The Roman Republic
Estimate: 40'000 CHF
Starting price: 32'000 CHF
Price realized: 50'000 CHF
Marcus Antonius and C. Caesar Octavianus with M. Barbatius. Aureus, mint moving with M. Antonius 41, AV 8.01 g.
Description: M·ANT·IMP·AVG·III·VIR·R·P·C·M·BARBAT·Q·P Bare head of M. Antonius r. Rev. CAESAR·IMP·PONT·III·VIR·R·P·C Bare head of Octavian r. References: Babelon Antonia 50
Sear Imperators 242
Calicó 109 Condition:Very rare and in exceptional condition for the issue, undoubtedly among the finest specimens known. Two very attractive portraits perfectly struck and centred on a full flan. Good extremely fine Note: From the outset of their acquaintance, Marcus Antonius and Octavian were at odds. Both were ambitious, and were closely associated with Julius Caesar, yet their qualifications and temperaments could hardly have been less alike. Antony was then in his thirties and was an experienced soldier who had earned his reputation by serving loyally at Caesar's side. Octavian was but eighteen, an unproven student whose association with Caesar was through family, for his mother was Caesar's niece. As the years passed Octavian demonstrated that he possessed a rare capacity for good decision making and leadership, and despite his comparative youth he was able to stand his ground against Antony.
As neither man was able to best the other, Antony and Octavian became fairweather allies, and with the pontifex maximus Lepidus they formed the Second Triumvirate late in 43 B.C. On many occasions they cooperated out of necessity. It is impossible to say who was the more frequent aggressor, but they often found themselves on the brink of war. After several nearmisses, there was a resolution in 31 B.C.: Octavian declared war on Antony's wife and ally, the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra VII. In September of that year Octavian and his general Marcus Agrippa defeated Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium, essentially ending all resistance to Octavian's ascendancy.
During their periods of cooperation Antonius and Octavian issued coins for each other, including this aureus, thought to have been struck in 41 B.C., not long after they had combined their armies to defeat the Republican leaders Brutus and Cassius.
Though this coin portrays both men, it clearly gives the advantage to Antonius, who issued the coin, perhaps at Ephesus. Not only does Antonius' head occupy the obverse, but it is engraved on a larger scale than that of Octavian's. It is also clear that more effort was devoted to the production of Antonius’ portrait, which has highly individualized features, whereas Octavian's is little more than a stereotyped image of a young man. We might presume that the depiction of Octavian in a juvenile manner was a calculated effort by Antony to stress the difference in their age and level of experience.