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Denarius (Coin) Portraying Mark Antony

A work made of silver.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of silver.

Date:

42 BCE, issued by C. Vibius Varus

Artist:

Roman; minted in Rome

About this artwork

The front (obverse) of this coin portrays the head of Mark Antony facing right. On the back (reverse) Fortuna stands to the left, holding a Victory who crowns her in her right hand, and a cornucopia in left.

Portraits of important people appear on local currency all around the world. The same was true in ancient Rome, which began producing its first coinage in the late 4th century BCE. Early coins depicted the heads of gods and goddesses on the front side, often in profile, while the back depicted animals, natural resources, symbols, and references to historical events. It was not until 44 BC that the portrait of a living person—Julius Caesar appeared on coins. Thereafter, profile portraits of rulers or other members of the imperial family became the standard subject on coins throughout the Roman Empire.

Inscriptions on coins help identify the ruler. While the front side depicted the sovereign’s portrait, the back was often used to communicate the ruler’s accomplishments or aspirations. Until Late Antiquity, portraits usually appeared in profile. The tiny images were carved by engravers into bronze dies, with one for the front and another for the back. The coins were then struck, one by one, in a process similar to how coins are created today.

On View

Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium, Gallery 153

Culture

Ancient Roman

Title

Denarius (Coin) Portraying Mark Antony

Origin

Rome

Date

42 BCE

Medium

Silver

Inscriptions

Reverse: [C] VIBIVS VARVS

Dimensions

Diam. 1.9 cm; 3.95 g

Credit Line

Gift of Martin A. Ryerson

Reference Number

1922.4854

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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