Featured The Daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by zumbly, Nov 5, 2020.

  1. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    I had for some years been looking for a portrait coin of Cleopatra Selene II, and was both surprised and pleased when I finally managed to win one that I liked and could afford. Her parents, Cleopatra VII of Egypt and the Roman triumvir Mark Antony, were both in their lifetime and to the present day, amongst the most notorious and written about historical figures. Comparatively few details, however, have survived about Cleopatra Selene's life after the death of her parents.

    Antony and Cleopatra were defeated by the future first emperor of the Roman Empire, Augustus, at the Battle of Actium in 30 BC. After the lovers had committed suicide at Alexandria, their young children, Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene, and Ptolemy Philadelphios were taken to Rome as captives. At his triumph in 29 BC, Augustus paraded 11-year old Selene and her twin brother Alexander Helios, both of them weighed down by heavy gold chains, behind a wax effigy of their mother. All three children were thereafter placed in the care of Octavia, Augustus's sister, and though they were probably treated well, the lack of subsequent historical records about Alexander and Ptolemy suggest that they most likely did not survive into adulthood. At the house of Octavia, Selene would spend the next five years living and being educated alongside her half-siblings - Antony's other surviving offspring - Iullus Antonius, Antonia, and Antonia Minor. Through Antonia Minor, Selene would be related by blood to three future Roman emperors - Antonia's son Claudius, as well as Caligula and Nero.

    Statue of Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios as children, c. 37-30 BC (Egyptian Museum in Cairo)

    Probably around 25 BC, at the age of 15, Selene was married to the Numidian prince, Juba II. Juba was about 8 years older than Selene, thoroughly Romanized, and a noted scholar who would go on to author treatises on topics as diverse as geography, linguistics, Roman archaeology, and painting. Plutarch wrote that he was "the most accomplished of kings", and Pliny would quote him extensively in his Natural History. In relation to Augustus, Juba was more than the average rex amicus sociusque, the "friendly and allied king", but someone who had grown up in Augustus's own household, later accompanying him on military campaigns and becoming a trusted friend and ally.

    Augustus's gift to the new couple was the rule of Mauretania, a huge territory on the coast of North Africa spanning what is today central Algeria and northern Morocco. While the country worked to provide Rome with grain, garum (fish sauce) and purple dye, Juba and Selene set up their court at Iol, an old Mauretanian capital that was renamed Caesarea in honour of Augustus. The faded city was rebuilt on a lavish scale, with a forum, amphitheatre, harbour, and of course, the royal palace and its library. A Temple to Isis was amongst several built, and no doubt making Selene feel even more at home would have been the numerous Egyptian sculptures that were collected to adorn the palace.


    The court of Juba and Selene would have been truly multicultural, one that included Romans, Greeks, as well as locals of Berber descent. In addition to attracting a circle of artists and scholars from around the Roman world, Juba and Selene are also known to have brought along with them a number of freedmen and servants of Selene's parents, including the physician Antonius Euphorbos and the gemcutter Gnaios. One famous intaglio with the portrait of Mark Antony signed by Gnaois now held by the Getty Museum may have been a product of his from Alexandria, but it may also have been commissioned by Cleopatra Selene in memory of her father.

    Intaglio of Mark Antony, signed by the gemcutter Gnaios (Getty Museum)

    Of the coins that were issued at Mauretania, one consistent theme was the queen's clearly ardent and undiminished pride in her Ptolemaic heritage. Where her husband Juba's name was almost without exception inscribed in Latin, Selene's name and title was always rendered in Greek (BACIΛICCA KΛEΟΠΑΤΡA, identical to her mother's on her coins). Both her coins as well as Juba's also prominently featured Egyptian symbols such as the headdress of Isis, the Nile crocodile, and the sistrum. And, whether or not she ever exercised any autonomous political power of her own, as has sometimes been suggested, her sway within her marriage was clearly significant, for when a son was born to the couple around 10 BC, he was not named after his father Juba or one of Juba's ancestors as might have been expected, but instead, Ptolemy.

    The 'Africa' dish from the Boscoreale Treasure of 1895, believed by some to portray Cleopatra Selene II (Louvre Museum)

    The cause and date of Cleopatra Selene's death are not currently known, but the postulated dates range cover a broad range from 5 BC to AD 20. After her death, Selene, the last surviving member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, was laid to rest in the Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania, an imposing structure built about 25 miles east of Caesarea, which today still stands.

    Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania (Tipaza, Algeria)

    This epigram by Krinagoras of Mytilene, Emperor Augustus's court poet, is thought to eulogize her:

    The moon herself grew dark, rising at sunset,
    Covering her suffering in the night,
    Because she saw her beautiful namesake, Selene,
    Without breath, descending to Hades.
    With her she had the beauty of her light in common,
    And mingled her own darkness with her death.

    MAURETANIA Juba II Cleo Selene - AR Denarius 4132.JPG
    AR Denarius. 2.91g, 17.2mm. Iol-Caesarea mint, circa 20 BC - AD 20. Mazard 361; MAA 108; SNG Copenhagen 566. O: REX IVBA, diademed head of Juba right. R: BACIΛICCA KΛEΟΠΑΤΡA, diademed and draped bust of Cleopatra Selene left.
    Ex Stein A. Evensen Collection, purchased from John Jencek, July 2009

    There is an unfortunate flan flaw that mars Juba's portrait, but to be honest, that side mattered much less to me. The coin is otherwise in great condition, with some lovely iridescent toning that quite nicely complements that on my existing denarius of Juba.

    MAURETANIA Juba II - Cornucopiae 221 new.JPG
    AR Denarius. 3.14g, 17mm. Iol-Caesarea mint, 25 BC - AD 24 AD. MAA 95; SNG Copenhagen 579. O: REX IVBA, diademed head right. R: Cornucopia; transverse scepter in background, crescent to upper right.
    Ex Ronald J. Hansen Collection; ex CNG E-Auction 319 (Jan 2014), lot 149; ex Noble 66 (30 March 2001), lot 3452

    Thanks for reading, and please feel free to share anything related!
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  3. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you for the very interesting presentation.

    I knew very little about Cleopatra Selene until this posting.

    I guess this is a good time to roll out my bronze disease "patient", an 80 drachmae of Cleopatra VII, 51-30 BC.

    She's been through a lot over the past several months, but I hope this coin is in remission at this point. Time will tell.

    17.4 grams

    D-Camera Cleopatra VII AE 80 drachmae, bronze disease patient,  917.4 g, 11-5-20.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2020
  4. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Really nice writeup, and, cool Denarii (no, not Cistos, :D ) Congrats on these really cool tidbits of history... and yeah, I be bedazzled!
    Inspector43, spirityoda and zumbly like this.
  5. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the nice writeup. Haven't heard about Cleopatra Selene until today.
    Inspector43, zumbly and spirityoda like this.
  6. Theodosius

    Theodosius Fine Style Seeker Supporter

    Wow, killer coins and history.

    I did not know anything about her until now.

    Marc Antony was a "distinctive" looking guy for sure.

    Inspector43 and zumbly like this.
  7. Broucheion

    Broucheion Supporter! Supporter

    Great coins, great write up!


    Ar Denarius
    Size: 18x20 mm
    Weight: 2.49 g
    Axis: 9:00
    OBV: Juba II diademmed head facing right. In right field: REX IVBA before. Dotted border.
    REV: Isis headress above crescent. Legend (starts at 5:00): BACI - ΑICC - A ● KΛεOΠ[ATΡA]. Dotted border.
    References: Mazard-331; SNG Copenhagen 574 [North Africa]; Sear Greek Imperials-6002; MMA-0085 (Les Monnaise de l'Afrique Antique); De Luynes.3999.

    Bought from Kirk Davis (Vcoins)

    - Broucheion
  8. ycon

    ycon Renaissance Man

  9. Broucheion

    Broucheion Supporter! Supporter

    Hi @ycon,

    A really neat coin (and noted as RRR below) in spite of the condition. Here is the entry from Mazard:


    The section header is translated (via Google) as follows:


    According to Charrier, the coins bearing only the name of Cleopatra, would have been issued during the "regency" exercised by the queen during the trip from Juba to the East (years 25 to 29, of the reign).

    But Gsell does not accept the regency hypothesis. Juba having married, during this trip with Glaphira whom he repudiated before returning to his kingdom, the learned historian considers that the king was then widowed. The historical problem posed by these currencies cannot therefore receive the solution proposed by Charrier.

