’s various marriages. Cleopatra Selene spent her early life in Alexandria living as normal a life as a princess could. In 34 BCE, her parents held a formal ceremony called the Donations of Alexandria and she was made ruler of Cyrenaica and Libya. These were ostensibly Roman provinces and many people, Octavian included, did not feel Antony could just give them away to his foreign born children. Tensions were beginning to fray.

The situation between Antony, Cleopatra and Octavian boiled over into open conflict. In 31 BCE, Antony and Cleopatra lost a major naval battle at Actium. Octavian was coming. It was just a matter of time.

Cleopatra Selene in the elephant crown of Mauretania Photo Credit – Google Image

Octavian took Alexandria a year later and both Cleopatra Selene’s parents committed suicide rather than be taken by Octavian’s forces. Caesarion had been captured and killed, so the three younger children were left alone at their enemy’s mercy. However, Octavian did not kill them. Antony still had adherents in Rome, however quiet they were at this point, and it is never good public relations to kill children. If Octavian was anything, he was a master at public relations. The children were taken to Rome and given to his sister, Octavia, to raise in a good Roman home. What she thought of raising the children of her husband with the woman who took him away is not known.

One more humiliation was left to the children. Since Cleopatra had killed herself, she deprived Octavian of marching her in his triumph. So he paraded her children instead. What a terrifying and humiliating experience it must have been to walk behind the wheels of Octavian’s chariot and listen to the jeers of the Roman crowd.

Cleopatra Selene stayed in Rome until her marriage at fifteen or sixteen to Juba II. Juba was also a Roman hostage after the death of his father, and knew the humiliation of walking in a triumph. He was also intelligent and a renowned scholar, and eventually wrote fifty books and discovered a new type of sea sponge. Busts from the time also show him as handsome. All in all not a bad match. There are some indications that Octavia encouraged the match, so it is possible she sensed feelings between the two. However, this is speculation.

Coins with Juba II and Cleopatra Selene Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In any case, marrying Cleopatra Selene to a Roman would have been politically dangerous as a Roman grandson of Antony could rise to challenge Octavian. About this time all mention of Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphos stop. Their fate is not known. It could have been natural causes, but Octavian was not above getting his hands dirty and was notoriously cautious.

What we do know is the pair were married and made client king and queen of Mauretania. They dutifully named their capital Caesaria, but it was a mixture of Egyptian and Greek building influences. It seemed as if Cleopatra Selene was making Alexandria in miniature. Evidence shows that the two may have ruled jointly as coins were issued in both their names. It was an amiable enough marriage and at least two children were born- Ptolemy, born in 10 BCE, and Drusilla. There are some reports of a third child, but it is not known for sure.

After a turbulent life, Cleopatra Selene died in 5 or 6 CE. A poem by Crinagoras of Mytilene describes Cleopatra Selene as having died during a lunar eclipse. If this is true, it is fitting for a child named after the moon. After a disastrous second marriage, Juba joined her in Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania in 23 CE.


CIRCA LATE 1ST CENTURY B.C.-EARLY 1ST CENTURY A.D.

The elephant headdress in the form seen on this bust first appears on coins that depict Alexander the Great, minted by one of his successors, Ptolemy I, circa 318 B.C. The imagery is thought to evoke Dionysus, the mythical conqueror of India (see pl. 7 in Davis and Kraay, The Hellenistic Kingdoms ). The coins of the Bactrian king Demetrius I, circa 200-185 B.C., portray him wearing a similar headdress to symbolize that he, too, was a conqueror of India, the land of the elephant (pl. 152 in Davis and Kraay, op. cit.). During the Roman Republic, the elephant headdress was employed for the personification of the province of Africa, as seen on gems, lamps, mosaics, bronzes, and especially on coins, some minted by client-kingdoms in North Africa, others by Romans, such as Pompey the Great and Metellus Scipio (see Le Glay, "Africa," in LIMC , nos. 1-5).

This exquisite and important bust finds its closest parallel with an emblema still joined to its bowl that was found in a villa at Boscoreale, near Pompeii, in 1895, and is now in the Louvre (no. 324 in Walker and Higgs, Cleopatra of Egypt, from History to Myth ). Both depict the same youthful woman they differ in the form of the garment, a chiton for the Boscoreale bust, a chiton and a himation for the present example. Both are imbued with similar powerful symbols, sharing the lioness, lion, cobra, fruit and wheat, the present bust with an additional scorpion. The Boscoreale bust is more elaborately embellished, as the figure holds a cornucopia topped with the crescent moon of Selene, its shaft with a bust of Helios, the eagle of Zeus, and two stars for the Dioscuri. She is surrounded by other symbols including the quiver and bow of Artemis, the club of Herakles, the sistrum of Isis, the dolphin of Poseidon, the pliers of Hephaistos, the staff of Asklepios, the sword of Ares and the lyre of Apollo.

While some have identified the Boscoreale emblema as a depiction of Cleopatra VII through comparison with a marble portrait found in Cherchell, Algeria (see no. 262 in Walker and Higgs, op. cit.), the identification has been rejected as neither the Cherchell portrait nor the emblema resemble Cleopatra's coin portraits. Walker informs (op. cit., p. 312) that the Boscoreale emblema more likely is a portrait of Cleopatra Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony. The symbols on the cornucopia can be understood as references to the Ptolemaic royal house and specifically to Cleopatra Selene, represented in the crescent moon. The elephant headdress may refer to her status as ruler, together with her husband Juba II, of Mauretania. Many of the other symbols found on the Boscoreale emblema also appear on the coins minted by Juba II.


Her legacy and mysterious fate

Cleopatra Selene II ruled as Queen of Mauretania for around two decades, and during that time she seems to have taken to her duties with aplomb. Temples, lighthouses, and palaces were built in the modern Roman style, which attracted cultural and political luminaries from around the empire. Although Cleopatra was a foreign bride, she brought with her a laundry list of royal titles collected throughout her life. As Queen she didn't fade into the shadows, and instead asserted her influence over her new kingdom, including having coins minted with her face and titles on them along with those depicting the king. She even named her son Ptolemy, after her own royal lineage. He went on to rule Mauretania after his father's death

Despite what appears to be an influential reign, there is no clear historic record of when or how Cleopatra Selene II died. Many clues have given historians a range of dates, but one of the most compelling pieces of evidences comes in the form of a poem. A line in an epigraph by the Greek writer Crinagoras of Mytilene reads: "The moon herself grew dark, rising at sunset, covering her suffering in the night, because she saw her beautiful namesake, Selene, breathless, descending to Hades."

This excerpt suggests Cleopatra Selene II's death coincided with a lunar eclipse. Of those that occurred around the time she disappeared from the historic record, the one roundly accepted by historians as the likely culprit happened on March 23rd, 5 BCE, which would have made Cleopatra Selene II 35 years old at the time of her death. While her life was relatively short and her legacy obscured by the smudged lens of history, it's clear that Cleopatra the younger walked powerfully in her mother's footsteps.


MEMMIUS GALERIA / VENUS IN QUADRIGA

Attribution: Crawford 313/1b, Memmia 2, Syd 574
Obverse: ROMA, head of Saturn left, harpa behind, E before
Reverse: L•MEMM / GAL, Venus in biga right, Cupid flying left, holding wreath
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
Very Fine (Coin Galleries 1971 tag)

BUY NOW $239 plus shipping

Attribution: 90 BC, C. Vibius C.f. Pansa

Obv: Apollo
Rev:
Minerva (Goddess of War) in Quadriga
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Weight:
3.8 gr.
Condition:
about Very Fine, Nice Toning

Attribution: 90 BC, C. Vibius C.f. Pansa

Obv: Apollo
Rev:
Minerva (Goddess of War) in Quadriga
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Weight:
3.2 gr.
Condition:
about Very Fine, Nice Toning

BUY NOW $139 plus shipping
ex-Pegasi @ $225

Attribution: 90 BC, C. Vibius C.f. Pansa

Obv: Apollo
Rev:
Minerva (Goddess of War) in Quadriga
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Weight:
3.6 gr.
Condition:
Fine, Toned

BUY NOW $119 plus shipping
ex-Pegasi @ $175

Attribution: 124 BC, Q. Fabius Q.n. Q.f. Labeo

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Jupiter in Quadriga
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Weight:
3.3 gr.
Condition:
Very Fine

Attribution: 87 BC, L. Memmius Gal

Obv: Saturn
Rev:
Venus in Slow Biga, Cupid above
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Weight:
3.6 gr.
Condition:
Very Fine, Clear Fields (ex-Jewelry, edges ground to round shape)

SOLD $219 plus shipping

Attribution: 87 BC, L. Memmius Gal

Obv: Saturn
Rev:
Venus in Slow Biga, Cupid above
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Weight:
3.9 gr.
Condition:
about Very Fine

OSCA, Spain - CELTIC IBERIAN

Attribution: 204-154 BC, Osca, Spain

Obv: Male Head right
Rev:
Horseman right
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about Fine

Attribution: 79 BC, by L. Papius.

Obv: Juno Sospita in Goat Skin Cap
Rev:
Gryphon Leaping
Diameter:
18 mm diameter serrated (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine

(Double click for enlarged photo)

#10813: ROMAN REPUBLIC Denarius - 85 BC,
PRETTY - MUST SEE !!

Attribution: L. Julius Bursio .

Obv: Combined God , Combined attributes of Apollo, Mercury, and Neptune, Salamander in left field
Rev:
Victory in Quadriga
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, retoned and waxed for preservation

(Double click for enlarged photo)

#8567: ROMAN REPUBLIC Denarius - 108 BC,
The Dioscuri - SHARP !!

Attribution: 109 to 108 BC, L. Memmius

Obv: Young Male wearing Laurel Wreath
Rev:
The Dioscuri
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about Very Fine, retoned and waxed for preservation

Attribution: 62 BC, L. Scribonius Libo

Obv: Bonus Eventus
Rev:
Puteal Scribonianum, Hammer at Base
Weight: 3.6 grams
Diameter:
21 mm diameter (larger than a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, well toned

Attribution: 57 BC, M. Plaetorius M.f. Cestianus

Obv: Head of Bonus Eventus
Rev:
Caduceus (Medical Symbol)
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, toned, porous surfaces

Attribution: 105 BC, Thorius Balbus

Obv: Juno of Lanuvium wearing Goat Skin
Rev:
Bull Charging
Diameter:
20 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, Modestly toned

Attribution: 105 BC, Thorius Balbus

Obv: Juno of Lanuvium wearing Goat Skin
Rev:
Bull Charging
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus

Attribution: 105 BC, Thorius Balbus

Obv: Juno of Lanuvium wearing Goat Skin
Rev:
Bull Charging
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus

Attribution: 105 BC, Thorius Balbus

Obv: Juno of Lanuvium wearing Goat Skin
Rev:
Bull Charging
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about Fine

Attribution: 115 BC, Sergius Silus

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Roman Soldier, Galloping on Horseback, Holding Severed Head of Barbarian
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, exceptional toning

Attribution: 115 BC, Sergius Silus

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Roman Soldier, Galloping on Horseback, Holding Severed Head of Barbarian
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, light toning (Nicer in hand)

Attribution: 80 BC, L. Procilius

Obv: Jupiter
Rev:
Juno Sospita holding spear and shield
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
about Fine, Banker's Mark on Obv.

Attribution: M. Volteius M.f.

Obv: Jupiter
Rev:
Quadistyle Temple - Amazing Detail
Diameter:
16 mm diameter (a little smaller a US Dime)
Condition:
Very Fine, Toned, Nicer in hand than photo suggests

SOLD $219 plus shipping

Attribution: M. Sevillius, M.f. Rullus

Obv: Minerva in Crested Conrinthian Helmet
Rev:
Victory in Biga, Holding Palm Branch
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (almost size of a Nickel)
Condition:
Very Fine plus, Well Toned

BUY NOW $349 plus shipping

Attribution: M. Sevillius, M.f. Rullus

Obv: Minerva in Crested Conrinthian Helmet
Rev:
Victory in Biga, Holding Palm Branch
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (almost size of a Nickel)
Condition:
Very Fine, Toned, Some Mint Luster/Color

BUY NOW $239 plus shipping

Attribution: Q. Thermus, M.f.

Obv: Minerva in Crested Conrinthian Helmet
Rev:
Warriors Battling
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (almost size of a Nickel)
Condition:
Very Fine, Toned, Slight porosity

SOLD $159 plus shipping

Attribution: Q. Ant. Balbus

Obv: Jupiter
Rev:
Victory in Quadriga, Holding Palm Branch
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (almost size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine, Toned, Clear Fields (ex-Jewelry, edges ground to round shape)

Attribution: Q. Ant. Balbus

Obv: Jupiter
Rev:
Victory in Quadriga, Holding Palm Branch
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (almost size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine, Toned,

BUY NOW $139 plus shipping

(Double click for enlarged photo)

#8007: SILVER Denarius - 115 BC,
Anonymous Issue,
Roma Seated on Pile of Shields, Birds in Distance
PRETTY !!

Historical Context: See above "Historical Context"

Obv: Roma wearing Winged Corinthian Helmet
Rev:
Roma seated on Pile of Shields
Diameter:
21-22 mm diameter (larger than a US Nickel)
Condition:
Very Fine, nicer than photo shows

Attribution: C.N. Balbus

Obv: Head of Venus
Rev:
Victory in Triga (Three horse chariot)
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, nicer than photo shows, Some mint luster

SOLD $159 plus shipping

Attribution: Blasio Cn.f.

Obv: Head of Mars
Rev:
Capitaline Triad (Jupiter, Juno, Minerva)
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, nicer than photo shows, Some mint luster

SOLD $129 plus shipping

Attribution: Cn. Plancius

Obv: Head of Macedonia
Rev:
Cretan Goat
Weight: 3.2 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about Fine, retoned and waxed for preservation

One of Only 3 Republican coins with Gladiatorial scene

Attribution: L.L. Regulus

Obv: Head of L.L. Regulus
Rev:
Gladiatorial Fighting Scene - Two Gladiators fighting a Lion, Tiger, and a Boar
Weight: 3.3 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about V.Good

Attribution: L. R. Fabatus.

