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Antonia Minor (mother of Claudius) AR Denarius. Rome, AD 41-45. ANTONIA AVGVSTA, draped bust right, wearing crown of corn-ears, hair in long plait behind / SACERDOS DIVI AVGVSTI, two vertical long torches, lighted and linked by ribbon. RIC 68; BMCRE 114. 3.82g, 18mm, 7h.

Good Extremely Fine. Lustrous metal with deep old cabinet tone and iridescent highlights. Very Rare.

Ex private Swiss collection.

This coin bears the posthumous representation of Antonia Minor, and was struck in her memory by her son Claudius upon his ascension to the throne. This well liked and respected Roman woman who was celebrated for her virtue and beauty was the younger of the two daughters of Marc Antony and Octavia, who after Antony’s death was allowed by Augustus to benefit from her father’s estate. She thus became wealthy and influential, and married Nero Claudius Drusus, general and consul, bearing him several children. Three survived into adulthood: the popular Germanicus, the future emperor Claudius, and a daughter Livilla. Following the death of her husband in AD 9 whilst on campaign in Germania, the rest of Antonia’s life was plagued by ill fortune as she outlived her eldest son, her daughter and several of her grandchildren.

After first the death of her husband, her eldest son Germanicus died in AD 19 in mysterious circumstances in Asia, where he incorporated the kingdoms of Commagene and Cappadocia into Roman provinces. While feuding with the governor of Syria Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, Germanicus was thought to have been poisoned, either by Piso or by Tiberius’ scheming advisor Sejanus. Her younger son Claudius, who was born with severe disabilities, was ostracised by his family and excluded from public office until his consulship in AD 37 which he shared with his nephew Caligula. Ironically, this action by his family may have actually saved his life as he was not perceived as a threat to power and therefore survived the purges of Tiberius’ and Caligula’s reigns, going on to prove himself a worthy emperor.

Antonia’s woes did not stop with her sons, as her daughter Livilla is supposed to have poisoned her husband Drusus the Younger, son of Tiberius. According to Cassius Dio, Tiberius handed Livilla over to her mother, who locked her up in a room and starved her to death. After the death of Tiberius, her grandson Caligula became emperor, and though Antonia would often offer him advice, he once told her, ‘I can treat anyone exactly as I please!’ Caligula was rumoured to have had his young cousin Gemellus beheaded, to remove him as a rival to the throne. This act was said to have outraged Antonia, who was grandmother to Gemellus as well as to Caligula. Able to stand no more of Caligula’s tyranny, Antonia committed suicide, though Suetonius (Lives of the Caesars IV.23) , suggests she might also have been poisoned by her grandson.

Despite what must have been a painful childhood, rejected by his own mother, Claudius clearly idolised her and after his accession gave her the posthumous title of Augusta, and her birthday became a public holiday which was marked with yearly games and public sacrifices, and her image was paraded in a carriage.

Antonia Minor (mother of Claudius) AR Denarius. (rxv481)

Price: £7,692.00

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  • (Rates for 24/04/2018)
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