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Coins of the Second Triumvirate

Lex Titia, passed by the senate on November, 27 43 BCE, formed the "2nd Triumvirate", and granted broad authority to Mark Antony, Lepidus and Octavian for five years as "trivmviri rei pvblicae constitvendae" - three men to restore the republic. This triumvirate was renewed a bit late from the 5 year anniversary in 37 BCE for an additional 5 years January 37 - December 33 BCE.

This coin (first shared in a post a couple of years ago) was issued by Mark Antony and Lepidus as allies. It was issued just as they met with Octavian to agree to rule Rome as a triumvirate. It is an exceedingly rare coin from a pivotal moment in the history of the Roman Republic, before the formation of the Second Triumvirate.

Mark Antony and M Aemelius Lepidus, 43 BCE, AR Denarius (3.71g, 18mm)

Mint: Military mint traveling with Antony and Lepidus in Cisalpine Gaul Date: Crawford dates this issue between 30-May-43 and early 42 Obv: M ANTON [IMP], lituus, capis, and raven

Rev: M LEPID IMP, simpulum, aspergillum, securis, apex

Ref: Crawford 489/2; Sydenham 1156; RSC 2

The relationship between Mark Antony and Octavian was rocky from the start with several attempts to reconcile. This quinarius shows "Concordia" on the obverse and clasped hands on the reverse, it reinforces the renewed commitment to partnership in 40-39 BC.

After the "Perusine War", AD 40, where Mark Antony's wife Fulvia and brother Lucius, challenged Octavian over the rights of farmers, Fulvia conveniently died of an unknown illness and Mark Antony and Octavian needed each other enough to renew their partnership. They agreed to a new division of power with Octavian taking the West and Italy, Mark Antony taking the East, and Lepidus Africa.

The Treaty of Brundisium was agreed in September 40 BC. Antony married Octavian's sister, Octavia, to reinforce the alliance. This coin is interesting also for the graffiti which annotated the severed concord that followed with a dagger and cuts to the wrist of one of the triumvir's. I would guess that it is Mark Antony's wrist being slashed, given Octavian was the ultimate victor.

The Triumvirs, Octavian and Mark Antony, late 39 BC, AR Quinarius (12mm, 1.84 g, 12h), military mint traveling with Octavian in Gaul

Obv: III•VIR• R•P•C, veiled and diademed head of Concordia right

Rev: M•ANTON C•CAESAR, lasped right hands holding caduceus

Ref: Crawford 529/4b (no IMP in reverse legend) ; King 81

This next coin is a bronze. A contemporary imitation of an issue from Octavian, declaring his authority as the son of Caesar. This coin was minted the year before Antony and Octavian made an agreement and renewed their triumvirate.

Roman Republic, Triumvirs, Octavian and Divus Julius Caesar, South Italy, 38 BCE, Æ (28mm, 8.84g, 3h)

Obv: CAESAR (right) DIVI F (left), bare head of Octavian right

Rev: DIVOS IVLIVS, wreathed head of Divus Julius Caesar right

Ref: Crawford 535/1; RPC I 620

Note: Contemporary imitation

My latest addition is from the period between Republic and Empire shortly after Octavian, Mark Antony, and Lepidus renewed their tense alliance in 37 BCE at Tarentum (Taranto). It is the year that Octavian ended the Pompeian resistance and Sicilian revolt at the Battle of Naulochus (3 September 36) and stripped Lepidus of power (22 September 36). Marcus Vispanius Agrippa was the naval commander credited for the victory that was fought near Naulochus, Sicily.

The second triumvirate between Mark Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus was an uneasy alliance and the three men used their coins to demonstrate their legitimacy and stake their authority as leaders of the republic. Robert Newman (1990) cited below, has a useful catalog of coins from this period arranged chronologically. He reviews the political rivalry that is can be seen in the coins.

Roman Republican, the Triumvirs, Octavian, 36 BCE, AR denarius (17.5mm, 3.25 g, 5h), Southern or central Italian mint

Obv: IMP CAESAR DIVI F III VIR ITER R P C, bareheaded and bearded head right

Rev: COS ITER ET TER DESIG, tetrastyle temple of Divus Julius: statue of Julius Caesar as augur standing within temple; DIVO • IVL on architrave, star within pediment, figures along roof line; lit altar to left

Ref: Crawford 540/2; Sydenham 1338; RBW 1829

Note: two banker's marks to the right of Octavian's ear

The Obverse

This issue showing Octavian bearded could have several interpretations:

  • a “beard of mourning” for Julius Caesar

  • “campaign beard” for the battle with Sextus Pompey

  • an attempt by the young Octavian to look more mature

Given the focus on this coin of Divus Julius Caesar, I prefer the beard of mourning explanation even if it was about 8 years after his death.

The obverse shows a portrait of Octavian, with title "Imperator" which was accorded to successful military commanders in the Republic. He emphasizes on this coin his relationship with Julius Caesar: "Caesar Divi Filius", son of the deified Julius Caesar, and "triumvir iter respublicae constituendae", twice triumvir (three men with Mark Antony and Lepidus) for the restoration of the republic.

The Reverse

Plaque next to Julius Caesar's altar in the Roman Forum. Image by Howard Hudson at English Wikipedia, used under CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

The reverse of the coin similarly emphasizes his authority of title and as the son of divine Julius Caesar. "consul iterum et tertio designatus": consul twice and a third time designated. The temple on the reverse was not yet built, but was a project to replace on the site where Caesar was cremated and where a column and alter were erected and torn down by factions against Caesar. The temple on the coin would be completed and inaugurated by Octavian on August 18th 29 BCE for the divine Julius Caesar. The star on the pediment is "sidum Iulium", the comet from July 44 BCE, that after the death of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March (15th) was considered a sign of his divinity. Little remains of the temple today.

"He [Julius Caesar] died in the fifty-sixth year of his age, and was ranked amongst the Gods, not only by a formal decree, but in the belief of the vulgar. For during the first games which Augustus, his heir, consecrated to his memory, a comet blazed for seven days together, rising always about eleven o'clock; and it was supposed to be the soul of Caesar, now received into heaven: for which reason, likewise, he is represented on his statue with a star on his brow."

-Suetonius, Divus Julius, 88

The coin is attributed (see: Buerger coin collection) to Statilius Taurus (general and twice consul), who may have minted this issue to pay the legions encamped in Sicily.


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