This paper presents a network-based analysis of coin hoards from the Caucasus and neighboring territories. Located at the interstice of Mediterranean and Iranian empires, this area was home in antiquity to the competing polities of Colchis, Caucasian Iberia, Caucasian Albania, Armenia, and Atropatene. Numismatic scholarship on this zone has generally studied coin circulation as a proxy for interaction between these polities and the ‘West’ or the ‘East.’
By investigating the co-circulation patterns of the various currencies in the hoards of the area, this work calls attention to overlapping spheres of use rather than to discrete zones of diffusion. Furthermore, a structural consideration of hoard composition teases out variations in local numismatic practice, demonstrating the flexibility of the ‘numismatic habit’ as it was adopted and adapted to serve the needs of local residents.
Recently, I created one of the largest databases gathering together excavation coins coming from the Greek world. This database (“SED”, i.e. “Seleucid Excavation Coins”) is composed of some 8,334 coins, more than 98% of them being bronzes. The original purpose of this database was to complete the hoard evidence I had gathered for the same dynasty (“SHD”, i.e. “Seleucid Hoard Database”).
In this paper, I will query the SED based on the following criteria: provenance of coins, denomination, and year (reign) of production. In fact, when considered together, these data points constitute a profile reflecting patterns potentially shared by multiple sites. This is what I call “the numismatic profile of a site”. These patterns seem to reveal a larger network of circulation and coin loss. In fact, I will argue that it is misleading to use the term “circulation” when it comes to bronzes travelling very short distances from their production sites. The mean distance of bronze coins from their original mint to their find spot is estimated to be less than 500 km which, for the scale of the Seleucid kingdom and when compared with precious metal coin circulation patterns, represents a rather small circulation area.
These results will be illustrated through graphs representing the numismatic profile of each site and compared with the rest of the 80 sites considered in SED. They will also be visualized using Voronoi diagrams illustrating the relative importance of the volume and spread of bronze production of each mint.
Finally, historical conclusions will be drawn from the above analysis, i.e. how can one quantify monetary evidence and determine coin loss patterns? What do these coins tell us about the “economy” of both their original mint and their find spot? And, above all, what was the purpose for issuing coins in the Seleucid Kingdom and what was their use with regard to military activities (i.e. garrisons and the siteresion)?
This paper addresses some typically unaddressed aspects of our analyses and representations of Greek coin circulation. What do the dots and the lines connecting them on our maps and graphs represent? To answer this question, we need to consider matters of scale, whether, for example, we seek to understand actions and networks at micro (individual) or macro (institutional) levels. We need to define the types of coin-moving networks we hope to identify (e.g., social, political, or economic), where they are situated (e.g., below or beyond the polis), and how they relate to one another. We also need to formulate an understanding of how ancient monetary systems (e.g., closed vs. open) interacted with and shaped different types of networks. And finally, we need to find ways to represent these varied aspects of coin circulation in all of their complexities beyond the two-dimensional map.
‘For let none of them have currency or weights or measures of their own; instead let them use ours.’ (Dio 52.30.9) This is how in the third century AD Cassius Dio described Maecenas supposedly advising Augustus to impose the Roman monetary system all over the Empire.
That statement seems natural to us: modern imperialism implies the suppression of most local things—starting with the currency. This is how Reales, then Francs, Pounds Sterling and Dollars have expanded all over the Earth. Similarly, the Attic drachm’s fortune followed the expansion of Athens, then Alexander’s conquests. However, Rome behaved differently. The denarius did not quite follow its armies. On the contrary, the Attic drachm prospered under Roman rule, at least for some time. The Macedonian districts, Thasos, Maroneia, possibly Dyrrhachium and Apollonia, and even Athens, minted for Rome for a century or so. Further east, various provincial drachms were maintained under Roman administration during the Empire’s first three centuries, starting with Pergamum, Ephesus, Alexandria and Antioch—another tribute to Rome's typical pragmatism.
It is during the 1st century BCE that Roman silver coinage became dominant in the Balkans proper. At that point, the Attic drachm and the denarius became synonymous and would remain so during the Empire, whether in epigraphic, legal, accounting, metrological or literary sources.
This convergence was not without difficulty, namely, the denarius was lighter than its counterpart. Typically, 2nd century BCE denarii followed a 1/84th Roman lb. weight standard, around 3.7 g, while the contemporary Attic tetradrachms implied a drachm standard above 4.1 g. Traditionally, it has been assumed that Rome benefitted from this weight difference. Holders of Greek silver coins of Attic standard would have been forced to accept a loss of at least 10% of their commodity value in order to obtain Roman coins. One would then expect the heavier coins to be preferentially hoarded, which in fact did not occur. Furthermore, how are we to understand Roman authorities maintaining production of large numbers of silver coins following the heavier Attic standard if they had traded on par with their lighter Roman counterparts? “I realize that the rates of exchange were probably a good deal more complex before the denarius forced the varied drachms out of circulation,” wrote J. Kroll.
Indeed, the Greek world had lived with multiple weight standards for a long time –Aeginetic, reduced Aeginetic, symmachic, plinthophoric, cistophoric, etc. Merchants, bankers, temples, soldiers, and states had developed well-established practices for converting one coinage into another. In that sense, the denarius was just another drachm when it became dominant in the mid-1st century BCE.
Influenced by our modern experience, we believe that there was a revolution—the denarius, the conqueror’s currency, subjugating the drachm. However, for the locals, it meant business as usual—or almost.