    [M = L. MULLER. Numismatique de l'Afrique Ancienne. Copenhague 1862.
    Ch = L. CHARRIER. Description des Monnaies de la N umidie et de la Mauretanie, Macon. 1912.
    Cab Med = Cabinet des Medailles de Ia Biblioteque Nationale.]

    - Broucheion
    galba68, PeteB, Alegandron and 7 others like this.
  10. ycon

    ycon Renaissance Man

    Ohhh thank you for this!!!
    Broucheion likes this.
  11. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    That is a fantastic and interesting coin Z. Loved the write up as well. Great surfaces, nice toning and good style. You have a real eye for quality coins my friend.
    zumbly likes this.
  12. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Thanks for the kind comments, everyone!

    Very nice score! I remember when you bought this one. I regret that I didn't manage to win one from the Banasa/El Ksar Hoard. It was a seminal find which seems to have really contributed to the study of the coinage of Juba, Selene and Ptolemy.

    Excellent example of one of the Juba coins which, though not portraying Selene, does name her along with showing the headdress of Isis. Thanks for posting it.

    Very nice! Despite the wear, the portrait outline is clear and doesn't appear to be tooled, as so many Cleopatra bronzes are. I hope that BD is put into remission permanently!
    ycon and Broucheion like this.
  13. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Great coin & write-up. No Cleopatra Selene in my collection, but here's my Juba II:

    Mauretania - Juba II den 1990 (0).jpg
    Mauretania Denarius
    Juba II
    (25 B.C.-23 A.D.)
    Caesarea (Iol) Mint

    REX IVBA, diademed head right / Filleted cornucopia with transverse sceptre behind; crescent in upper right.
    SNG Copenhagen 579; MAA 95; Mazard 241; SGI 5974.1.
    (2.80 grams / 16 mm )
  14. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

    A well-written and very interesting write-up @zumbly. I was not very familiar with that part of history, so thank you. And both coins are plendid!

    I can't imagine what it must have felt like, to be paraded around by the person who caused the death of your parents (with a wax figure of your mother behind you!) and subsequently be placed in his houshold... Pure speculation from my side, but I can image that both boys would have been seen a threat for the emperor in the future, and perhaps 'action' was taken based on that presumption... How cruel!

    I don't have a coin of Juba or Cleopatra (Selene), unfortunately... I can toss in dad, however:
  15. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

  16. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    He did have Caesarion and Antyllus put to death, so it's probably not too far-fetched to suggest he arranged for something to happen to Selene's brothers.

    Thanks for posting that great coin of dad. I still need one of his, but in the meantime, here's my 80 drachmai of mom.

    Cleopatra VII - AE 80 Drachmai 2911.jpg PTOLEMAIC KINGDOM OF EGYPT, Kleopatra VII Thea Neotera
    AE Diobol - 80 Drachmai. 18.02g, 27mm. EGYPT, Alexandreia mint, circa 51-30 BC. Svoronos 1871; SNG Copenhagen 419–21. O: Diademed and draped bust right. R: BACIΛICCHC KΛEOΠATPAC, Eagle standing left on thunderbolt; cornucopia to left, Π (mark of value) to right.
    Reportedly ex UCLA Classics Library Collection
  17. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Great coin and write up zumbly, another amazing pick up you seem to have a real knack for.
    zumbly likes this.
  18. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    An exceptionnal coin and fabulous write up @zumbly !
    This thread should be featured IMO

    I don't have any Cleopatra Selene coin to contribute with, but can show a MA portrait :

    Marcus Antonius, Denarius - travelling mint, moving with Mark Antony in 41 BC
    ANT AVG IMP III VI R P C, Head of Mark Antony right
    Fortuna standing left, holding rudder in right hand and cornucopiae in left; at feet, stork; below, PIETAS COS
    3,82 gr - 20 mm
    Ref : Crawford # 516/2, Sydenham # 1174, HCRI # 241, C # 77

  19. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Great coin and write-up @zumbly. My knowledge of the children of Antony and Cleopatra was rather slight. So thanks for providing this information.
    zumbly likes this.
  20. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Great post!
    zumbly likes this.
  21. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Thanks, Q, and thanks for posting your Marcus. The portrait style is absolutely fantastic!
    Cucumbor likes this.
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