Obv: Juno Sospita
Rev:
Madien Feeding Snake
Weight: 3.6 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about Fine

Attribution: L. C. Scipio Asiagenius (AKA Scipio Asiaticus)

Historical note: Scipio the Elder (Scipio Africanus) wasknown as a Graecophile lifestyle, and his unconventional way of wearing the Roman toga, raised much opposition among the conservatives of Rome, led by Cato the Elder who felt that Greek influence was destroying old Roman culture and making the Roman men effeminate. Cato, as a loyalist of Fabius Maximus, had been sent out as quaestor to Scipio in Sicily circa 204 BC to investigate charges of military indiscipline, corruption, and other offense against Scipio none of those charges were found true by the tribunes of the plebs accompanying Cato. (It may or may not be significant that years later, as censor, Cato degraded Scipio's brother Scipio Asiaticus (Asiagenius) from the Senate. It is certainly true that some Romans of the day viewed Cato as a representative of the old Romans, and Scipio and his like as Graecophiles.

Obv: Saturn
Rev:
Venus in Slow Biga with Cupid above
Weight: 4.2 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about Fine

Attribution: P. Albinus

Obv: Hispania
Rev:
Togate figure between Eagle Standard and Fasces
Weight: 3.8 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about Very Fine

Attribution: L. Pomponius

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Bituitis in Fast Biga
Weight: 3.8 grams
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about Very Fine

Attribution: C. Claudius Pulcher

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Victory in Fast Biga
Weight: 3.7 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
Fine, Nice toning

Attribution: L.f. Silanus

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Victory in Biga
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
Very Fine, well Toned

SOLD $119 plus shipping

Attribution: L.f. Silanus

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Victory in Biga
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
about Fine

Attribution: L. Rutilius Flaccus

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Victory in Biga
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
about Fine (Spots not as bad as picture shows)

SOLD $49.95 plus shipping

Attribution: T. Cloelius

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Victory in Tririga (Horses rearing)
Diameter:
16 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
V Good

SOLD $44.95 plus shipping

Attribution: T. Cloelius

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Victory in Tririga (Horses rearing)
Diameter:
16 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
V Good plus

SOLD $49.95 plus shipping

Attribution: L.R.. Dossenus

Obv: Minerva
Rev:
Triumphal Quadriga
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
almost Very Fine, Toned

BUY NOW $159 plus shipping
ex-Pegasi @ 225

Attribution: L.R.. Dossenus

Obv: Juno, Head Veiled
Rev:
Triumphal Quadriga
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
almost Very Fine, Toned

SOLD $159 plus shipping

Attribution: L.R.. Dossenus

Obv: Jupiter
Rev:
Triumphal Quadriga
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
almost Very Fine, Toned

SOLD $159 plus shipping

Attribution: L. Lucretius Trio

Obv: Neptune, Trident at Shoulder
Rev:
Cupid Riding Dolphin
Weight: 3.5 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about Fine

Attribution: Ti. Claudius Ti.f.Ap.n. Nero

Obv: Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, Bow and Quiver at Her Shoulder
Rev:
Victory in Biga
Weight: 3.9 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine with Mint Luster

SOLD $109 plus shipping

Note: The reverse refers to the eruption of Mount Etna when Amphinomus and Anapeus saved the lives of their parents by carrying them to safety.

Attribution: M. Herennius

Obv: Head of Piety right
Rev:
Amphinomus carrying his father
Weight: 3.9 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, golden and bluish toning

Attribution: C. Mannilius C.f.Limetanus

Obv: MERCURY Wearing WINGED Petasus
Rev:
Ulysses, His dog, Argos, at his Feet
Weight: 3.7 grams
Diameter:
20 mm diameter (about the size of a US Nickel)
Condition:
Fine plus, Excellent toning (ex-Jewelry, edges ground to round shape)

SOLD $289 plus shipping

#7368: Bronze AS - 1st Century BC,

Historical Context:
See above "Historical Context"

Obv: Janus
Rev: Prow of Ship
Diameter: 30 mm diameter (about the size of a US $.50 but twice as thick)
Condition: Very Good

#9340: Bronze AS - 1st Century BC,

Historical Context:
See above "Historical Context"

Obv: Janus
Rev: Prow of Ship
Diameter: 30 mm diameter (about the size of a US $.50 but twice as thick)
Condition: Good

Attribution: T.L.f. Sabinus

Obv: Talius
Rev:
Victory in Biga (Two Horse Chariot)
Weight: 3.9 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
V. Fine, Toned

SOLD $79.95 plus shipping

Attribution: T.L.f. Sabinus

Obv: Talius
Rev:
Kidknapping of the Sabine Women
Weight: 4.0 grams
Diameter:
20 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
V. Fine, Toned

SOLD $129 plus shipping

Attribution: Q. Lutatius Cerco.

Obv: Young Mars
Rev:
War Galley - Nice Details
Weight: 3.6 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about Fine

Attribution: C. Servillius

Obv: Roma, Wreath behind
Rev:
Dioscuri riding (The Dioscuri were myhtical beings that protected travelers)
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about Fine

Attribution: T. Carisius.

Obv: Moneta - Roman Personification of Money
Rev:
Coin minting implements
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
V Good

Attribution: T. Carisius.

Obv: Moneta - Roman Personification of Money
Rev:
Coin minting implements
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
V Good

Attribution: 81 BC, Q. Caecilus Metallus Pius

Obv: Pietas, Personification of Devotion
Rev:
Elephant
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus, Light toning

Attribution: 85 BC, Mn. Forteius C.f.

Obv: Vejovis, "Sinister Jupiter", a god of the underworld
Rev:
Goat, Stars of Dioscuri above
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus, nicer than photo shows

Attribution: 85 BC, Mn. Forteius C.f.

Obv: Vejovis, "Sinister Jupiter", a god of the underworld
Rev:
Goat, Stars of Dioscuri above
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus, nicer than photo shows

Attribution: 84 BC, P. F. Crassipes

Obv: Tyche with Turreted Head
Rev:
Curule chair
Weight:
3.8 grams
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus, nicer than photo shows, Great Toning

Attribution: 107 BC, Mn. Fonteius C.f.

Obv: Heads of the Dioscuri
Rev:
Galley
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, nicer than photo shows

Attribution: 46 BC, C. Rufus

Time when Julius Caesar was at the Height of His Power

Obv: Heads of the Dioscuri
Rev:
Venus holding balance
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, nicer than photo shows, Flat Spots

Attribution: 46 BC, C. Rufus

Time when Julius Caesar was at the Height of His Power

Obv: Heads of the Dioscuri
Rev:
Venus holding balance
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, nicer than photo shows, Flat Scrapes

Attribution: 46 BC, C. Rufus

Time when Julius Caesar was at the Height of His Power

Obv: Heads of the Dioscuri
Rev:
Venus holding balance
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
almost Very Fine, Nice toning (Sorry about blurry photo)

Attribution: 46 BC, C. Rufus

Time when Julius Caesar was at the Height of His Power

Obv: Heads of the Dioscuri
Rev:
Venus holding balance
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, Nice toning

Attribution: 46 BC, C. Rufus

Time when Julius Caesar was at the Height of His Power

Obv: Heads of the Dioscuri
Rev:
Venus holding balance
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, Nice toning

Attribution: 49 BC, Mn. Acilius Glabrio

Obv: Diademed head of Salus
Rev:
Valetudo leaning on column
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, Nice toning

Attribution: 101 BC, M. Lucilius Rufus

Obv: Helmeted Head of Roma
Rev:
Victory driving Quadriga (Four Horse Chariot)
Diameter:
20 mm diameter (about the size of a US Nickel)
Condition:
Very Fine, Well toned

Attribution: 132 BC, M. Aburius M.f. Geminus

Obv: Head of Roma
Rev:
Sol (Sun God) driving Quadriga (Four Horse Chariot)
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine

Attribution: 49 BC, Q. Sicinius, C. Coponius

Obv: Diademed head of Apollo
Rev:
Club, Lion Skin, and Arrows of HERCULES
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, nicer than photo shows

Attribution: 76 BC, Cn. Lentulus

Obv: Draped Bust of Genius
Rev:
Globe between Rudder and Sceptre
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine plus, nicer than photo shows, flan bent

Attribution: 82 BC, P. Crepusius

Obv: Apollo
Rev:
Horseman with Spear
Weight:
3.7 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
Very Fine

Attribution: 82 BC, P. Crepusius

Obv: Apollo
Rev:
Horseman with Spear
Weight:
4.0 grams
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
about Very Fine, Nicely toned

Attribution: 82 BC, P. Crepusius

Obv: Apollo
Rev:
Horseman with Spear
Weight:
3.5 grams
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
about Very Fine, Nicely toned

Attribution: 67 BC, Cestianus

Obv: Vacuna
Rev:
Eagle on Thunderbolt
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Good

Attribution: 109 BC, L.P.Chilo

Obv: Roma wearing Helmet
Rev:
Biga driven by Victory
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine/Fine

Attribution: 112 BC, Ti. Quinctus

Obv: Hercules holding Club
Rev:
Two Horses, One Horseman, Rat below
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus

Attribution: 48 BC, C. V. f. Cn.Pansa

Obv: Mask of Pan
Rev:
Jupiter seated, holding staff
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus

Obv: Mars wearing Helmet
Rev:
Horseman galloping with Attacker below
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Good

Obv: Roma wearing Helmet
Rev:
Jupiter in Quadriga
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Good

Attribution: 138 BC, C. Renius

Obv: Roma wearing Helmet
Rev:
Juno in Biga of Goats
Weight:
4.0 grams
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime, but thicker)
Condition:
Very Fine, Nice toning wih mild iridescence

Attribution: 134 BC, M. Marcius Mn.f.

Obv: Roma wearing Helmet
Rev:
Victory in Fast Biga
Weight: 3-
4 grams
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime, but thicker)
Condition:
Fine, Nice toning, some scratches

Attribution: 130 BC, M. Acilius Mn.f.

Obv: Roma wearing Helmet, Legend around
Rev:
Hercules in Quadriga, Holding military trophy
Weight: 3-
4 grams
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime, but thicker)
Condition:
Fine, Nice toning, some scratches

Attribution: Roman Republic Denarius, 85 BC, L. Julius Bursio.: The obverse (front) of this coin is a Combined God of APOLLO, MERCURY, and NEPTUNE. The reverse scene is a depiction of VICTORY (angel) driving a QUADRIGA (Four Horse Chariot). This coin is in "Good" condition overall. This coin is unaltered with a nicely toned silver coloring. This coin is a SILVER DENARIUS 19 mm diameter.

Attribution: Roman Republic Denarius, 42 BC: P. Clodius

Obv: Apollo and Lyre (Musical Instrument) behind.
Rev: Diana Lucifera holding two torches.
Condition: Very Fine, nicely toned, (ex-Jewelry, edges ground to round shape)
Size: 19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny).

Attribution: Roman Republic Denarius, 42 BC: P. Clodius

Obv: Apollo and Lyre (Musical Instrument) behind.
Rev: Diana Lucifera holding two torches.
Condition: Fine plus, nicely toned
Size: 19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny).

Attribution: Roman Republic Denarius, 42 BC: P. Clodius

Obv: Apollo and Lyre (Musical Instrument) behind.
Rev: Diana Lucifera holding two torches.
Condition: Fine, nicely toned
Size: 19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny).

Apollo / Satyr "Marsyas"

Attribution: Roman Republic Denarius, 87 BC: L.M. Censorinus

Obv: Apollo
Rev: Satyr "Marsyas".
Condition: Fine plus
Size: 18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime).

Attribution: Roman Republic Denarius, 88 BC: L.M. Censorinus

Obv: Apollo
Rev: Horsemen racing.
Condition: Fine plus
Size: 18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime).

Attribution: 66 BC, Q. Pomponius Musa

Obv: Apollo, Rolled Scroll behind his Head
Rev:
Clio, Muse of History, Leaning on Column holding Scroll
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine

Attribution: 76 to 75 BC, Cn. Lentulus

Obv: Roman "Genius"
Rev:
Scepter, Globe, Rudder
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
Fine plus, Light toning

Attribution: 118 BC, L. Pomponius

Obv: Roma wearing Helmet
Rev:
Bituitis in Biga
Weight:
3.7 grams
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus

Obv: Roma wearing Helmet
Rev:
Jupiter in Quadriga, Holding Military Trophy
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine

Obv: Roma wearing Helmet
Rev:
Jupiter in Quadriga, Holding Military Trophy
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine

Obv: Roma wearing Helmet
Rev:
Victory in Bigs
Diameter:
16 mm diameter (slightly smaller than a US Dime)
Condition:
Fine plus

Obv: Jupiter
Rev:
Victory crowning Trophy
Diameter:
15 mm diameter (about the 3/4 the diameter of a US Dime)
Condition:
Fine

Attribution: 114 BC, Mn. Aemilius Lepidus

Obv: Roma in Diadem
Rev:
Horseman on Triple Arch Bridge
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
V Good, Well toned

Attribution: Roman Republic Denarius, 62 BC, L. Cassius Longinus/L.A.Lepidus Paullus

Obv: Concordia, Roman personification of Agreement
Rev:
L.A.Lepidus Paullus touching Trophy next to King Perseus and sons as captives
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine, Well toned

Attribution: 55 BC, P. Fonteius Capito

Obv: Mars in Helmet
Rev:
Horseman about to spear warrior who is battlign an unarmed Roman
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
about Fine/Fine, Well toned

#11137: ROMAN REPUBLIC Denarius - 90 BC,
Racing HORSE

Attribution: 90 BC, L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi

Obv: Apollo
Rev:
Racing Horse, Riding holding Palm (Indicating Winner)
Weight:
3.9 grams
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus

#9397: ROMAN REPUBLIC Denarius - 90 BC,
Racing HORSE

Attribution: 90 BC, L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi

Obv: Apollo
Rev:
Racing Horse, Riding holding Palm (Indicating Winner)
Weight:
3.6 grams
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus

#9730: ROMAN REPUBLIC Denarius - 90 BC,
Racing HORSE

Attribution: 90 BC, L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi

Obv: Apollo
Rev:
Racing Horse, Riding holding Palm (Indicating Winner)
Weight:
3.7 grams
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus

Attribution: Roman Republic Denarius, 49 BC, Mn. Acilius Glabrio: The obverse (front) of this coin is SALUS, Roman GODDESS of HEALTH. The reverse scene is VALETUDO. This coin is in "Very Fine" condition overall. This coin is slightly toned silver coloring. This coin is a SILVER DENARIUS 18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny).

