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The Road to Philippi


Both coins shared today are sometime labeled by auction houses as "castrensis moneta mint in Italy?". The description is one that originates from this paragraph from Lucan's book on the civil War between Casar and Pompey. In the story, Julius Caesar's first centurion speaks up at a pivotal moment to declare his unconditional willingness to follow Caesar against Rome:

If you bid me plunder the gods and fire their temples, the furnace of the military mint [castrensis flamma monetae] shall melt down the statues of the deities; if you bid me pitch the camp by the waters of Etruscan Tiber, I shall make bold to invade the fields of Italy and there mark out the lines; whatever walls you wish to level, these arms shall ply the ram and scatter the stones asunder, even if the city you doom to utter destruction be Rome.”
-Lucan, Civil War, 1.380-386 

Crawford in Roman Republican Coinage, classified many coins that were not minted in Rome as "military mint traveling with <insert general>....". Lucan's reference to a "military camp mint" or "castrensis monetae" provides evidence of such mints.


Lucan lived during the reign of Nero and was favored by the emperor. A feud began between the two, perhaps because Lucan wrote about the burning of Rome and offended Nero. Nero banned Lucan's poetry and Lucan joined a conspiracy against Nero that led to Lucan's suicide as the age of 25 and in AD 65.


Use of "castrensis moneta" for this coin reference Woytek's Arma et Nummi which links the history and coins and makes some improvement to attributions for coins of the eventful period from 49 to 41 BC. The book, published in 2003, is described by Metcalf in a review as "beyond question the most important work on any aspect of the Republican coinage to appear since Crawford's Roman Republican Coinage".


For both coins that I share today, Woytek leans toward them being minted in Italy, however he is tentative with Greece possible. Octavian and Mark Antony were heading from Rome to Macedonia in pursuit of the murderers of Julius Caesar or Liberators of the Roman people, Brutus and Cassius. They would defeat them in two battles in October AD 42 at Philippi with Cassius committing suicide in the first battle and Brutus in the second that ended October 23rd.

Location of Philippi in Macedonia

Despite the wear and bankers marks - I find this an attractive and well executed portrait of Mark Antony.

Mark Antony, AR denarius moving mint with Antony in Italy (?) 42, AR 19.50 mm., 3.74 g.

Obv: Head of Marcus Antonius r. with light beard; behind, lituus

Rev: M ANTONIVS·III·VIR·R·P·C Radiate head of Sol right

Ref: Woytek Arma et Nummi p.558. RBW 1754. Crawford 496/2.

Mark Antony, 44-30 BC. Denarius (Silver, 17 mm, 3.74 g, 3 h), military mint moving with Antony in Italy?, 42 BC

Obv: M•ANTONI - IMP Bare head of Mark Antony to right

Rev: III - VIR - R•P•C Distyle temple within which radiate and draped bust of Sol set on medallion. Babelon (Antonia) 34

Ref: Crawford 496/1. RBW 1753. Sydenham 1168

Woytek: Table showing differences from Crawford for Crawford 496/1-3

Octavian was ill during the first battle and Mark Antony is credited for the successful campaign. The use of IMP (imperator) on the second coin and not on the first coin intrigues me. IMP a title given to victorious commanders and not allowed to be used in Rome. There is a variant of the first coin (Crawford 496/3) which does have IMP on the obverse and a similar portrait to the second coin (496/3) - pointing to the later date of issue for this variant in Greece or Asia Minor. An example from ACSearch NAC Auction 125 Lot 469 (not my coin):

There is debate about the use of Sol on the reverse and the specific temple: a reference to a temple in Rome? a reference to a temple to Sol to be built? a reference to a local monument or echo of local coins? a linking of Mark Antony to the popular eastern god? This last hypothesis is the easiest to support without other evidence.


The lituus on the obverse (the curled implement behind Antony's head) was used in the reading of the will of the gods (auspices, reading of the birds) and is a symbol that points to Antony's membership in the college of augurs an honor limited by law to 15 people in Caesar's time.


Sulla reinforced the nobility's control and expanded the college of augurs to 15 during his time as dictator (~81 BC).

"With new laws, he strengthened the republic, diminished the powers of the tribunes of the plebs by taking away from them the right to introduce legislation, expanded the number of priests and augurs to fifteen, enrolled members of the equestrian order into the Senate, blocked the children of those who were proscribed from obtaining office, sold their possessions, and was the first to seize the profits."
Livy, Periochae, 89.4 

In English, "auspicious" and "auspices" both have roots in Latin “avis” bird and “specere” to look.


The legends on these coins reference Mark Antony as one of the "Triumviri Rei Publicae Constituendae" (III VIR RPC) (three men for re-establishment of the republic), as he defeated Brutus & Cassius who were inspired by Cato, preferring death by suicide to life in a Rome that chose tyranny over liberty.

"For if," said he, "I were willing to be saved by grace of Caesar, I ought to go to him in person and see him alone; but I am unwilling to be under obligations to the tyrant for his illegal acts. And he acts illegally in saving, as if their master, those over whom he has no right at all to be the lord...."
-Plutarch Lives, Life of Cato the Younger, 66.1  

After Philippi, Sextus Pompey remained the lead adversary to the triumvirate....

References in addition to those linked inline above

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