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Juba II: A North African Prince at the Nexus of the Roman World

Juba II: A North African Prince at the Nexus of the Roman World

By Jeremy Bostwick, Senior Numismatist & Cataloger

Author: Jeremy Bostwick / Thursday, November 14, 2019 / Categories: World Coin of the Week

​Juba was born in North Africa around 48 B.C., named after his father, Juba I, the King of Numidia. Shortly after the younger Juba’s birth, the elder Juba was defeated by Julius Caesar, after he had allied himself with Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) in opposition to Caesar. Following this defeat, the kingdom was absorbed by Rome and became a Roman province. Though the downfall of his father was brought about indirectly by the hand of Caesar, the younger Juba was unharmed and brought to Rome where he was raised and educated, even given Roman citizenship. Following the assassination of Caesar in 44 B.C., Caesar’s grand-nephew and heir, Octavianus (Octavian), would eventually befriend Juba.

Also in the aftermath of the famous events of the Ides of March, Caesar’s former lover, Kleopatra VII of Egypt, had struck a military and personal alliance with Marcus Antonius (Marc Antony), Caesar’s closest friend and ally. The two combined their powers, aiming to augment the status and might of Egypt in opposition to Octavian and Rome. Antony and Kleopatra were married, and Kleopatra gave birth to fraternal twins, Alexander Helios and Kleopatra II Selene. Before the twins would turn 10, however, the alliance would come to an end, as Roman forces under Octavian and the combined troops of Antony and Kleopatra met at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. There the former emerged victorious and the latter met their fabled ends. Like Caesar did with the young Juba nearly 20 years prior, Octavian brought the two children to Rome, placing them in a military parade in order to celebrate his triumph, and ultimately leaving their upbringing to his elder sister (and Mark Antony’s former wife), Octavia Minor.

Further solidifying their friendship along with linking two great African dynasties, Augustus—Octavian’s new name following the commencement of the empire—arranged a marriage of Juba II to Kleopatra II Selene sometime between 26 and 20 B.C. In addition, Augustus granted to Juba and Kleopatra the Kingdom of Mauretania—a territory sharing some lands with that which Juba’s ancestors had once ruled. Though they had two children, it is unclear how long their marriage lasted. There is evidence of Juba marrying again in A.D. 6/7, this time to Glaphyra, the daughter-in-law of Herod the Great of Judea (Glaphyra’s first husband, Alexander, was executed in 7 B.C. for conspiracy). Not long after this marriage, however, Glaphyra fell in love with her former brother-in-law, Herod Archelaus, and left Juba to return to Judea. Juba himself died in A.D. 23, having seen much change to the geopolitical landscapes in his lifetime, as well as connecting with some of the most important names around the Mediterranean at that time.

Our upcoming Official Auction of the 2020 N.Y.I.N.C. will present a rather exceptional silver denarius of Juba II, struck circa A.D. 11, featuring a portrait of the king on the obverse and a mighty North African elephant on the reverse. Certified by NGC as Ch AU⭑, Strike: 4/5 Surface: 5/5, this incredible coin offers stunning eye appeal and a handsome cabinet tone, and has garnered NGC’s coveted star designation. Undoubtedly, this denarius should attract a good deal of interest owing to its magnificent quality along with its connection to Juba II who was seemingly at the center of so many important lives during the end of the Roman Imperatorial period and the beginning of the Roman Empire.

To view our upcoming auction schedule and future offerings, please visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in forthcoming sales.

We are always seeking coins, medals, and pieces of paper money for our future sales, and are currently accepting submissions for our next Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auction in February 2020. Following that, our next showcase auction will be our Official Auction of the Hong Kong Show in March 2020—marking our tenth anniversary of auctions in Asia! If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.