Attribution: 110 BC, P. Laeca

Obv: Roma wearing Helmet
Rev:
Soldier, Lictor, and Citizen
Weight:
3.9 grams
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus

Julius Caesar just 14 years old when this coin minted

Attribution: 86 BC, Anonymous

Obv: Apollo
Rev:
Jupiter driving fast Quadriga
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, toned, Banker's scrapes

Julius Caesar just 14 years old when this coin minted

Attribution: 86 BC, Anonymous

Obv: Apollo
Rev:
Jupiter driving fast Quadriga
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Very Fine, toned

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Dioscuri (Mythilogical protectors of Travelers)
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine, Chip marks

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Dioscuri (Mythilogical protectors of Travelers)
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
Very Fine, Great toning

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Dioscuri (Mythilogical protectors of Travelers)
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
Very Fine, Great toning

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Dioscuri (Mythilogical protectors of Travelers)
Diameter:
19 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine, Flan flaw

Attribution: 122 BC, M. Rufus

Obv: Roma
Rev:
Dioscuri Riding
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Fine plus

Period with Julius Caesar at the Height of His Power

Attribution: 58 BC, M. Aemilius Scaurus/P. Plautius Hypsaeus
Obv:
King Aretas of Nabataea kneeling next to Camel
Rev:
Jupiter driving Fast Quadriga
Diameter:
16 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
almost Very Fine, moderately porous surfaces

Period with Julius Caesar at the Height of His Power

Attribution: 55 BC, A. Plautius
Obv:
Cybele
Rev:
Aristobulus, High Preist of Judaea kneeling next to Camel - While Aristrobulus being held captive by Pompey
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Dime)
Condition:
almost Very Fine

Obv: Apollo
Rev:
Slow Biga (Two Horse Chariot)
Diameter:
17 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny)
Condition:
Good

Obv: Head of Mercury right, wearing petasus
Rev:
Prow of Ship
Diameter:
18 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny and thicker)
Weight:
4.5 grams
Condition:
Very Fine, Emerald green patina

Obv: Helmeted head of clean-shaven Mars
Rev:
Horse's head r. behind, sickle. Beneath, ROMA
Diameter:
16 mm diameter (about the size of a US Penny and thicker)
Weight:
3.7 grams
Condition:
Very Fine, Deep Brown patina, Heavy corrosion spots

Obv: Head of Mercury right, wearing petasus
Rev:
Prow of Ship
Diameter:
10 mm diameter (about the 2/3rds the diameter of a US Dime)
Weight:
1.8 grams
Condition:
Fine, Deep Olive Green patina

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Content Copyright 2000, MuseumSurplus.com (Ken Martins)

Source code and object code Copyright 1998, Primecom Interactive, Inc.
Subject to terms of license agreement.


Cleopatra (69–30 BCE) was queen of Egypt when the Roman Empire was gradually expanding into the wealthy eastern Mediterranean. By allying herself first with the powerful Roman generals Julius Caesar (100–44 BCE) and then Mark Antony (83–30 BCE), she hoped to maintain her country’s independence and her own authority. The political alliance between Antony and Cleopatra worried Caesar’s heir, Octavian, who, in 31 BCE, defeated the couple in a sea battle. Rather than suffer the humiliation of surrender, Cleopatra and Antony killed themselves.

This coin was minted during Antony and Cleopatra’s alliance. By pairing their faces on coinage, the rulers advertised their powerful partnership, which was so strong that Cleopatra’s profile is an exact copy of Antony’s portrait. Cleopatra’s image appears on the front of the coin, which identifies her as the more important of the two rulers. A crown circling her carefully braided hair symbolizes her status as a queen.


Cleopatra's Daughter

While Antony and Cleopatra have been immortalised in history and in popular culture, their offspring have been all but forgotten. Their daughter, Cleopatra Selene, became an important ruler in her own right.

A fragment of a Ptolemaic relief believed to show Queen Cleopatra.

T he love affair of Cleopatra VII, Queen of Egypt (69-30 BC), and Marcus Antonius, Roman triumvir (83-30 BC) is legendary. During their own lifetimes their liaison quickly became infamous, the subject of gossip, innuendo and outrage throughout the ancient world. It has remained a source of fascination for over 2,000 years, recorded first as fact in historical treatises and biographies written by Greek and Roman scholars and then as fiction in poems, plays, novels, television programmes and films. What is less well-known is that they had three children together: the fraternal twins Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios and their younger brother Ptolemy Philadelphos.

The two sons Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphos disappeared from the historical record without explanation early on, probably falling victim to illness during childhood. Cleopatra Selene, however, not only survived into adulthood but became an important and influential political figure in her own right. She claimed descent from the mythological figure of the Greco-Roman demi-god Herakles / Hercules and the historical heroes Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, Ptolemy I Soter and Ptolemy II Philadelphos, as well as kinship with the Julio-Claudian emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. Over the course of her eventful life she was first an Egyptian princess, then a Roman prisoner and finally an African queen. Ironically, unlike her mother and the contemporary female rulers Cartimandua of the Brigantes, Boudicca of the Iceni and Zenobia of Palmyra, who have been remembered for the domestic strife, civil wars and rebellions of their regimes, the reason little is known of Cleopatra Selene is because she was successful.

Antony and Cleopatra

By 42 BC the last of Gaius Julius Caesar’s assassins, Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, had been defeated and killed at the Battle of Philippi in northern Greece. In the aftermath of the battle the victors, Antony and Julius Caesar’s great nephew and heir Gaius Octavius, had divided the Roman world between them Antony received the East, Octavian the West. During the years that followed, Antony’s priority was the invasion and subjugation of Rome’s old enemy Parthia Caesar had been in the process of planning such an action when he was assassinated in 44 BC in revenge for the defeat of the Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC. In order to launch a successful military campaign, Antony not only required a base of operations in the East but also funds, supplies and equipment.

In the autumn of 41 BC Antony summoned Cleopatra to meet him at Tarsus in Asia Minor. She was the ruler of Rome’s wealthiest client kingdom, a region where the annual inundation of the Nile covered the land either side of the river in a layer of thick black silt so agriculturally fertile that it was possible to harvest multiple crops each year and where the Eastern Desert had been found to contain fabulous mineral resources that were mined for gold, precious stones and coloured marbles. In addition to the natural advantages provided by the climate, environment and geology of Egypt, the city of Alexandria was a major centre of trade in the Mediterranean and the kingdom also had the monopoly of trading with India and the Far East.

Although Greek and Roman writers enjoyed claiming that Antony succumbed to Cleopatra’s charms and fell in love with her at first sight, the encounter in Tarsus was not actually the first time the two had met. They had come across each other on several previous occasions, first at the royal court in Egypt, while Antony was serving in the region in 55 BC and Cleopatra was still a teenager, and then again some years later at Caesar’s house in Rome while Cleopatra stayed there with their son Caesarion between 46 and 44 BC. However, it is clear that on this occasion Cleopatra deliberately set out to make a favourable impression on Antony. After all, with Caesar dead, she and her son needed a new powerful Roman protector.

The most extensive account of the meeting that survives from antiquity was recorded in a biography of Antony by the Greek writer Plutarch. Although he was writing over a century after his subject’s death, his source for the details of Antony’s life with Cleopatra was a friend of his grandfather who was acquainted with Cleopatra’s servants, so his information is generally considered to be reliable. Fifteen hundred years later his words would inspire one of Shakespeare’s most memorable scenes:

[Cleopatra] received several letters, both from Antony and from his friends, to summon her, but she took no account of these orders and at last, as if in mockery of them, she came sailing up the river Cydnus, in a barge with gilded stern and outspread sails of purple, while oars of silver beat time to the music of flutes and fifes and harps. She herself lay all along, under a canopy of cloth of gold, dressed as Venus in a picture, and beautiful young boys, like painted Cupids, stood on each side to fan her. Her maids were dressed like Sea Nymphs and Graces, some steering at the rudder, some working at the ropes. The perfumes diffused themselves from the vessel to the shore, which was covered with multitudes, part following the galley up the river on either bank, part running out of the city to see the sight. The market-place was quite emptied, and Antony at last was left alone (Life of Antony 25.5-26.3).

There is no doubt that Cleopatra carefully orchestrated every last detail of her arrival in Tarsus. She entered the city with her kingdom’s wealth prominently displayed and this tactic could not have been more attractive to Antony, who was not only in need of money to fund his military campaign against Parthia, but had been chronically debt ridden for the majority of his adult life. In addition to money, she offered him something else that he had been missing and that was the opportunity for fun and decadent self-indulgence. She provided so much of it in Tarsus that he abandoned his wife, Fulvia, and returned with Cleopatra to Alexandria, staying there for the remainder of the year before departing the following spring.

Egyptian Princess

Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios were born later that year, some time during the autumn of 40 BC. While no record of their precise date of birth or even their order of birth has survived, what is certain is that, while the truth of their elder brother Caesarion’s paternity was repeatedly questioned in antiquity, the fact that Antony was the father of the twins was never doubted. On the contrary, over the next decade Octavian’s negative propaganda made much of the fact that Antony had not only indulged in a shameful liaison with a foreign woman that had resulted in him rejecting not just one but two lawful Roman wives (Fulvia died in 40 BC and was promptly replaced by Octavian’s sister Octavia), but he had also fathered a brood of illegitimate foreign children. Antony’s response to these accusations was not to deny them, but rather to claim that on the contrary his actions were not only entirely justified, but also in the interest of the Roman people and their empire. Yet, although he probably knew about the pregnancy and the twins’ subsequent birth, he made no attempt to return to Egypt. It was not until 37 BC, when Antony summoned Cleopatra to meet him once more, this time at Antioch in Syria, and she brought the twins with her, that he met them for the first time and formally acknowledged paternity.

In the eyes of Cleopatra’s Egyptian subjects her relationship with Antony was the equivalent of a dynastic marriage, as her prior relationship with Caesar had been, and therefore Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios were legitimate, just as Caesarion was. Like him they had a part to play in the succession and with this in mind Cleopatra selected their names very carefully. Both Alexander and Cleopatra had Macedonian, Seleucid and Ptolemaic precedents that linked the twins with past prominent members of other Near Eastern royal families, although the most obvious contemporary associations would have been with Alexander the Great and Cleopatra VII herself. The second names Helios (Sun) and Selene (Moon) not only marked the twins, rather whimsically, as a pair, but also served to associate them (Alexander Helios in particular) with beliefs and prophecies that were circulating around the Roman Empire regarding a forthcoming ‘golden age’. Clearly, great things were expected of both of them.

Over the next couple of years, Antony bestowed vast swathes of land onto Cleopatra and her children. These grants ensured that Egypt gradually regained the territories the kingdom had ruled at its peak during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphos. Whatever Antony’s reasoning behind the grants, which formed a small part of the reorganisation of the eastern provinces under his command, it was at this point that Cleopatra began to use a new system of dating to calculate her reign, which made her feelings about them clear. She had succeeded in reconstituting the Ptolemaic Empire as it had been during the reigns of Ptolemy I Soter (r. 323-283 BC) and Ptolemy II Philadelphos (r. 283-246 BC). Certainly, it was around this time that she bore her fourth and last child, who was named after Ptolemy I Soter’s son and heir, Ptolemy II Philadelphos, the ruler who had won all these territories in the first place.

Antony’s Parthian campaign proved to be a humiliating failure, although that did not prevent him from returning to Alexandria as a conquering hero in 34 BC. Shortly afterwards, a lavish ceremony that has come to be known as the Donations of Alexandria was held in the city’s gymnasium. Huge crowds assembled to witness Antony and Cleopatra (dressed as the Egyptian goddess Isis) sitting on golden thrones on a silver platform with Caesarion, Cleopatra Selene, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphos sitting on smaller and less ornate ones just below them. Antony declared Cleopatra to be Queen of Kings, Caesarion to be the true son of Caesar and King of Egypt and proceeded to bestow kingdoms of their own upon Cleopatra Selene, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphos. Cleopatra Selene was given Crete and the Cyrenaica, both territories that were particularly associated with the families of Antony and Cleopatra. Her paternal grandfather, Marcus Antonius Creticus, had been ordered to rid Crete of pirates and the Ptolemies had once controlled the Cyrenaica. Alexander Helios, dressed in traditional Parthian costume, was given the kingdoms of Armenia and Media (he was also betrothed to the latter kingdom’s princess Iotape) and all the territory east of the Euphrates as far as India, essentially the Parthian Empire that Antony had yet to conquer. Ptolemy Philadelphos, dressed in traditional Macedonian costume, was given the Syrian territories, which Cleopatra had recently reclaimed in order to reconstitute the Ptolemaic Empire, and was made overlord of the Near Eastern client kingdoms west of the Euphrates. Still very young children, neither of the twins nor Ptolemy Philadelphos was in any position to assume control of their lands at that point, but it was clear that both Antony and Cleopatra intended they should do so within a matter of years.

Already outraged by the Donations of Alexandria, the discovery of an alleged copy of Antony’s will, which contained the revelation that he wished to be buried in Alexandria with Cleopatra rather than in Rome with Octavia, was the final straw for Octavian. After a decade of hostility, diplomatic relations between the two finally faltered, making military action inevitable. The two factions came face to face with each other off the coast of Greece at the Battle of Actium in September 31 BC. Octavian won the battle although his victory was far from decisive and was only achieved with the help of his friend and colleague Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. In the wake of their defeat Antony and Cleopatra returned to Alexandria. While Antony suffered a nervous breakdown and went into seclusion, Cleopatra began planning her next move. Over the next few months she sent a series of messengers to Octavian, offering first to betray Antony and then, when that proved unsuccessful, to abdicate in favour of her children.

Roman Prisoner

By the time Octavian arrived in Egypt in the summer of 30 BC Antony and Cleopatra were ready to make one last stand but, preparing for the worst, had sent the children away. Once defeat was inevitable, they famously each committed suicide rather than surrender. Caesarion headed to India but en route he was betrayed by his tutor, intercepted by Roman forces and executed. Cleopatra Selene, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphos went south to Thebes. However the deaths of their mother and Caesarion left Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios nominally in charge of Egypt, so they were brought back to Alexandria to reign in name only until the kingdom was officially annexed by the Roman Empire two weeks later. When Octavian left the newly created province, he took the twins and Ptolemy Philadelphos back to Rome with him.

