A Denarius of Mark Antony & Lepidus
Updated: Sep 6, 2020
This coin was issued near the end of the Roman republic and is an artifact of Mark Antony's alliance with Lepidus in the days before they met with Octavian to agree to rule Rome as a triumvirate. It is an exceedingly rare coin in any condition and this one a particularly attractive example. It comes from a pivotal moment in the history of the Roman Republic, just before the formation of the Second Triumvirate between Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus.
Mark Antony and M Aemelius Lepidus, 43 BC, AR Denarius
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 Size: 3.71g, 18mm
Ref: Crawford 489/2; Sydenham 1156; RSC 2
Ides of March
The assassination of Julius Caesar took place on the Ides of March, 44 BC. Afterwards, there was conflict between Octavian (adopted son and relative of Julius Caesar) and Mark Antony (consul in 44 BC with Julius Caesar and his friend).
Cicero fanned the flames - rallying the senate against Mark Antony. In February of 43 the senate declared Antony an enemy of the state. After clashing with the armies of Octavian and Hirtius in battle 8 miles outside of Mutina in 21-April-43, Mark Antony retreated north.
Alliances The coin below was minted in Cisalpine Gaul - the land north and south of the Po River on the Italian side of the Alps. On 30-May-43 Antony and Lepidus declared that they had joined forces and both names are on the coin - the declaration defines the earliest date for this coin. In Rome, Octavian sized power with the backing of the military. Despite their differences, Appian reports in his account of the civil wars that Octavian was to reconcile with Anthony:
"Octavian formed his plans for a reconciliation with Antony, for he had learned that Brutus and Cassius had already collected twenty legions of soldiers, and he needed Antony's help against them."
2nd Triumvirate Octavian then headed North and met up with Lepidus and Mark Antony near modern day Bologna. Appian writes: Octavian and Antony composed their differences on a small, depressed islet in the river Lavinius, near the city of Mutina. Each had five legions of soldiers whom they stationed opposite each other, after which each proceeded with 300 men to the bridges over the river. Lepidus by himself went before them, searched the island, and waved his military cloak as a signal to them to come. Then each left his three hundred in charge of friends on the bridges and advanced to the middle of the island in plain sight, and there the three sat together in council, Octavian in the centre because he was consul. The three agreed to a plan to rule Rome together - united in their disregard for the senate and their conflict with the assassins of Julius Caesar.
This coin was minted just ahead of the formation of the "second triumvirate" of Octavian, Mark Antony and Lepidus. The second triumvirate began violently as the three raised money for their war with the assassins of Julius Caesar, Brutus and Cassius and eliminated political enemies through state authorized murders (proscriptions) of hundreds or by some estimates thousands of senators and equestrians. Cicero was one of the first killed.
The quinarius from this series is a bit more common than the denarius. The symbols on this coin emphasize legitimacy and authority of both men:
Obv: a lituus (wand), praefericulum (vase), and raven are symbols connected to Mark Antony's role as Augur Rev: the simpulum (ladle), aspergillum (sprinkler), securis (axe), apex (hat), are connected to Lepidus' role as Pontifex Maximus.
Additions and correction to any of the above are always welcome.