Marc Antony's Legionary Coinage

14 Jan 2020  Tue

Roman coinage in the name of Marcus Antonius extends from 44 to 31 BCE and the so-called legionary denarii issued in 32-31 BCE to pay his army are, by far, the most abundant Roman silver coins. The best estimate is that between 25 million and 35 million pieces were struck and tens of thousands survive today.

These coins were struck between 32 – 31 BC probably at Patrae (modern-day Patras) where Antony had his military and naval base. These coins were issued in vast quantities to pay his forces. They show poor craftsmanship as they were struck in a hurry as well as in a poor quality of silver. The coins show a standard pattern:

The coin’s obverse Antony’s flagship single with the bank of eight to 12 oars. Above the ship, ANT AVG abbreviates the name Antonius along with one of his titles, Augur, a priest of the Roman state religion. Below the ship is his other title III VIR. R.P.C. which loosely translates as “Triumvir for the Reorganization of the Republic”.

The reverse shows a legionary eagle (Aquila) between two standards with an inscription identifying one of the units in Antony’s army. The gilded bronze eagle mounted on a pole was the legion’s sacred emblem – its loss in battle was the worst disgrace a unit could suffer.

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