Octavian had originally hoped to take Cleopatra alive. This would have allowed him to parade her through the streets of Rome during the triple triumph he was planning to celebrate his victories against Illyricum, Actium and Egypt, just as Caesar had paraded her sister Arsinoë in his own triumph celebrating his victory in the Alexandrian War in 48 BC. Obviously Cleopatra’s suicide made this impossible, so instead he paraded an effigy of her holding an asp, while Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios, dressed as the moon and the sun in reference to their names, walked beside it. Their participation in the Egyptian section of Octavian’s triple triumph served to draw their Egyptian lives to a close.

For the first ten years of her life Cleopatra Selene had been raised in Egypt as an Egyptian princess at an Egyptian court the fact that her father was a Roman citizen, former consul and triumvir was virtually irrelevant at this stage of her life. However, once both of her parents were dead and Egypt had ceased to exist as an independent kingdom, the question of what to do with Cleopatra Selene and her brothers needed to be answered. In the absence of any surviving relatives, responsibility for them passed to Octavian and he in turn passed it to Octavia.

The children lived in Octavia’s house on the Palatine Hill in Rome as members of an extended family that included their half-brother Iullus Antonius (Antony’s son with Fulvia) and half-sisters, both called Antonia (Antony’s daughters with Octavia), as well as Octavia’s older children from a previous marriage, Marcus Claudius Marcellus and his two sisters, both called Marcella. Living not far away were Octavian, who was now known as Augustus, and his wife Livia Drusilla, Augustus’ daughter Julia and Livia’s sons Tiberius Claudius Nero and Decimus Claudius Drusus. In addition to the members of these two households, Augustus had gradually accumulated a collection of royal children. Mostly these were the heirs of friendly client rulers, who had been sent to Rome as a means of ‘Romanising’ them to make them more effective client kings, but it also included several individuals who were the offspring of former client rulers, who had been deposed or had died, or both.

One of the latter was Gaius Julius Juba, the son of King Juba of Numidia (modern-day Algeria, Tunisia and Libya), who had committed suicide in 46 BC after being defeated by Caesar at the Battle of Thapsus. Only a baby at the time, Juba had been taken back to Rome by Caesar and exhibited in the African section of his quadruple triumph. He had subsequently been raised in Caesar’s household until the dictator’s assassination in 44 BC when custody of the child seems to have passed to Octavian and Octavia. Juba was awarded Roman citizenship and spent his childhood and adolescence in Rome during which time he was given a Roman education and encouraged in intellectual pursuits, which led to him writing scholarly treatises on a range of subjects (many of which were used by Pliny the Elder as sources for his enormous 37-volume Natural History). With his contemporaries Marcellus, Tiberius and Drusus he even undertook military service with the Roman legions in Spain before Augustus decided to confer on him the newly created client kingdom of Mauretania as his Numidia had now been turned into the Roman province of Africa Nova.

African Queen

Although Octavia had herself been unlucky in love, she was apparently something of a matchmaker. In 25 BC she was instrumental in arranging a marriage between Cleopatra Selene and Juba and the event was commemorated by the poet Crinagoras of Mytilene in an epigram that survives in its entirety:

Great neighbouring regions of the world, which the Nile, swollen from black Ethiopia, divides, you have created common kings for both through marriage, making one race of Egyptians and Libyans.
Let the children of kings in turn hold from their fathers a strong rule over both lands.

Cleopatra Selene and Juba had much in common. Both had been orphaned at a young age by their respective parents’ suicides, both had had their ancestral lands confiscated and both had been displayed in triumphal processions before being encouraged to start a new Roman life. They were also politically problematic and marrying them and installing them as client rulers was a potentially excellent solution. So, following the wedding, Augustus proclaimed them king and queen of Mauretania and sent them there to rule as his clients.

The young couple had had their lives turned upside down as a result of the actions of their parents. Once they arrived in Mauretania they were free to make their own decisions, accountable to no one, except possibly Augustus. They had much to do: the new kingdom of Mauretania was a vast territory, encompassing modern-day Algeria and Morocco, rather than modern-day Mauritania. As might be expected with one large kingdom created from two smaller ones, there were two capital cities, Iol (now Cherchell) on the Mediterranean coast and Volubilis (now Walili) further inland. Mauretania also contained a smattering of Greek and Roman colonies, originally founded to facilitate trade with Hispania Baetica (Andalusia).

Cleopatra Selene and Juba proved more than equal to the task. Although Juba was now indisputably the King of Mauretania, he had never been King of Numidia, or anywhere else. Cleopatra Selene, on the other hand, had not only been declared Queen of Crete and the Cyrenaica in 34 BC, she had also reigned as the Queen of Egypt in 30 BC, if only for a short while. Consequently she possessed enough prestige to rule alongside her husband as a queen in her own right and consistently referred to her Greek and Egyptian heritage on the coins she issued in her own name as well as those she issued in conjunction with Juba. Their new kingdom was in serious need of modernisation, so they refounded Iol as Caesarea in honour of their benefactor Augustus. (It could also have been an attempt to compete with Herod, the client king of Judea, who had done likewise several years earlier.) They filled Caesarea with grandiose buildings inspired by those of Rome and also of Alexandria. These included a lighthouse in the style of the Alexandrian Pharos, set up on an island in the harbour, a royal palace situated on the seafront and numerous temples to Roman and Egyptian deities. Their royal court attracted scholars and artists from across the Roman Empire and became a cosmopolitan fusion of Greek, Roman and Egyptian culture.

The couple ruled Mauretania for almost two decades, until Cleopatra’s early death at the age of 35. Judging from a second commemorative epigram written by Crinagoras of Mytilene, her death seems to have coincided with a lunar eclipse, which would place it on or around 23 March, 5 BC:

The moon herself grew dark, rising at sunset, covering her suffering in the night, because she saw her beautiful namesake, Selene, breathless, descending to Hades, with her she had had the beauty of her light in common, and mingled her own darkness with her death.

She was survived by her husband and their son Ptolemy, who ruled in conjunction with his father for some years before succeeding to sole rule upon Juba’s death in AD 23. He reigned until AD 40, when he was executed on the orders of the emperor Caligula, his mother’s great nephew. Ptolemy died without issue and, when Caligula was assassinated the following year, his successor Claudius decided to take advantage of the situation and assume control of the kingdom. After only 65 years the territories so recently unified were once again divided and then converted into the Roman provinces of Mauretania Caesariensis and Mauretania Tingitana. Cleopatra Selene, Juba and Ptolemy were forgotten.

Jane Draycott is Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Research Fellow in Ancient Science and Technology at the University of Glasgow. This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of History Today.


The symbol of Cleopatra Selene: reading crocodiles on coins in the late Republic and early Principate.

In the period 37-34 BC, two series of coins (one with Latin legends, the other Greek) were issued in Crete and Cyrenaica to mark the Roman triumvir Marcus Antonius' assignment of these territories to Cleopatra Selene, his daughter by Cleopatra VII, queen of Egypt. These coins were stamped with the image of a crocodile, an image that until this point had not featured prominently on either Roman or Egyptian coinage. Was the crocodile intended to symbolise or personify Egypt, and Egyptian dominion over the territories that Antonius had recently bestowed not only upon Cleopatra Selene, but also upon her twin brother Alexander Helios and younger brother Ptolemy Philadelphos? Or was it intended to stand for Cleopatra Selene herself, serving as her badge or emblem the way that her father used the lion and club of his divine ancestor Hercules, or Octavian was to use the capricorn of his natal sign? And, if so, why was the crocodile chosen in the first place?

I will argue here that the crocodile was specifically selected for Cleopatra Selene by Cleopatra VII, and that this selection was intended to recall a significant event that occurred at the foundation of the Ptolemaic dynasty, and comprised part of a wider strategy of reconstituting the empire of Ptolemy I Soter and Ptolemy II Philadelphos. I will also argue that, as a result, this selection subsequently influenced the designs of Octavian's gold and silver AEGVPTO CAPTA coinage, the bronze Nemausus coinage, and the coinage of Juba II of Mauretania.

After the suicide of Cleopatra VII and the Roman annexation of Egypt in 30 BC, Octavian issued a series of coins commemorating his victory. One of these, a denarius, is thought to have been issued from a mint in Italy (perhaps even in Rome) in 28 BC. It portrayed Octavian facing right with a lituus behind and the legend CAESAR COS VI on the obverse, with a crocodile and the legend AEGVPTO CAPTA on the reverse (see Figure I). (1) The source of the other two coin types is entirely uncertain, although an eastern mint (perhaps Pergamum) has been suggested. (2) The first of these was a denarius issued in 28 BC which portrayed Octavian facing right above a small capricorn with the legend CAESAR DIVI F COS VI on the obverse, with a crocodile and the legend AEGVPTO CAPTA on the reverse. (3) The second was an aureus issued early in 27 BC which portrayed Octavian, soon to be known as Augustus, facing right above a small capricorn with the legend CAESAR DIVI F COS VII on the obverse, with a crocodile and the legend AEGVPT CAPTA on the reverse. (4)

The legend AEGVPTO (or AEGVPT) CAPTA distinguished Egypt from the eastern territories that had been under Antonius' control in his role as Roman triumvir since 42 BC, but were now under Octavian's--Egypt had been captured, not just recovered. (5) In any case, the purpose of the AEGVPTO CAPTA coins was not simply to inform people that Egypt had been conquered and annexed even in antiquity, a period of between two and three years was ample time for news of such political, military and economic significance to spread throughout the Roman Empire. (6) At first glance, Octavian's choice of a crocodile to supplement the legend and decorate the reverse face of his coins is straightforward: the crocodile is intended to symbolise or perhaps even personify Egypt. (7) However, such a simplistic interpretation underplays the novelty of a motif that was almost entirely without precedent in Roman numismatic iconography and begs the question: why such a radical departure?

Macaulay-Lewis has suggested that 'a crocodile, known from the Egyptianising Roman art from the mid and late Republic, was a far better, more easily read symbol of Egypt on Augustan coinage than a papyrus plant would have been.' (8) According to West, 'the crocodile was Egypt's most distinctive animal, and its use to symbolise that land was standard practice.' (9) However, this is not strictly true, for, while the crocodile was certainly distinctive and thus easily recognisable, it could be argued that so were any number of species of Egyptian fauna such as the hippopotamus and the ibis or even (contrary to Macaulay-Lewis) flora such as the papyrus plant and the palm tree. In point of fact, when Virgil describes the battle fought between the Roman gods and the Egyptian gods at Actium, he specifically mentions 'Anubis the barker', the jackal-headed deity, by name rather than crocodile-headed Sobek. (10) Likewise, in works of Egyptianising Roman art dating from the middle and late Republic the crocodile is generally only one of a range of animals portrayed and it is not until the imperial period that it becomes the most frequently occurring animal depicted in Nilotic landscapes, as well as accompanying personifications of Egypt, Alexandria and the Nile on imperial coinage issued by later emperors such as Hadrian and Caracalla. (11) The earliest Roman examples of using the crocodile for the specific purpose of symbolising or personifying Egypt are contemporaneous with Octavian's AEGVPTO CAPTA coinage. They also seem to have been utilised by individuals with a personal connection to the province: the bronze coinage issued at Nemausus where the veterans from the Egyptian campaign were settled (see Figure 2) and a marble frieze probably from a funerary monument set up to honour a veteran who settled at Praeneste. (12)

Octavian's AEGVPTO CAPTA coins were not the first Roman coins to feature crocodiles per se because there are three examples from the first century BC in which crocodiles were used as a control mark. (13) During the same period a range of Egyptian motifs were used as control marks on Roman coins these motifs included the lotus, the Isis crown, the sistrum, the hippopotamus, the snake, the mongoose, the heron and the pygmy in addition to the crocodile. (14) Thus, it seems unlikely that Bursio, Papius and Fabatus intended their crocodiles to be read as anything other than control marks they are irrelevant to the images and legends on both the obverse and reverse faces that they appear on, as well as being significantly smaller. (15) It may be that the moneyers never intended the control marks to be noticed at all. Crocodiles were not exhibited in the venationes until the aedileship of Marcus Aemilius Scaurus in 58 BC, so the only opportunity consumers would have had to familiarise themselves with the creatures would have been through works of Egyptianising art produced by Egyptian craftsmen such as the Praeneste Nile Mosaic or, as is perhaps less likely, viewing them in their natural habitat during a trip to Egypt. (16)

So although the crocodile did appear on Roman coin issues during the first century BC before Octavian's AEGVPTO CAPTA series, it was not used as the symbol of Egypt, or as the symbol of anything else for that matter. So how to explain Octavian's innovative use of the creature?

Cleopatra VII and the Ptolemaic dynasty

At the start of Cleopatra's reign in 51 BC, Egypt was in dire political and financial straits and scholars have interpreted her subsequent interactions with Julius Caesar and Antonius to mean that she perceived the kingdom's recovery as depending heavily upon its ability to regain the territories held under Ptolemy I Soter and his successor Ptolemy II Philadelphos. (17) Having first eliminated her younger siblings and thus ensured there would be no one to rival her own children, she turned her attentions to them and their futures. Her eldest son and consort after the death of her youngest brother was Ptolemy XV Caesar or Caesarion, the son of Julius Caesar. Her other three children were fathered by Antonius the twins Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, and Ptolemy Philadelphos. The second names in particular, Helios and Selene, not only marked the twins as a pair, but also associated them with contemporary Roman and Egyptian religious and prophetic beliefs regarding the Golden Age. (18) The youngest child, Ptolemy Philadelphos, was given the names of Ptolemy I Soter's son and heir, Ptolemy II Philadelphos, under whom the Ptolemaic Empire had reached its peak.

