Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 106 Part I   |   9 - 10 May 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 538

Estimate: 15'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 12'000 CHF Price realized: 40'000 CHF
Octavian, 32 – 27. Denarius, uncertain Eastern mint 28 BC, AR 3.90 g. CAESAR·DIVI·F – COS·VI Bare head r.; below neck, small capricorn. Rev. AEGVPT / CAPTA Crocodile r. with jaws closed. C 4. BMC 653. Sear Imperators 432. RIC 545. CBN 929 (Pergamum).
Very rare and in exceptional condition for the issue, possibly the finest specimen known.
A superb portrait and an exceptionally detailed reverse die. Light iridescent tone,
virtually as struck and almost Fdc

Egypt would play a surprising role in the imperatorial period throughout much of the civil war. Having been under Ptolemaic rule since the death of Alexander the Great it would come down to the manipulative Cleopatra VII to try and save her dynasty. Shown on coinage not to be the great beauty that has been portrayed in film she was rather a master at playing her odds to maximum success. And Egypt itself would be: the scene of the first romance between Caesar and Cleopatra; the site of the killing of Pompey the Great; the place where Cleopatra captivated Marc Antony and showed him "how to live as a king"; and it would be the place where Antony and Cleopatra would finally die.
Cleopatra had seduced Julius Caesar and managed to secure her right to rule with his support when he settled the dispute with her young brother Ptolemy XIII. She was staying in Rome as a "guest" of Caesar at the time of his assassination. She was able to return to Egypt and watch things play out between the successors of Caesar and the last loyalists to the republican cause. When it became clear that the Caesareans would win she formed an allegiance with Marc Antony.

It must have seemed a fortuitous move on her part when Antony divorced Octavia and wed her. Surely if Antony could maintain his power she would continue to rule Egypt unimpeded. She had placed great reliance on this relationship by supplying Antony with both funds and ships to support his efforts against Octavian. It must have come as a complete surprise that she gave Octavian just the ammunition that he needed to declare war on Antony and, in the process, gain the blessing of the Roman senate. Overtly, war was declared on Cleopatra – not Antony.
It came to the point where she could now see what a great risk she had taken. Her only hope was that Antony would prevail and her dynasty would be preserved. The battle of Actium would prove to be the turning point in the battle between the two triumvirs. Antony was significantly supported in this battle by ships supplied by the queen and when the battle was lost so, in turn, was any remaining hope that she had chosen the correct alliance.
It is reported that in a last ditch effort she offered herself to Octavian with the hope that she could salvage Egypt. It was not to be and Cleopatra was eliminated and Egypt was lost. It is important to recognize that the new province of Egypt was not to be owned by Rome but to be the personal property of Octavian. The wealth of this territory would not fill the coffers at Rome but rather the pockets of the, soon to be, emperor himself.
The role of Egypt as a major supplier of grain would increase with Roman control. It would become a key factor in managing the ever growing population of Rome itself. Here the coin says much but in a most interesting way. Egypt was indeed captured, but not for the empire. It was captured for Octavian. It had to be a most personal of coin types for the sole survivor of the civil war. The historical importance of this coin cannot be overstated.

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