Egypt, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. 138-161 AD

Egypt, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius. 138-161 AD


Dated RY 3 (AD 139/140). Æ Drachm, 25.67g (34mm, 12h). AVT K • T AIΛ A∆P • ANTωNINOC ЄVCЄB •, bareheaded, draped, and cuirassed bust right / Draped bust right of Serapis, wearing an ornate kalathos; L Γ (date) across field.

Pedigree: From the Giovanni Maria Staffieri Collection, purchased from Dr. Piero Beretta, Milan, November 1972. Ex Dr. Piero Beretta Collection (Milan); Giovanni Dattari Collection, no. 8668

References: Köln –; Dattari (Savio) 8668 (this coin); K&G –; Emmett 1647.3 (R5); Staffieri, Alexandria In Nummis 114 (this coin)

Grade: Probably one of the finest examples known. Sharp strike, particularly on the reverse. Exceptional quality. Mint State for issue (re1059)

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Rome and Egypt had a relationship since the 2nd century BC during the reign of Ptolemy VI when Rome came to Egypt’s defense during an invasion by the encroaching Seleucid army. The Egyptians royalty at the time were Macedonias who essentially assimilated to their new home. Their founder and forefather Ptolemy I was an advisor of Alexander the Great. Once Alexander died his empire was divided up with Ptolemy overseeing Egypt. The Ptolemies weren’t a traveling people and largely stayed within the confines of their domain with the exception of Cleopatra VII who traveled and became lovers with both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, even bearing children by them.

It wasn’t until 88 BC that another significant event occurred with Egypt and Rome. Ptolemy XI advanced to the throne when his father Ptolemy X was exiled. He ruled with his mother Berenice. During his reign he “gave” Egypt and Cyprus to Rome. He was despised by most Alexandrians however and in 58 BC he was also exiled out of Egypt. It was only due to his strong ties with Rome that he could return to Egypt to rule.

Again in 48 BC Egypt showed its allegiance to Rome by executing Pompey when he sought refuge while escaping from Julius Caesar. Shortly after this episode, Ptolemy and his sister Cleopatra were at odds and Caesar sided with Cleopatra and secured the throne for her. At this point Egypt became a Roman client state. After the death of Antony and Cleopatra the emperor Augustus continued the positive relationship with Rome.

Emperors like Hadrian had positive relations with Egypt and enjoyed their time in the cities. Antoninus Pius was no exception to this. There is a beautiful series of bronze coinage that was issued during the reigns of the good emperors such as Antoninus Pius. This particular coin features Antoninus Pius on the obverse with a remarkable rendition of Zeus Serapis on the reverse.