Cleopatra began to regain the territories of Ptolemy II Philadelphos in 37 BC, when Antonius awarded her Phoenicia, Coele Syria and Cyprus, as well as parts of Cilicia, Judaea and Arabia Nabataea. (19) He also presented their children with parts of Arabia, Phoenicia, Palestine, Crete, Cyrene and Cyprus, although their ages meant that, in reality, it was Cleopatra who was in control of these territories. (20) These grants of territory, while certainly extensive and extravagant, were merely one part of Antonius' reorganisation of the provinces allotted to him in the East in his capacity as a Roman triumvir. (21) In fact, it has been suggested that Antonius' primary motivation for bestowing these particular territories upon Cleopatra was to provide her with sufficient timber to construct a fleet for him, not only to police the Mediterranean but also to aid him in his military campaigns. (22) Whatever Antonius' reasoning, it was at this point that Cleopatra began to use a new system of dating to calculate her (and her co-ruler Ptolemy XV Caesar's) reign, perhaps to commemorate the point at which she had indeed succeeded in restoring the Ptolemaic Empire as it had been during the reigns of Ptolemy I Soter and Ptolemy II Philadelphos. (23)

A second installment (subsequently known as the Donations of Alexandria) was made two years later, in a lavish ceremony that marked Antonius' return from Armenia. According to Cassius Dio:

[Antonius] promised to give to his own children by Cleopatra the following districts: to Ptolemy, Syria and all the region west of the Euphrates as far as the Hellespont to Cleopatra [Selene], the Cyrenaica in Libya and to their brother Alexander, Armenia and the rest of the countries east of the Euphrates as far as India for he even bestowed the last-named regions as if they were already in his possession. (24)

Cyrenaica was part of the Ptolemaic Empire until it was bequeathed to Rome by Ptolemy Physcon in 155 BC and subsequently passed into Roman hands upon the death of his son Ptolemy Apion in 96 BC. (25) However, it was not until 75 or 74 BC that a quaestor was sent to the province and as late as 67 BC before there is evidence of any provincial administration. (26) By granting Cleopatra Selene and through her, her mother, territory that had originally been part of the Ptolemaic Empire, Antonius was effectively reversing its comparatively recent annexation.

Although Roller and Reynolds both argue that no effective control of Cyrenaica by Egypt resulted, (27) numismatic evidence offers a different perspective on the situation: (28) a bronze coin issued in 31 BC with the legends ANT[OMEGA] | Y[PI]A | [GAMMA] and BA[SIGMA]I[LAMBDA] | [THETA]EA | NE, indicates that at that time, Cyrenaica was being jointly governed by Rome and Egypt in the name of Antonius and Cleopatra VII rather than their daughter. (29) Perhaps their seeming resumption of personal control of the region was a necessary step in the preparations for war against Octavian.

Crocodile coins from Crete and Cyrenaica

In the period 37-34 BC, two series of coins, one Latin and one Greek, were issued in Crete and Cyrenaica respectively. (30) The Latin series included an aes with a crocodile and no legend on the obverse and the prow of a galley with the legend CRAS on the reverse. (31) The Greek series contained one aes that was struck with the legend [PI]TO[LAMBDA]EMAI (Ptolemais) and portrayed the turreted head of the personification of that city on the obverse, with a crocodile and the legend KPA[SIGMA] on the reverse. (32) A second portrayed the veiled head of the personification of Libya without a legend on the obverse and a crocodile with the legend KPA[SIGMA] on the reverse. (33) A third portrayed a crocodile without a legend on the obverse and a ship's prow adorned with a star and the legend KPA[SIGMA] on the reverse. (34)

Presumably, the legends CRAS and KPA[SIGMA] refer to a provincial governor (or some other type of senior government official or representative) appointed by Antonius and/or Cleopatra this official was evidently an individual with the cognomen Crassus. There are two such individuals known to have been associated with Antonius in this period. The first was Marcus Licinius Crassus, the grandson of the triumvir Marcus Licinius Crassus, who joined Antonius in around 36 BC, but ultimately deserted him and joined Octavian instead. (35) The second was Publius Canidius Crassus, who joined Antonius in 43 BC, held a suffect consulship in 40 BC and then campaigned with Antonius in the East. (36) He subdued the Iberians and Albanians in the Caucasus before joining the Parthian expedition and returned from Armenia in 33 BC. (37) He then commanded the land forces at the Battle of Actium in the wake of Antonius' defeat and the Roman invasion of Egypt, he was captured by Octavian and either executed or forced to commit suicide. (38)

Scholars disagree over which Crassus these coins should be attributed to Svoronos favoured Publius Canidius Crassus while Grant preferred Marcus Licinius Crassus. (39) Canidius Crassus was, after all, involved in Antonius' Parthian and Armenian campaigns from 36 BC until 33 BC, so it seems unlikely that he was simultaneously in charge of Crete and Cyrenaica. (40) Plutarch describes him as being 'a man of the greatest influence', initially with Antonius, but his importance was eventually realised by Cleopatra too. (41) This is made clear from a papyrus that was recovered from mummy cartonnage from Abusir el-Melek and found to contain a royal decree dating from February 33 BC, granting him a number of privileges that may even have been signed by Cleopatra herself. (42) This decree supports Plutarch's account of events immediately before the Battle of Actium, in which he claims that Cleopatra offered Canidius Crassus extensive bribes to remain loyal to her. (43)

Despite the logistical difficulties inherent in issuing coins in Crete and Cyrenaica while on campaign in Armenia, Canidius Crassus would seem to be a better candidate for the issuer of the crocodile coins than Licinius Crassus due to the former's close working relationship with both Antonius and Cleopatra, and his long-term ties to Egypt as made clear from the information regarding his estate, tenants and business interests found in the Bingen papyrus. (44) In addition, if he was the one responsible for issuing these coins, this ultimately treacherous action could have contributed to Octavian's apparent refusal to spare his life once he had conquered Egypt, just as Octavian reportedly refused to spare the life of Q. Ovinius for the transgression of managing Cleopatra's wool and textile industry. (45) After all, as far as Octavian was concerned, he recovered the territory for the Roman Empire after he defeated Antonius and Cleopatra he even included the putative queen of Crete and Cyrenaica in his triple triumph in 29 BC. (46)

Ptolemaic crocodile coinage in the Roman Empire

If Octavian utilised the crocodile on his AEGVPTO CAPTA coinage for the express purpose of subverting Antonius and Cleopatra's use of the crocodile on the coinage issued in Cleopatra Selene's name at Crete and Cyrenaica, this in turn begs the question: why were Antonius and Cleopatra using the crocodile in the first place? It had not been a feature of Cleopatra's Egyptian coinage prior to this occasion, nor was it utilised on the coinage of earlier Ptolemaic kings and queens on the contrary, Greek symbols such as the eagle and the cornucopia were preferred. (47) However, one possible answer to this question can be found in an examination of the history of the earliest days of the Ptolemaic dynasty, the period when the Ptolemaic Empire that Cleopatra was so keen to reconstitute was in its infancy.

According to Diodorus Siculus, after Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, Ptolemy Soter was given Egypt under the terms of the Partition of Babylon. (48) On his way to his new domain in 322 BC, he seized the body of Alexander and took it with him to Egypt. Once there, he deposited it temporarily at Memphis while he prepared a permanent tomb to house it in Alexandria. (49) In response, Perdiccas invaded Egypt, led his army towards Memphis, where he believed Ptolemy was based, and attempted to cross the Nile during the night:

When all were thus forced to cross the stream, those who knew how to swim well and were strongest of body succeeded in swimming across the Nile with great distress, after throwing away a good deal of their equipment but of the rest, because of their lack of skill some were swallowed by the river, and others were cast up on the shore toward the enemy, but most of them, carried along for some time, were devoured by the animals in the river. (50)

Although Ptolemy succeeded in routing Perdiccas' army at the Fort of Camels, it is questionable whether he would have beaten Perdiccas' much larger forces at Memphis if it had not been for Perdiccas' difficulties in getting them across the Nile. The fact that so many soldiers had drowned and then had their bodies eaten by crocodiles was not only a military catastrophe for Perdiccas, but it also had a disastrous effect on the morale of the remaining troops, the result of which was his being assassinated by his own generals. (51)

The Egyptian crocodile god Sobek and his various local manifestations seem to have been particularly favoured by the Ptolemaic dynasty from the reign of Ptolemy I Soter through to the reign of Cleopatra VII. (52) The region of the Fayum, where the Macedonian veterans of Alexander the Great and Ptolemy I Soter's military campaigns were settled during the late 4th century BC, was the major centre of Sobek worship in Egypt for centuries, throughout the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. (53) This popularity may have resulted (in part) from the crucial role the crocodiles of the Nile played in Ptolemy's victory over Perdiccas, thus confirming his possession of Egypt. It seems likely that at least some of the veterans settled in the Fayum had been present at Perdiccas' abortive attempt to cross the Nile. This story (no matter how overly embellished or even patently false it might originally have been) was certainly still circulating in Cleopatra's own lifetime, as indicated by its inclusion in the writings of Diodorus Siculus. Considering the speed with which the working relationship between Octavian and Antonius deteriorated after the first set of territorial grants to Cleopatra and her children in 37 BC, it might also have been in Cleopatra's interest to draw attention to the difficulties that hostile forces might face when attempting to invade Egypt

Cleopatra and Antonius aimed to incorporate simultaneously elements of tradition and innovation into their coin issues. They looked back to the early days of the Ptolemaic Empire by following the example of Arsinoe II, the sister and wife of Ptolemy II Philadelphos, who was particularly associated with symbols such as the double cornucopia and deities such as the goddess Isis. However, they also looked to the future and the new Ptolemaic Empire that they were in the process of creating by utilising either familiar symbols in a new way, or entirely new symbols in a familiar way one example of this is found in the series of silver denarii and tetradrachms issued after the Donations of Alexandria which bear Cleopatra and the legend REGINAE REGVM FILIORVM REGVM CLEOPATRAE on the obverse and Antonius and the legend ANTONI ARMENIA DEVICTA on the reverse. (54)

Cleopatra had herself assimilated symbols previously favoured by Arsinoe II such as the double cornucopia, in addition to following Arsinoe II in particularly associating herself with Isis. (55) Thus it is not surprising that she might extend such a practice to her daughter, utilising the crocodile as the personal emblem of Cleopatra Selene, much as Antonius used the lion of his purported ancestor Hercules or Octavian the capricorn of his natal sign. The fact that the crocodile only appeared on coins issued in Crete and Cyrenaica, the territory granted to Cleopatra Selene, and would later reappear on coins issued in Mauretania during Cleopatra Selene's reign as queen of that kingdom, indicates that the motif is linked specifically with her. (56) By issuing coins depicting a crocodile relatively soon after Octavian had used the crocodile to symbolise Egypt on his AEGVPTO CAPTA coinage, Cleopatra Selene may have been attempting to reclaim ownership of it on Cleopatra Selene's coinage, the legend K[LAMBDA]EO[PI]ATPA BA[SIGMA]I[LAMBDA]I[SIGMA][SIGMA]A is arranged around the image of the crocodile in exactly the same way as the legend AEGVPTO CAPTA is arranged around the image of a crocodile on Octavian's coinage (see figure 3).

It is clear that the traditional explanation for Octavian's decision to use a crocodile to symbolise Egypt on his AEGVPTO CAPTA coinage (that the crocodile was the symbol of Egypt) is untenable there is no literary or artistic evidence to support such an assertion as having been the case during either the Hellenistic period in Egypt or the Late Republic in Rome. Rather, it was Octavian's use of the crocodile to symbolise Egypt that resulted in the crocodile subsequently being adopted as such in the Principate and Imperial period.

In this respect, at least, Octavian was not an innovator: he subverted iconography that Cleopatra VII and Antonius had selected specifically to represent their daughter, Cleopatra Selene, in her newly allocated territories of Crete and Cyrenaica. The choice of the crocodile for this coinage issued in the name of Cleopatra Selene in Crete and the Cyrenaica could have been an attempt to reference the role of crocodiles at the very inception of the Ptolemaic Empire. If Ptolemy I Soter was seen as owing his possession of Egypt at least in part to the crocodiles of the Nile, then the crocodile would have been an entirely suitable symbol for his descendant Cleopatra Selene to wield in her newly acquired territories, first as queen of Crete and the Cyrenaica, and then later as queen of Mauretania. Drawing upon the deeds of Ptolemy I Soter was one part of a much larger strategy that saw Cleopatra name one of her sons after Alexander the Great and the other after Ptolemy II Philadelphos, align herself and her daughter with a range of prominent female ancestors including Arsinoe II, Cleopatra Selene and Cleopatra Thea, and ultimately reconstitute and refound the Ptolemaic Empire. This selection was at once traditional in that it followed the precedent established by Arsinoe II of assigning a specific emblem to a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, and innovative in that the crocodile had not been utilised as a personal badge or emblem before. Once Cleopatra Selene married Juba II of Mauretania, she continued to use the crocodile, and seemingly reclaimed ownership of the symbol Octavian had chosen to represent his victory over her parents, herself and her brothers, and subjugation of her ancestral lands.

* I would like to thank the Fondation Hardt pour l'Etude de l'Antiquite Classique where, as the recipient of a Graduate Bursary, I undertook the initial research and writing of this paper, Professor Emeritus John Rich at the University of Nottingham for commenting on an early draft, and the editor and anonymous readers of Acta Classica for their suggestions. All abbreviations follow those in the Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd edition).

(1) RIC 275a = BMC 650. Although an Italian source for this issue is the theory currently favoured by scholars, this is far from certain. For a tabulation of Octavian's coin issues during this period, see J.W. Rich & J.H.C. Williams, 'Leges et Iura P. R. Restitvit: a new aureus of Octavian and the settlement of 28-27 BC', Num. Chron. 159 (1999) 169-213, at 171.

(2) J.B. Giard, Catalogue des Monnaies de l'Empire Romain, Vol. 1: Auguste (Paris 1988) 146-47.

(4) RIC 544 = BMC 655. There is a fourth coin (RIC 546), an aureus issued from an uncertain mint and dated to 27 BC, which depicts Octavian facing right with the legend IMP CAESAR DIVI F AVGVST COS VII on the obverse and a hippopotamus with the legend AEGYPTO CAPTA on the reverse. However, according to C.H.V.

Sutherland, Coinage in Roman Imperial Policy: 3I BC AD 68 (London 1951) 28-29 and Rich & Williams (note 1) 172 n. 9, its authenticity is dubious so it will not be considered here.

(5) Cf. Sutherland (note 4) 31 for a silver quinarius. (RIC 276 BM Coins, Rom. Emp. 647--H.A. Grueber, Coins of the Roman Republic in the British Museum (London 1910) 240 commemorating the recovery of Asia.

