HIST7116: Coins as Historical Sources: Policy, Crisis and Reform in the Coinage of Roman Empire
Teacher: Dario Calomino
This course presents multiple ways of using coins as a historical source; adopting a thematic and comparative approach, it offers the possibility of exploring the potentialities of numismatic evidence to investigate and comprehend various features of economic, political and social history of the Roman Empire. It has been conceived as a combination of theoretical and practical sessions; in each of the three principal sections of the course a classroom-based seminar (or seminars) is followed up by a meeting at the Study Room of the British Museum Department of Coins and Medals, where students have the opportunity to experience the practical application of the theoretical concepts by handling ancient coins of the Museum Collection.
The course comprises three parts: A. Weeks 1-2: A preliminary basic introduction to classical numismatics focuses on use, function, value, fabric and design of coins (4 hrs). B. Weeks 3-5: The second part of the course examines essential concepts of monetary economy, such as intrinsic value of currency in different metals, prices and cost of living, inflation, devaluation, crisis and reform, within the historical framework of the Roman Empire but with a comparative view to similar aspects and problems in modern society (6 hrs). Adopting a chronological approach, these sessions span from the Augustan Age to the 4th century AD, marking crucial stages in the evolution of the Roman monetary system.. C. Weeks 6-10: The third part of the course hinges on showing how coin issues reflect multiple aspects of social, political and cultural life in ancient Rome and in the provinces (10 hrs). These sessions especially aim to explore the unlimited potentialities of coins to convey messages of public relevance with incomparable forcefulness, helping to enhance our comprehension of the mechanisms of power and of mass communication in the Roman world. Among major themes to be discussed, special interest focuses on the use of coin images and legends as a formidable tool of political propaganda by the emperors and, on the other hand, as a privileged resource for cities and peoples of the Empire to express their cultural identity.
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