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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Cleopatra & Caesarion

Sale: Triton XIII, Lot: 241. Estimate $3000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 4 January 2010. 
Sold For $10000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

PTOLEMAIC KINGS of EGYPT. Cleopatra VII Thea Neotera & Ptolemy XV Caesarion. 51-30 BC. Æ 27mm (15.13 g, 11h). Paphos mint. Struck circa 47 BC. Diademed and draped bust of Cleopatra, as Aphrodite, right; to right, small winged bust of Caesarion, as Eros, looking up at his mother; scepter to left / BAΣIΛIΣΣHΣ KΛEOΠATPAΣ, double cornucopia bound with fillet; monogram to right. Svoronos 1874; Weiser -; SNG Copenhagen -; BMC 2; Noske -; RPC 3901.9 (this coin). VF, dark green patina, minor roughness and light smoothing on obverse. Exceptional for this extremely rare type.

From the Guy Weill Goudchaux Collection. Ex Barry Feirstein Collection (Part IV, Numismatica Ars Classica 45, 2 April 2008), lot 24; Sternberg XI (20 November 1981), lot 221.

This lovely bronze coin, while ostensibly displaying Aphrodite holding Eros in her arms, was in fact a dynastic issue, following in the Ptolemaic tradition that rulers were represented in the guise of gods. Here, the identification of Cleopatra as Aphrodite is not controversial, as the two are often related in classical literature. The choice of this type is relative to its place of the issue, Cyprus, where an important temple to Aphodite was located at Paphos. In 48 BC, Julius Caesar gave Cyprus to Cleopatra, and the fact that Caesarion was his son by the Egyptian queen lends credence to the identification of Eros as Caesarion on this coin. Literary and epigraphic evidence clearly displays the intent of Cleopatra to elevate their son to the status of a co-ruler, and as such, his presence on the coin would be conventional. Nonetheless, other candidates have been suggested, such as either of her sons by Mark Antony, Alexander Helios or Ptolemy Philadelphos. As the coin has no indication of date, it could have been struck later, after Cleopatra gave birth to Antony's children. Two facts, though, suggest that this isolated issue would not favor either of these children over Caesarion. In 34 BC, when Antony was celebrating his Armenian 'victory' at Alexandreia, Caesarion was given a higher status in the event than Antony's sons. Also, numismatic evidence suggests that Caesarion retained his position as primary heir until Cleopatra's death (see O. Mørkholm, "Ptolemaic Coins and Chonology" in MN 20 [1975]). It seems appropriate that this exceptional issue would have been struck in commemoration of Caesarion's birth in 47 BC, on the island that had just been given to his mother, Cleopatra, by his father, Caesar.