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Mark Antony and the Legionary Denarius

Obv. ANT AVG III VIR R P C. Galley to the right with banners at the prow; Rev. LEG VI. Eagle (aquila) facing right between two legionary standards (signa). Reference: BMC 197, RSC 33, Sear 356.

Issued before the Battle of Actium in 32 BC and likely minted at Antony's winter headquarters in Patrae (Greece), it was silver denarii such as this that Mark Antony used to pay his legions and fleet. With a lower silver content (copper having been added to the alloy) or even silver washed (fourré), these debased coins tended not to be hoarded but were in constant circulation and so are most often found in very worn condition or with bankers' assay marks.

Seeking to associate himself with Julius Caesar, who had held the augurate, Antony too identified himself as augur; so one reads ANT AVG (abbreviating Antonius augurus); III VIR R P C abbreviates Triumvir rei publicae constituendae ("One of Three Men for the Restoration of the Republic"), which was adopted in 43 BC by Mark Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus when they formed the Second Triumvirate.

Levied by Caesar in 52 BC, Legio VI (after 40 BC, Ferrata "Ironclad") fought with him in Cisalpine Gaul and against Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC. The legion almost was annihilated the next year when, pursuing Pompey to Alexandria (Civil War, III.106), it was besieged by the forces of Ptolemy XIII. (The throne was secured for Cleopatra when Caesar was relieved by Mithridates of Pergamon, who allied with him at the Battle of the Nile.) But only two cohorts (fewer than a thousand men) of Legio VI survived to fight in the Battle of Zela (47 BC) against Pharnaces II, where they were instrumental in victory (Alexandrian War, LXXVI). Following the assassination of Caesar in 44 BC, the legionaries, who then were colonists in Arles, was reformed by Lepidus and passed to Antony the following year.

Although many of the original coins still were in circulation, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus marked the two-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Actium was a reissue in AD 169, all of which honored only Legio VI. By then, ANT was associated with the name of Antoninus and AVG had become the abbreviation for Augustus and his imperial successors. Whereas the original coin abbreviated ANT AVG, the restitution spelled out the words ANTONIVS AVGVR to avoid confusion. But it is also an obvious abbreviation of Augustus (as already in the Monumentum Ancyranum, that is, before A.D. 13), and, as this silver of Antony must have been p250circulating freely in the Roman world about 28 B.C. it might well have suggested the name Augustus.

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