(6) A. Wallace-Hadrill, 'Image and authority in the coinage of Augustus', JRS 76 (1986) 66-87, at 68.

(7) M. Grant, Cleopatra (London 1972) 166.

(8) E. Macaulay-Lewis, 'The fruits of victory: generals, plants and power in the Roman world', in E. Bragg, L.I. Hau & E. Macaulay-Lewis (edd.), Beyond the Battlefields: New Perspectives on Warfare and Society in the Graeco-Roman World (Cambridge 2008) 205-24, at 215.

(9) L.C. West, 'Imperial publicity on coins of the Roman emperors', CJ 45.1 (1949) 19-26, at 20.

(10) Verg. Aen. 8.698-700. For Roman opinions of Egyptian animal worship during the Augustan Principate, see K.A.D. Smelik & E.A. Hemelrijk, '"Who knows what monsters demented Egypt worships?" Opinions of Egyptian animal worship in antiquity as part of the ancient conception of Egypt', in ANRW 2.17.4 (1984) 1853-2000, at 1920-30. On the cult of Sobek in Egypt, see L. Kakosy, 'Krokodilskulte', in W. Helck, E. Otto & W. Westendorf (edd.), Lexikon der Agyptologie. Vol. 3 (Wiesbaden 1980) cols. 802-11.

(11) For the crocodile on mosaics, see P.G.P. Meyboom, The Nile Mosaic at Palestrina: Early Evidence of Egyptian Religion in Italy (Leiden 1995) 88-89 and M.J. Versluys, Aegyptiaca Romana: Nilotic Scenes and the Roman Views of Egypt (Leiden 2002) 265-69. See also I. Vecchi & J. Vecchi-Gomez, 'Of crocodiles and coins: Roman Egypt personified', Minerva International Review of Ancient Art and Archaeology 13.3 (2002) 51-53 for a narrative account of the appearance of the crocodile on Roman coinage in the Principate and early Imperial period.

(12) RIC 154-61 = RPC 522-26 Musei Vaticani inv. 31680. See also S. Walker & P. Higgs (edd.), Cleopatra: From History to Myth (London 2001) 262 n. 311.

(13) 85 BC a denarius of Lucius Julius Bursio (RRC 352.1a = BM Coins, Rom. Rep. Rome 2485). 79 BC a denarius serratusof Lucius Papus (RRC 384) and in 64 BC a denarius serratus Lucius Roscius Fabatus (RRC 412.1 = BM Coins, Rom. Rep. Rome 3394).

(15) The tabulation of Meyboom (note 11) 157-58 indicates the relative rarity of Egyptian motifs on contemporary coin issues--Bursio issued three coins with Egyptian motifs out of 180 Papius used four pairs of Egyptian motifs out of 207 pairs and Fabatus used five pairs of Egyptian motifs out of 237 pairs.

(16) Plin. HN 8.40.96. See also C. Henderson, 'The career of the younger M. Aemilius Scaurus', CJ 53 (1958) 194-206 on Scaurus and J.G. Milne, 'Greek and Roman tourists in Egypt', JEA. 3.2-3 (1916) 76-80 on Roman tourism in Egypt.

(17) E.G. Huzar, Marcus Antonius (London 1978) 189. See also Grant (note 7) 13544 and, most recently, D.W. Roller, Cleopatra: a Biography (Oxford 2010) 92-94.

(18) See Sibylline Oracle 3.350-80. Discussed in W.W. Tarn, 'Alexander Helios and the Golden Age', JRS 22 (1932) 135-60 Grant (note 7) 172-75 Roller (note 17) 78-79 D.W. Roller, The World of Juba II and Kleopatra Selene: Royal Scholarship on Rome's African Frontier (London 2003) 170-71.

(20) Dio Cass. 49.32.5. See also S. Walker, 'From Queen of Egypt to Queen of Kings: the portraits of Cleopatra VII', in N. Bonacasa & A.-M. Donadoni Roveri (edd.), Faraoni come dei, Tolemei come Faraoni (Palermo 2003) 508-17.

(21) Grant (note 7) 135 Roller (note 17) 92-94.

(23) Porph. FGrH 260 F. 2-17. Discussed in Roller (note 17) 95.

(24) Dio Cass. 49.41.1-3 Plut. Vit. Ant. 54.3-6. For discussion of the role of the children in this ceremony, see D.E.E. Kleiner & B. Buxton, 'Pledges of Empire: the Ara Pacis and the donations of Rome', AJArch. 112 (2008) 57-89, at 80-81.

(25) J.M. Reynolds & J.A. Lloyd, 'The West: Cyrene', in A.K. Bowman, E. Champlin & A. Lintott (edd.), The Augustan Empire 43 BC AD 69 (Cambridge 1996) 619-36, at 619.

(26) G. Harrison, 'The joining of Cyrenaica to Crete', in G. Barker, J. Lloyd & J. Reynolds (edd.), Cyrenaica in Antiquity (Oxford 1985) 365-74, at 367-68. 28 Roller (note 18) 79. Reynolds & Lloyd (note 25) 630-31.

(28) For discussion of the coin issues of Cyrenaica and Crete in the period 37-31 BC, see M. Grant, From Imperium to Auctoritas: A Historical Study of Aes Coinage in the Roman Empire 49 BCAD 14 (Cambridge 1946) 55-57 T.V. Buttrey, 'The Roman coinage of the Cyrenaica, first century BC--first century AD', in C.N.L. Brooke, B.H.I.H. Stewart, J.G. Pollard & T.R. Volk (edd.), Studies in Numismatic Method (Cambridge 1983) 23-46 A. Burnett, M. Amandry & P.P. Ripolles (edd.), Roman Provincial Coinage. Volume 1: From the Death of Caesar to the Death of Vitellius (44 BC-AD 69) (2nd ed. London 1998) 219-22.

(29) J.N. Svoronos, Ta [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Athens 1904) (The Coinage of the Ptolemaic Empire, translated by C.C. Lorbier), n. 1899-1900. Buttrey (note 28) 26-27. Burnett et al. (note 28) 221. According to Dio Cass. 51.5.6, in 31 BC Lucius Pinarius Scarpus was in command of a substantial army in Cyrenaica, initially supporting Antonius before defecting to Octavian after the Battle of Actium for Scarpus' coinage, see RRC 546 Broughton, MRR 2.422.

(30) Burnett et al. (note 28) 219. E.S.G. Robinson, A Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum, Vol. 29: Cyrenaica (London 1927) 221. For the association of Crete and Cyrenaica, see Harrison (note 26) 365-74. For the association of Antonius' father, Marcus Antonius Creticus, with Crete, see P. de Souza, Piracy in the Graeco-Roman World (Cambridge 1999) 141-47 and J. Linderski, 'The surname of M. Antonius Creticus and the cognomina ex victis gentibus', ZPE 80 (1990) 157-64. Buttrey (note 28) 31 alone has suggested that these coins were issued much earlier and, despite the crocodile, had nothing to do with Egypt at all.

(31) E.S.G. Robinson, A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum: The Greek Coins of Cyrenaica 24: the use of a galley here is interesting in view of Grant's suggestion (note 22) regarding the underlying reason for the territorial grants.

(32) Svoronos (note 29) n. 1901. Plate 63: 27, 28.

(33) Svoronos (note 29) n. 1902. Plate 63: 29.

(34) Svoronos (note 29) n. 1903. Plate 63: 30. The appearance of the crocodile on these apparently Roman coins is observed by Vecchi & Vecchi-Gomez (note 11) 52, but not analysed or otherwise discussed.

(35) Dio Cass. 51.4.3. On his subsequent career see E. Badian, 'Crisis theories and the beginning of the Principate,' in G. Wirth (ed.), Romanitas-Christianitas: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte und Literatur der romischen Kaiserzeit (Berlin 1982) 18-41.

(36) App. BCiv. 5.50 Broughton, MRR 2.373.

(37) Plut. Vit. Ant. 34.6 Dio Cass. 49.24.1.

(39) Svoronos (note 29) 273 and see also Robinson (note 30) 222. Grant (note 28) 56. Grant (note 7) 165.

(40) Roller (note 18) 80 n. 27.

(42) P. Bingen 45. See also P. van Minnen, 'An official Act of Cleopatra (with a subscription in her own words)', Anc. Soc. 30 (2000) 29-34, at 29 and A.E. Hanson, 'Papyrology: minding other people's business', TAPA 131 (2001) 297-313, at 304-05.

(44) P. van Minnen, 'A royal ordinance of Cleopatra and related documents', in S. Walker & S.-A. Ashton (edd.), Cleopatra Reassessed (London 2003) 35-42, at 40-41.

(45) Vell. Pat. 2.87.3 Oros. 6.19.20.

(46) RG 27.3 Dio Cass. 51.21.8. For discussion of Cleopatra Selene's role in Octavian's triple triumph in Rome, see Kleiner & Buxton (note 24) 77-78.

(47) Buttrey (note 28) 31 observed that if these coins were issued at the instigation of Cleopatra VII, then the crocodile was a strange choice of motif, considering that it did not derive from any previous Egyptian coin issue. Even if Cleopatra's mother was an Egyptian woman from the priestly family of Ptah (Roller [note 17] 165-66), the association with the crocodile is not obvious.

(48) Diod. Sic. 18.3. This account of the settlement is supported by Dexippus (FGrH 100.8), Arrian (FGrH 156.1.5-8) and Curtius 10.10.1-6.

(52) J.L. Draycott, 'The sacred crocodile of Juba II of Mauretania', AClass 53 (2010) 211-17, at 214-15.

(53) See for example SEG 8.498 OGI 176 SEG 8.536, 537 and 577. See also Draycott (note 52) 213-15 on the popularity of the sacred crocodiles of Sobek as a tourist attraction during the Roman period.

(54) J. Williams, 'Imperial style and the coins of Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius', in S. Walker and S.-A. Ashton (edd.), Cleopatra Reassessed (London 2003) 87-94, at 5952-93.

(55) E.g. during the ceremony of the Donations of Alexandria (Plut. Vit. Ant. 54.3-6 Dio Cass. 50.5.3). Virgil also depicts Cleopatra as summoning her troops to the Battle of Actium with a sistrum, Aen. 8.696.

(56) Dio Cass. 51.15.5. See J. Mazard, Corpus Nummorum Numidiae Mauretaniaque (Paris 1955-58) 394-95.


Cleopatra coin

And Marc Antony was most definitely powerful in the year stamped on the coin. Prof. Rami Arav, director of the Bethsaida Excavations Project, suggests that the minting of the coin may have had to do with Marc Antony's victory over the Parthians, rulers of a land in what is now northeastern Iran and Armenia, in 35 BCE. He then granted Armenia to Cleopatra’s sons and gave Cyprus to her daughter Selene.

Cleopatra also appears on coins from the same period, found in cities further north up the Lebanese coast, that were among gifts Marc Antony gave his consort.

That same year Marc Antony, still deeply involved with Cleopatra, moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Alexandria, Egypt.

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The west could have been worshipping cats

Had Antony not lost the battle of Actium in 31 BCE, there might have been a dramatic change in the history of the Western civilization, Arav says.

“We can only imagine what could have happened to Western civilization if the capital of the empire was not Rome, but Alexandria," Arav says. "Until Augustus turned it ‘from a mudbrick city to marble’ Rome was a very unimpressive town. It could have remained an unimportant city on an insignificant peninsula of Italy, way in the west, where according to the Greeks, demons and giants lived.”

When pressed to imagine what could indeed have happened, Arav, says: “I am not sure that we would be worshipping cats today or building pyramids, but Greek could have been much more important than it was and perhaps the rise of Europe in the 15th century would not have happened. Who knows?”

But Antony did lose that battle, and 11 months later, he took his own life, dying in Cleopatra's arms in an immortal star-crossed lovers’ moment.

'I told you to kill her'

Other coins from Akko have been found in Bethsaida, showing the trade connections between the port city, an international commercial hub at the time, and Bethsaida, a regional one, Arav points out.

The "lovers' coin" recalls Bethsaida around the turn of the first millennium, when its main claim to fame was being the New Testament home of the apostles Peter, James and John.

Bethsaida was where Jesus is believed to have healed a blind man (Mark 8:22-25) and fed the 5,000 (Luke 9:5-17). But much of the efforts of Arav’s team involve uncovering remains that go back a thousand years before that – to a time the city was the capital of the ancient, strategic kingdom of Geshur, the homeland of one of the wives of David’s youth, Maacah.

Coins with the portraits of Antony and Cleopatra are extremely rare. Only six have been found anywhere in the world, says Ariel. But to him the coin recalls Cleopatra’s connection with a man who doesn't even appear on it - the man who, after Jesus, is perhaps the best-known figure of this land: Herod the Great.

Cleopatra managed to persuade Marc Antony to wrest Herod’s priceless balsam plantations from him and hand them over to her. As a client king of Rome, there wasn’t much Herod could do about that (in fact, it is said Herod rented the plantations back from her and still turned a profit).

However, Ariel notes, Herod, who was no stranger to romantic imbroglios, was able to resist the queen’s wiles - unlike Julius Caesar and Marc Antony - and hold on to the rest of his kingdom.

In fact, Herod confessed to Augustus, the victor of the battle of Actium, that he had always counseled Marc Antony to kill Cleopatra, to put an end to the long civil war that tortured Rome after the assassination of Julius Caesar.

Marc Antony and Cleopatra, as viewed by ancient Greek sculptors. Wikimedia Commons


The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress – The Rise and Fall of Cleopatra II Selene, Seleukid Queen of Syria

The recent discovery of a third coin featuring the portraits of Queen Cleopatra II Selene and one of her sons will prove of great interest to the student of ancient Syrian history and Seleukid numismatics. For the first time, we have before us an example of a bronze coin with a full inscription of these rulers, and with complete and clear obverse and reverse images.

Brian Kritt&rsquos distinguished essay in the April 2002 issue of The Celator, &ldquoNumismatic Evidence for a New Seleucid King: Seleucus (VII) Philometor,&rdquo carefully explored the extant references for the late history of classical Syria, and I shall try to avoid over-repetition of his citations here. Suffice it to say, all of the ancient sources for the history of early Syria are somewhat deficient, particularly in their accounts of the dynasty&rsquos declining years. No specific history of the House of Seleukos has survived to modern times, if indeed one ever existed and the remaining references, such as they are, contain numerous contradictions, both internally and with each other, as well as chronological problems in the delineation of the final decades of the ancient Syrian state.

