Antony + Cleopatra Coin from Bethsaida!

Interesting item from Ha’aretz, although it is behind a paywall. Here are some excerpts:

[...]

A few thousand years is a mere blink of an eye when it comes to the vital ties between this land and Egypt, as attested by a rare coin carrying historical weight far greater than its 7.59 grams, which depicts the notorious lovers – and which emerged last year from the ruins of a first-century house at Tel Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee.

Tel Bethsaida rises from the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee, but the coin was minted in another city by another sea – the Mediterranean port of Akko – today better known as Acre. The coin, made of bronze, is about the size of a quarter, being 21–23 millimeters in diameter (it is not perfectly round, at least not any more). Its date shows that it was minted in the last half of the year 35 or the first half of 34 BCE.

Mark Antony, the most powerful man in the world at the time, is on one side of the coin and Cleopatra graces the other. On her side are the Greek words “of the people of Ptolemais.”

Ptolemais is the Greek name for ancient Akko, which was founded in the 3rd century BCE and named after Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The name appears in the New Testament (Acts 21:7) as the home of an early Christian community that Paul the apostle visited: “And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.”

The coin was minted some two and a half centuries after the city was founded, a time when both Mark Antony and his bitter rival Octavian were in their prime and no one knew who would prevail, Arav says.

Why depict them? The cities of the ancient Middle East had a habit of minting coins bearing the portraits of whoever was in power, says Dr. Donald T. Ariel, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Coin Department.

And Marc Antony was most definitely powerful in the year stamped on the coin. Prof. Rami Arav, director of the Bethsaida Excavations Project, suggests that the minting of the coin may have had to do with Marc Antony’s victory over the Parthians, rulers of a land in what is now northeastern Iran and Armenia, in 35 BCE. He then granted Armenia to Cleopatra’s sons and gave Cyprus to her daughter Selene.

Cleopatra also appears on coins from the same period, found in cities further north up the Lebanese coast, that were among gifts Marc Antony gave his consort.

That same year Marc Antony, still deeply involved with Cleopatra, moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Alexandria, Egypt.

[...]

via: The ancient coin of Cleopatra: There could have been pyramids in Paris (Ha’aretz)

… Rami Arav is then pressed to speculate what might have happened if Tony and Cleo were victorious at Actium. There is no photo of the coin (which was found last year, by the way), alas, but presumably it was like this one from the VRoma site:

via VRoma

That said, I’m not sure if anyone would call Antony’s actions in Parthia a “victory” in anything but a ‘Parthian’ sense; he lost a major portion of his troops — Napoleon-like — to the cold and had to do some serious bribing of those that remained … it’s actually more interesting how little of substance there is about this campaign on the www. One can, of course, read Dio 49.22-33 on it and get a sense of the ‘failure’ (although Dio’s description of the testudo in action here is incredibly interesting)

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3 thoughts on “Antony + Cleopatra Coin from Bethsaida!

  1. Interesting. Had those 2 not met and paid more attention to their respective empires…. And had mot Anthony & Caesar both competed for Cleopatra …. one wonders what would have happened. Would they have been more successful without those distractions? Would their empires have done better or worse? (I do know that most of Rome’s whole courting of Egypt was for the grain, but leaving that as a mere trade item…)

    And for those who want a brief video detailing Cleopatra’s life, look here:

  2. Considering your remark about not having a photo of the coin found last year in Bethsaida, there is a simple solution. I’m the photographer of the Bethsaida excavation and can easily send it to you. Sincerely, Hanan Shafir, photographer.
    details for connection bellow.

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