Even if we limit ourselves to the Archaic period of Greek coin hoards, we find a large and complex set of data. We have hoards, coins, mints, weights, materials, currencies, and more. Because our research questions require us to recombine and analyze the data from various perspectives, at various levels of granularity, we must break down the data into minimal meaningful parts, like making change from paper money. The OCHRE database environment serves as the research environment for the CRESCAT Hoard Analysis Research Project, as well as many other archaeology and philology project in Chicago and around the world. OCHRE’s item-based approach makes this type of research possible. In this presentation, we step back to take in a broad perspective of the database environment and how it is applied to the Greek coin hoard project and other research projects.OCHRE Coin Hoard App
Using network analysis, this paper will explore the main characteristics of coinage circulation in the ancient Mediterranean from the end of the Archaic period to the Macedonian conquest. The analysis reveals two main results. Firstly, the pattern of coinage circulation indicates a high level of connectivity across the Greek world for the entire period under examination. Secondly, while still highly connected, patterns of connectivity in the fourth century hint at a world more fragmented than in the early fifth century. A more fine-grained analysis of this shift also reveals the existence of regional clusters that seem to testify to both closed currency systems as well as deliberate policies of regional preferences undergirding these closed systems.
Despite the complexity of Phoenician numismatic evidence and known differences in the economic and political ties of individual Phoenician city-states, coinage circulation has typically been employed to speak about the "Phoenician" economy in general. Furthermore, to the extent that such differences have been illustrated using numismatic evidence, analysis has usually been focused on the differential distribution of only Phoenician coins. This study will attempt to illustrate a fuller picture of Phoenician city-state economic connectivity by including the network of co-circulating Greek and Persian coins from relevant hoards in the entire Mediterranean.
This paper will examine the hoard record from the beginning of silver coinage until the last silver issues in Asia Minor. It will seek to show how a combination of hoard and weight-standard analysis can allow us to trace patterns of connectivity across the longue durée in western Asia Minor.
The So-Called Athenian Coinage Decree, for which dates from the 440s or the 420s to around 415 have been proposed, has been a subject of debate for more than a century. Bergk, in the Teubner edition of 1857, emended the lines 1040-41 of Aristophanes’ Birds (produced in 414) from ψηφίσμασι to νομίσμασι. On the basis of this emendation Wilamowitz proposed that this alluded to a decree imposing Athenian coinage on the cities of the empire. When fragments of the decree began to be discovered, editors were influenced by Wilamowitz’s proposal. The decree has since then caused much discussion with regard to its date and contents. It has been almost unanimously believed that the decree prohibited the allies’ coinages and imposed Athenian coinage on all transactions within the empire. The imperial tone of the decree has also been stressed and support for the hypothesis that the decree imposed a ban on minting within the Empire was found in numismatics. Numismatic scholarship felt the need to associate the decree with presumed breaks in coin production, thus facilitating the task of dating different periods and finding firm termini ante quem. However, it is difficult to find numismatic support for a break in various coinages during the last decades of the fifth century BC. Breaks of coin production during this period remain highly speculative and are almost always based on preconceived ideas about the impact of the decree on the production of different mints.
With this in mind, we need to turn to the decree and examine all the main clauses, as these are reconstructed from the texts of the different fragments. Based on the composite text of David Lewis and additional evidence from the newly found Aphytis fragment, we have fourteen clauses. Of these, the first and last are so fragmentary that any restorations are inevitably speculative. From the clauses that survive, we will attempt a new reading and interpretation, which clearly breaks with all previous theories, but remains close to the evidence and the text. Altogether, literary, numismatic and hoard evidence will be taken into consideration.
Alexander and his immediate successors issued gold coins in 31 mints before 280 BC. Many of those mints had never struck in this metal before the Macedonian conquest and few continued striking gold after the beginning of the 3rd century BC. The distinctiveness of these gold issues is associated with specific timing and circulation patterns which this paper will aim to delineate.
The excavations on the island of Delos have provided a large body of numismatic data that strangely enough does not fit the inscriptional evidence (i.e. the hundreds of accounts recorded on stone, which provide a great deal of information about coin circulation). Exploiting the new possibilities of mapping offered by the Web GIS of Delos created by the French School of Archaeology in Athens, as well as historical analysis of the epigraphic data, this paper will propose a new approach to the investigation into the role of the Delian emporion during the Hellenistic period, with special emphasis on the impact of the Roman takeover.
Several new coinages were issued as a consequence of Alexander’s conquests, the dismemberment of his Empire and the consequent birth of Hellenistic kingdoms. These royal coinages constituted the main currency circulating for three centuries in the Eastern Mediterranean. Analysis of the numerous coin hoards recorded for this period sometimes highlights the disappearance of coinages which were well-attested before. Examples of this can be seen in the Alexanders minted between the end of the third century and the very first decades of the second century, as well as in tetradrachms of both Ptolemy I and Ptolemy II in the second quarter of the second century. Our presentation aims to discuss the melting down of coins to mint new issues. It will be based on analysis of the elemental composition of coins and archaeometallurgical experiments to determine how the melting down and refining of metals impacts their composition. This will be considered within the broader context of numismatic and historical evidence.
The study of hoard evidence from Provincia Asia seems to demonstrate that late cistophori circulated unmixed, with some exceptions, which could be mainly explained with disturbances caused by wars. However, the monetary system of this province could not be defined as a ‘closed currency system’ solely based on the cistophorus, as autonomous silver issues were still being minted and Athenian New Style tetradrachms occasionally occur in hoards. As far as production is concerned, hoard analysis and current die studies show that Provincia Asia issued cistophori at a rate comparable to Attalid times. However, the contemporary abrupt decrease in autonomous silver issues suggests an overall silver coinage production amounting to one half of the Attalid one. This apparent inopia nummorum could possibly explain the financial difficulties lamented by the Asian cities and the support offered by several of them to Mithridates VI.