What do we really know of these years?

The ancient historians regarded with evident disgust the series of civil wars that turned one Seleukid pretender against another, tearing apart the fabric of the state and making the continuation of the family&rsquos rule ultimately impossible. The constant internecine warfare drained the region of its resources, and muted the attempts of each succeeding or competing monarch to control the surrounding areas, or to ward off attacks from the major regional powers.

King Antiochos IV&rsquos invasion of Ptolemaic Egypt and his attempt to overthrow the ruling House of Lagos during the early 160s BC would have altered permanently the political climate of the Eastern Mediterranean region had it not been thwarted by a Roman ultimatum in the year 168. The Republic demanded that the king withdraw his forces from Egypt forthwith, a command which he had no choice but to obey. When his nephew, King Demetrios I, succeeded to the throne in 162, the stage was set for the dynasty&rsquos ultimate ruination.

Egyptian King Ptolemy VI, the very monarch who had been forced to beg the Romans for help against Antiochos IV, arranged with Attalos II King of Pergamon to bring forward a pretender who claimed, with an irony that Ptolemy would certainly have appreciated, to be a long-lost son of Antiochos IV. The newly annointed King Alexander I, called Balas, was given King Ptolemy&rsquos daughter, Princess Cleopatra Thea, as a token of the Egyptian monarch&rsquos support, together with sufficient bullion to buy himself a mercenary army.

Demetrios I had spent much of his youth as a hostage in Rome, and was perceived by his Syrian subjects as stern and austere. However, despite his unpopularity at home, the king rallied his forces against Alexander, but was defeated and killed in battle against the upstart in 150. Demetrios&rsquos two young sons fled the country.

Thus began the cycle that continued down to the final years of the dynasty, almost a century later, with pretender succeeding pretender, brother fighting brother, cousin combating cousin. During the time of Demetrios I, Syria was still a major power in the Middle East at the deposition of the last Seleukid monarch, Antiochos XIII, in 64 BC, it had shrunk to the city of Antioch and an unknown (but small) number of outlying districts and cities lying at the heart of the old Syrian empire.

Ptolemaic interference with the governance of Syria continued throughout the seventy-year period from 150-70 BC, both overtly and covertly, and can be seen specifically with the intermarriage of the various Seleukid monarchs to four royal princesses of the House of Lagos.

Queen Cleopatra I Thea, the first of these imperious ladies, was successively wed to Syrian Kings Alexander I Balas, Demetrios II, Antiochos VII, and again to Demetrios II, before finally arranging to have her final husband and their oldest son, King Seleukos V, murdered within months of each other in 125 BC, whereupon she assumed control of the Syrian state herself. After four years of co-rule with another son, King Antiochos VIII Epiphanes (popularly called Grypos, or &ldquoHook-Nosed&rdquo), she attempted to murder him with a poisoned drink, which he refused, forcing her to sip it herself (121/120 BC). She is the ancestress of all of the later Seleukid monarchs.

Queen Cleopatra I Thea had three nieces and first cousins, daughters of Egyptian King Ptolemy VIII (her father&rsquos younger brother) and of her elder sister, Queen Cleopatra III: Tryphaena married Antiochos VIII Epiphanes Cleopatra (IV) married Antiochos IX Philopator (Epiphanes&rsquos half-brother), popularly called Kyzikenos, the man of Cyzikus and Cleopatra Selene, the youngest of the three girls, married both Antiochos VIII and IX successively after her sisters&rsquo executions during the ongoing civil war between the two royal siblings. Following her husbands&rsquo deaths, she then wed Philopator&rsquos only surviving son (her nephew), Antiochos X Eusebes, who was almost a generation younger than herself.

Queen Cleopatra II Selene, the focus of the present essay, was known by the ancient authors primarily under the latter name, to distinguish her from her many relatives named Cleopatra, but she did employ her full name officially. As Flavius Josephus states: &ldquoBasilissa gar Selênê hê kai Kleopatra kaloumenê. &rdquo which is to say, &ldquoFor Queen Selene, who [was] also called Kleopatra. &rdquo1 Strabo similarly mentions &ldquo. Selênên epiklêtheisan Kleopatran. &rdquo (&ldquo. Selene surnamed Cleopatra. &rdquo). Her three surviving coins also record her reign name (in the genitive case) as &ldquoBasilissês Kleopatras Selênês&rdquo (&ldquoof Queen Cleopatra Selene&rdquo). The name &ldquoSelênê&rdquo in Greek refers both to the moon and to the Moon Goddess, who was said in Greek mythology variously to have been the daughter of Helios (the sun), or of Hyperion or of Pallas.

Selene was likely born in the mid- to late 130s BC2 to Egyptian King Ptolemy VIII and his wife and niece, Cleopatra III (daughter of his brother, Ptolemy VI, and sister of Cleopatra Thea). She was married about the year 115 to her own brother, Ptolemy IX, after her elder sister, Cleopatra IV, had been forcibly divorced from him by their mother. She may also have wed another brother, Ptolemy X Alexander, but this supposition is unproved (see Christopher Bennett&rsquos website on the Ptolemies, cited earlier in this paragraph, for the evidence supporting this notion).

What is certain is that she was then sent by her mother to marry Syrian King Antiochos VIII &ldquoGrypos&rdquo circa the year 103 BC,3 as part of a political arrangement whereby Queen Cleopatra III attempted to enlist the Grypos faction to help her dominate or even murder her own two sons, and thereby rule Egypt in her own right Grypos agreed to the arrangement in order to gain Egypt&rsquos assistance in defeating his half-brother, Antiochos IX. After Grypos&rsquos murder circa 98/97 BC by Minister Heracleon, his half-brother Antiochos IX assumed control of Antioch, but was himself dispossessed and killed by King Seleukos VI, Grypos&rsquos eldest son, about the year 95.

Shortly thereafter, Selene married her stepson, Antiochos X Eusebes (&ldquoPious&rdquo). As Appian4 tells us, &ldquo. emoi de dokousin epi gelôti autô poiêsasthai to onoma hoi Syroi egême gar outos ho Eusebês Selênên, hê kai tô patri autou egegamêto tô Kyzikênô kai tô Grypô theiô genomenô,&rdquo which is to say, &ldquoMy friends, I think the Syrians gave him the name as a joke for this &lsquoEusebês&rsquo himself wed Selênê, who had been married [previously] to his own father, Kyzikênos, and [before that] to his uncle, Grypos.&rdquo In other words, Appian is stating, Antiochos X acted impiously in marrying his own stepmother, who had the legal status of a parent.

Impious or not, Antiochos X&rsquos new wife promptly bore him a son and heir, Antiochos XIII Philadelphos (called &ldquoAsiatikos,&rdquo or the man of Asia), who became the last generally-acknowledged king of the Seleukid dynasty. He was deposed by Pompey in 64 BC when Rome annexed the kingdom as the newly-constituted province of Syria. A second, unnamed son is mentioned by Cicero in his polemic against Verres, when he notes that both boys had recently been visiting Rome (sometime during the late 70s BC).5 Kritt&rsquos recent discovery of a coin depicting the boy King Seleukos VII Philometor establishes with certainty the name of that sibling.

Although Appian tells us that it was Antiochos X Eusebes whom Armenian King Tigranes II defeated circa 83 BC while assuming control over Syria, Josephus states that the young Seleukid monarch was actually killed, probably much earlier, fighting the Parthians, a more likely tale given the evidence of Antiochos X&rsquos coinage and most numismatists now accept Eusebes&rsquos years of rule as occurring between 94-92 BC, with a brief break in the year 93, when his cousin Antiochos XI invaded Syria and seized Antioch, before himself meeting his death in a second battle outside the city.

If Josephus is right, then the two sons of Selene had to have been conceived and born no later than 92 BC, when the queen was in her early forties. This is certainly within the realm of physical possibility.

Eusebes had successively defeated three of his first cousins, Seleukos VI in 94 BC, and this king&rsquos siblings, Antiochos XI and his twin brother, Philip I, in 93. After Eusebes&rsquos death, a fourth son of Antiochos VIII, Demetrios III, stepped forward with Philip to claim the Syrian throne. Demetrios had already established himself in Damascus about the year 96 BC with Ptolemaic financial support (his first coins there are dated 97/96 BC).

Philip and his brother Demetrios soon split, however, following the pattern of their family, and continued to trade blows until Demetrios was captured about 87 BC by the Parthians. He was succeeded in Damascus by the youngest of the five brothers, Antiochos XII Dionysos. The latter monarch was killed in battle against a joint army of the Jews and Nabateans circa 83 BC (his last coins are dated 84/83 BC), about the same time that Philip apparently died of natural causes in Antioch (since none of the ancient authors specifically mention Philip&rsquos end, we can only speculate that it was wholly unremarkable indeed, his coins depict a man who ages very rapidly in little more than a decade). Philip left an underaged heir, Philip II Barypous, who is known to have lived in Cilicia during part of his youth.

We can reasonably assume that Philip Senior and his brother Antiochos XII died within a relatively short time of each other, because both cities, having no surviving adult Seleukids left to claim either throne, promptly turned to foreign monarchs as their saviors against the real threat of attack by the local desert tribes: Damascus to King Aretas III, the Nabatean monarch who had been the city&rsquos sworn enemy just months before, and Antioch to King Tigranes II of Armenia.

But what became of Cleopatra Selene and her sons?

The ancient historians say very little about the fourteen-year reign of Tigranes over Syria from 83-69 BC, but we should not thus presume that the various Seleukid pretenders merely faded away into the dusky landscape. Undoubtedly, following the usual tradition of the House of Seleukos, the young princes were sent away to be educated at a distance, far from danger and the threat of assassination. The usual place for such training was Cilicia, although other, more distant climes were certainly possible (Grypos had earlier been dispatched to Athens).

We do know that Tigranes seized Damascus from Aretas III about the year 72/71, when the former&rsquos dated silver coinage first appears there (Aretas apparently issued no tetradrachms, only scarce, undated bronzes). The ongoing war over the control of Asia Minor between Rome and King Mithridates VI of Pontus, Tigranes&rsquos father-in-law, continued to flare throughout this period.

We also have the evidence of the three known coins of Cleopatra Selene as direct testimony that she made a bid for the Syrian throne on behalf of both herself and her two sons. Since these bronzes appear to depict boys of about the ages of 10-14, we can assume that they were issued shortly after the deaths of both Philip I and Antiochos XII, specifically in order to establish her and her sons&rsquo claim to the unoccupied thrones.

The only corroboration from the ancient authors of her status as a ruling monarch occurs in Josephus, who states, following the passage quoted above, &ldquo. Selênê hê. tôn en tê Syria katêrchen. &rdquo6 (&ldquo. Selênê. who [then] ruled in Syria&rdquo). The verb used here, &ldquokatarchô,&rdquo had in the late classical era the meaning of &ldquoto rule&rdquo or &ldquoto govern,&rdquo but was earlier employed in the sense of &ldquoto strike someone&rdquo or even &ldquoto sacrifice&rdquo perhaps Josephus would have been cognizant of this potential double meaning. Since the queen was the second ruling Seleukid monarch with the name Cleopatra, she should now properly be termed Queen Cleopatra II Selene, with her aunt becoming Cleopatra I Thea.

Her rebellion was not universally successful it seems unlikely, for example, that she ever controlled Antioch for more than brief intervals, if ever, or we would probably have examples of tetradrachms providing some evidence of that fact. Instead, the only known silver coins issued by that city during this decade and a half were minted under the authority of King Tigranes. However, Selene may well have controlled one or more walled citadels along the coasts of Phoenicia or Cilicia throughout all or part of the period from 83-69 BC.

During the mid-70s Selene sent her two sons west to present their claims before the Roman Senate to rule both Syria and Egypt. According to Cicero, the Senate acknowledged the boys&rsquo rights to the Syrian diadem by inheritance from their father, Antiochos X, but declined even to hear their petition to rule in Alexandria (the status of the reigning King of Egypt, Ptolemy XII, the princes&rsquo first cousin, who had recently succeeded to the throne in 80 BC, was questionable due to his illegitimate birth, but he was a known Roman ally at a time when the Senate needed such support in the long fight against Mithridates VI of Pontus). Cicero claimed that the boys returned to the East by separate ships, but Antiochos unfortunately stopped in Sicily, where he was robbed by Roman Governor Verres.

Josephus also tells us of Selene&rsquos ultimate fate. In the same passage mentioned above, the historian notes that early in 69 BC Tigranes was besieging Ptolemais, where he received a delegation from the ruling Queen Alexandra of Judea, who petitioned him not to proceed southward into the Jewish lands. The city fell soon afterwards, and Selene was taken prisoner and later executed, but Tigranes was abruptly called north by reports of the invasion of Armenia proper by Roman General Lucullus, who had been chasing Mithridates VI through eastern Asia Minor. In the ensuing battle the Roman forces prevailed, and the Armenian monarch was ultimately forced to capitulate to Pompey a few years later, his kingdom then being reduced to its traditional homeland.

Selene&rsquos end is also mentioned by Strabo, who says that she was held prisoner for a time by Tigranes at Seleukeia in Commagene, and later executed there.

Within months of Selene&rsquos capture, however, her eldest son, Antiochos XIII Philadelphos, called Asiatikos, had been allowed by Lucullus to take the Syrian throne. He was initially greeted with enthusiasm by the citizens of Antioch, and minted two small series of tetradrachms over the next several years, but soon his expedition against the Arabs went sour, and he found himself fighting a rebellion at home and enemies abroad. He was then kidnapped by King Sampsiceramus of Emesa in Antioch his detractors brought forth the king&rsquos young second cousin, Philip II, out of his hiding place in Cilicia to claim the vacant throne. Although Antiochos returned for another brief period of rule circa 64 BC, Roman General Pompey had had enough of the Seleukid circus, and annexed Syria outright during his settlement of the political affairs of the Middle East. King Antiochos XIII was deposed, and soon thereafter murdered, perhaps by Sampsiceramus.

The New Coin

The newly discovered bronze of Antiochos XIII and his mother was recently purchased by the author from a well-known Middle Eastern dealer, who in turn obtained it from a vendor located just south of the Jordanian-Syrian border. If the piece was discovered locally, this would imply a possible point of origin somewhere in Coele-Syria or Phoenicia, perhaps even near Ake-Ptolemais, the last known residence of Selene.

(Enlarged photo by the author.)

The coin measures 19.5-20.0 mm, with a depth of 3 mm, weight of 9.15 g, and die axis of 12 o&rsquoclock.

Obverse. Female and male heads jugate, the female in front, veiled and wearing a stephane, the male behind, probably wearing a diadem, the front edge of which is barely visible above his forehead. Circle of dots.

Reverse. Nike striding l., holding wreath in extended right arm, her left arm hanging loosely behind her body. Circle of dots.

Inscription to the right of Nike, in three vertical lines:

Inscription between Nike&rsquos draped wings and her body, just beneath her left hand, curved along the flank of her rear left leg:

Inscription to the left of Nike, in two vertical lines and one curved line along the left rim of the coin:

The inscription exactly parallels that of Kritt&rsquos coin featuring Selene and Seleukos VII, right down to the epithet. The portraits also display the hooked noses and protruding chins common to the House of Lagos and the late Seleukids. The piece is beautifully designed and proportioned, a true masterwork of the celator&rsquos art.

This bronze and the other two known examples of Selene&rsquos coinage were likely issued as propaganda pieces, both to emphasize the princelings&rsquo claims, and also to solidify the queen&rsquos own rule over whatever portion of the ancient Syrian state she actually controlled. It is significant that all three pieces feature very traditional Seleukid themes: the tripod, the god Apollo, and (in this instance) the goddess Nike. Tigranes II had altered the usual appearance of the Syrian tetradrachms and large bronzes to feature Tyche on their reverses instead of Zeus or Apollo, with only a few pieces displaying more accustomed devices even his own image would have appeared foreign to the citizens of Syria. Here, these new coins proclaim, here are portraits of the true rulers of Antioch, who look and act (and, by inference, will govern) in ways that the people can understand, as demonstrated by the bronzes themselves, with their comfortable, familiar themes.

We might expect eventually to discover a parallel Æ 20 issued by Selene for Seleukos VII, featuring one of the other common elements historically employed on the reverses of Seleukid coins. But until we do, we can only admire the quiet style and haunting grace of this surviving hallmark of the reign of another strong Ptolemaic and Seleukid monarch, Queen Cleopatra II Selene.

A Tentative Chronology of the Late Syrian Empire

103? Cleopatra Selene is sent by her mother, Queen Cleopatra III of Egypt, as a peace offering and wife to King Antiochos VIII Epiphanes (&ldquoGrypos&rdquo) of Syria, in return for presumed military, political, and financial considerations in her ongoing struggle for control of Egypt directed against her own sons, Ptolemy IX and Ptolemy X. Selene had been divorced from her previous husband, Ptolemy IX (and possibly also from Ptolemy X), by the order of Cleopatra III.
97? Antiochos VIII is murdered by Heracleon, his war minister his half-brother, Antiochos IX Philopator (&ldquoKyzikenos&rdquo), assumes control of Antioch, simultaneously marrying Grypos&rsquos widow, Selene. Seleukos VI Nikator, eldest son of Antiochos VIII, proclaims himself king and begins an insurgency centered at Seleucia ad Calycadnum in Cilicia, where he issues large quantities of silver tetradrachms.
96? King Demetrios III Philopator, called Eukairos (&ldquoWell-Timed&rdquo), another son of Antiochos VIII, is prompted and supported by the Ptolemies to establish himself as King of Coele-Syria in Damascus his first silver coins there are dated 97/96 BC.
95 Antiochos IX is killed in battle by Seleukos VI the former king&rsquos cause is taken up by his only son, Antiochos X Eusebes, who marries his father&rsquos widow, Queen Cleopatra Selene.
94 Seleukos VI is driven out of Antioch by Antiochos X, and seeks refuge in the Cilician community of Mopsus, where after an indiscrete bout of overtaxation he is literally roasted to death in a lively civic celebration of an abrupt rollback in urban assessments. Antiochos XI Epiphanes Philadelphos, and Philip I Philadelphos, twin younger brothers of Seleukos VI, assume the mantle of Seleukid heirs to Antiochos VIII, and gather a mercenary army in Cilicia, where they issue silver tetradrachms bearing their jugate profiles. Antiochos XIII is probably born about this time.
93? Antiochos XI&rsquos initial attack on Antioch is successful, and he begins issuing coins in his own name, leaving poor Philip out of the picture (possibly sleepless in Cilicia). Within a year or less, however, Antiochos X regroups his forces and retakes the capital. Antiochos XI perishes in the climactic battle, with Philip retreating to the north (or he may have remained there throughout this entire period).
92 Antiochos X responds to the petition of one Queen Iotape, and is killed fighting the Parthians in the east. Demetrios and Philip contest for the throne of Syria, the former from his base in Damascus (where he issues silver and bronze coins dated from 97/96-88/87 BC). Sometime during this period, or possibly earlier, Demetrios prevails for a long enough period to release a short series of tetradrachms from Antioch and bronze pieces from Seleucia Pieria, some featuring a beardless portrait and a variant set of epithets, Philometor Euergetes Kallinikos (compared to his much more common names, Theos Philopator Soter). Seleukos VII is probably born about this time.
87? Demetrios is besieging his brother Philip, when he is himself surrounded and captured by Philip&rsquos Parthian allies, whom Philip has summoned from afar. His last tetradrachms are dated 225 SE or 88/87 BC. Demetrios later dies of illness in captivity. Antiochos XII Dionysos, the youngest of the five sons of Antiochos VIII, assumes the throne of Damascus his first silver tetradrachms there are dated 226 SE or 87/86 BC. The absence of a coin bridging the two Seleukid dates suggests either a brief interregnum between the two reigns, or that Demetrios&rsquos capture occurred right at the end of the year (late Summer).
86? Philip I briefly takes control of Damascus through a ruse, while Antiochos XII is campaigning in the field, but loses the city shortly thereafter, when his basic ungraciousness causes the city governor abruptly to change sides (again), literally locking him outside the walls.
83? Antiochos XII is defeating the Jewish and Nabatean kings in battle when a stray arrow strikes and kills him. His last dated coin appears in 229 SE or 84/83 BC.7 The citizens of Damascus offer the empty throne to their former enemy, Nabatean King Aretas III. Philip I of Antioch dies, probably of natural causes (no ancient author mentions his passing) the citizens of that city offer the Syrian throne to Armenian King Tigranes II (or, alternatively, the Armenia monarch conquers Antioch by force, driving out or killing Philip). The deaths of the two Seleukid kings appear to occur almost simultaneously, since neither throne is offered to the other as the sole surviving adult male of his family.
82? Queen Cleopatra II Selene raises the banner of rebellion in either Cilicia or in Phoenicia (or both), and issues a series of bronze coins promoting her sons&rsquo claims, with herself in the forefront as Queen Regnant. These pieces achieve very limited circulation, suggesting a small mintage. Nonetheless, Selene maintains some control over a fortress or fortresses in Syria during the ensuing decade, possibly centered at Ake-Ptolemais in Phoenicia. Her sons are probably educated in Cilicia or elsewhere in Asia Minor, following the family tradition (and giving Antiochos XIII the nickname of &ldquoAsiatikos&rdquo).
75? The two sons of Antiochos X and Selene are sent West to gain the Roman Senate&rsquos recognition of their claims, both to the Syrian throne (which the Roman Republic acknowledges, in the right of their father) and to Egypt (in the right of their mother this plea is denied). The fact that the boys are allowed to press their case themselves implies that Antiochos, at the least, has either attained his majority, or is very close to it. They spend two years traveling in the west, according to Cicero.
73? Antiochos XIII and his brother Seleukos return to the Middle East.
71? Tigranes II forces Aretas III out of Damascus, and begins issuing his own silver tetradrachms there, still using years from the old Seleukid era (his first issue is dated 241 SE or 72/71 BC).
70? Selene is besieged by Tigranes in her fortress of Ake-Ptolemais.
69 Ake-Ptolemais falls to Tigranes and Queen Cleopatra II Selene is taken captive, being eventually imprisoned at Seleukeia-on-the-Euphrates, where she is later executed. Tigranes must suddenly race north to meet the army of the Roman general Lucullus, who has invaded Armenia proper while chasing King Mithridates VI. There Tigranes is defeated in battle, and he is ultimately forced to give up much of the land which he has added to the traditional Armenian state during the previous fourteen years. Antiochos XIII Philadelphos, called Asiatikos (&ldquothe man from Asia&rdquo), is recognized as King of Syria by Lucullus, and issues several small series of silver tetradrachms, perhaps over the next two years.
67? While campaigning against Arab tribesmen, Antiochos XIII is captured and held by King Sampsiceramus of Emesa. The citizens of Antioch bring young King Philip II Philoromaios, called Barypous (&ldquoheavy-footed&rdquo i.e., &ldquoheavy-handed&rdquo), son of the late Philip I, out of hiding in Cilicia and proclaim him King of Syria. No coins are known to exist of this monarch. Sampsiceramus and a tribal supporter of Philip, Azizos, plot to kill the two monarchs and divide Syria between them.
65? Antiochos escapes captivity (or is deliberately released by Sampsiceramus) and returns to Antioch, where he once again assumes the diadem, expelling (but not killing) his cousin, Philip II.
64 Pompey deposes Antiochos XIII and annexes Syria as a Roman province, as part of his political reorganization of the Middle East.
63? Antiochos XIII is murdered, possibly by Sampsiceramus.
58? Antiochos&rsquos brother and presumed heir, Seleukos VII Philometor, called Kybiosaktes8 (&ldquoFishmonger&rdquo or &ldquoStingy&rdquo), marries the new Egyptian Queen, Berenike IV (elder sister of Cleopatra VII), who has recently deposed her father, Ptolemy XII Auletes. Seleukos is strangled at the order of his bride (or dies of illness) shortly thereafter.
57? Philip II Barypous negotiates with Queen Berenike for a new treaty of marriage, but his participation is vetoed by the new Roman Governor of Syria, Aulus Gabinius. This is the last mention by the ancient historians of a living Seleukid heir.
55? Gabinius defeats the forces of Berenike IV and restores her father Ptolemy XII to the throne of Egypt. The Roman Province of Syria begins issuing silver tetradrachms bearing the same image and titles of the late King Philip I that had been featured on his own coinage, some twenty-eight years after the monarch&rsquos presumed death. By inference, all of the direct male Seleukid heirs to the Syrian throne are probably dead or imprisoned at this time, since it seems unlikely that the very pragmatic Romans would promote a connection to the royal house if anyone was left to exploit it. Also by implication, the late King Philip I must have either received financial support from the Romans during his lifetime, or otherwise collaborated with them the silver issue would thus generate a subtle propaganda message to the citizenry (one that every Antiochian would understand): &ldquoact as your late king acted.&rdquo
16 After forty years of almost continuous issue, the last known tetradrachms displaying the image of Seleukid King Philip I are released, marked with the Caesarian Era date, year 33 (17/16 BC).


1 Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Book XIII, Paragraph 420.


2 Christopher J. Bennett, Ptolemies (website), http://www.tyndalehouse.com/Egypt/, first paragraph of main text and Note #4. The necessity of reducing the age of Selene to the point where she could realistically have borne children to the much younger Antiochos X in the mid-90s BC, as well as to her own brother, Ptolemy IX, in the mid-110s BC provides us with a relatively narrow window of possibility for her own birth, from about 130-137 BC, the likeliest date being about 133 BC.


3 The plot is described in detail in Justin&rsquos History, Book XXXIX, Paragraph 4, translated by John Selby Watson (London: George Bell & Sons, 1902), in which he notes that &ldquoCleopatra [III], fearing lest her elder son Ptolemy [IX] should be assisted by [Antiochos IX] Cyzicenus to re-establish himself in Egypt, sent powerful succours to [Antiochos VIII] Grypus, and with them Selene, Ptolemy [IX]&rsquos wife, to marry the enemy of her former husband.&rdquo


4 Appian, Syrian Wars, Book XI, Paragraph 69.


5 Cicero, The Second Speech Against Gaius Verres, Book IV, Paragraph 27: &ldquoNam reges Syriae, Regis Antiochi filios pueros, scitis Romae nuper fuisse qui venerant non propter Syriae regnum, nam id sine controversia obtinebant, ut a patre et a maioribus acceperant, sed regnum Aegypti ad se et ad Selenen matrem suam pertinere arbitrabantur.&rdquo = &ldquoYou know that the princes of Syria, the young sons of King Antiochos, were recently in Rome. They were not petitioning [the Senate] on account of the kingdom of Syria, since they already possessed it without controversy, acknowledged because of their father and their ancestors but they petitioned to be recognized [as rulers] over the kingdom of Egypt, both for themselves and for their mother Selene.&rdquo This statement reinforces the pattern we have already seen displayed on the three known bronzes issued by Selene, in which she clearly claims joint rule over Syria with her two sons.


7 Although as yet apparently unpublished, at least three examples of tetradrachms of Antiochos XII dated 229 SE (84/83 BC) are now known, the latest being offered for sale by the Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., in its Triton VI sale, lot #467, closing date January 13, 2003. These pieces suggest that the king&rsquos reign likely extended into the fighting season (Spring or Summer) of 83 BC, thus putting an end point to his rule about a year later than previously considered, or at about the same time as that of his elder brother, King Philip I.


8 The later application of this Alexandrian epithet for the Roman Emperor Vespasian, a notorious skinflint of his day, suggests an implication of &ldquostingy&rdquo or &ldquomean.&rdquo The word was originally used to refer to peddlers of small cubes (&ldquokyboi&rdquo) of salt fish, perhaps the &ldquopelamys&rdquo or young tuna fish--clearly a profession not highly regarded in ancient Alexandria.

About the Author

Michael Burgess, a retired professor in the California State University, is the author of over 100 published books and some thirteen thousand short pieces. His novella, &ldquoOccam&rsquos Treasure,&rdquo published in December 2002 in the anthology, Crusade of Fire, edited by Katherine Kurtz (Warner Books), features a tetradrachm of Philip Philadelphos as a central plot element.


Watch the video: kleopatras song