Ancient and Medieval Numismatics

Alan M. Stahl, Instructor

Fall semester 2014

Thursdays, 1:30-4:20

Firestone Library 1-8-H



The seminar will cover the basic methodology of numismatics and will survey the Western coinage tradition, from its origins through the end of the Middle Ages.  Students will research and report on problems involving coinages related to their own areas of specialization. Most of the seminar meetings will be divided into three parts: student presentations, methodological discussion, and a review of a particular historical coinage.

Each participant will select a coin from the University’s collection and use it as the basis for weekly reports related to the methodological issues under discussion. The coins will be selected in consultation with the instructor to relate to the student’s academic specialization and to present interesting problems of attribution, production or circulation. At about the middle of the semester, each student will develop a research project, perhaps based on the coinage he or she has been reporting on, and will discuss methodological strategies with the class. The final two sessions will be devoted to oral presentations of results of the research, and students taking the seminar for credit will be required to turn in a written research paper.

The methodological topics that will be discussed will include mint study, die study, hoard analysis, archaeological inference from coin finds, and scientific and statistical techniques of numismatic analysis. Specific examples of the use of each methodology will be selected to illustrate the interests of the participants and will be analyzed from a historical as well as numismatic perspective.

The history of ancient and medieval coinage will be surveyed in PowerPoint presentations by the instructor on the origin of coinage in the Greco-Persian world; the development of archaic, classical and Hellenistic Greek coinages; Roman republican, imperial and provincial issues; Byzantine coinage; Islamic coinage; and the coinage of medieval and renaissance Europe. Examples from the University collection will be brought to each session to illustrate the coinage under consideration.

Background reading

Andrew Burnett, Coins (Berkeley, 1991)

Philip Grierson, Numismatics (Oxford, 1975)

C. J. Howgego, Ancient History from Coins (New York, 1995)



Week 1: September 11



   How coins were made and circulated: Grierson, pp. 84-123.


Week 2: September 18

               Student presentations: coin description

   Mint and die study: Burnett, pp. 1-28, Grierson, pp. 140-46, Howgego, pp. 1-38

   Origins of coinage, classical Greek coinage


Week 3: September 25

               Student presentations: mint study and history of scholarship

   Hoard study: Burnett, pp. 51-57, Grierson, pp. 124-36, Howgego, pp. 88-110

   Hellenistic Greek coinage


Week 4: October 2

               Student presentations: hoard report

   Archaeology and numismatics: Burnett, pp. 48-51, Grierson, pp. 136-39

   Roman Republican coinage


Week 5: October 9

               Student presentations: site find

   Metrology: Grierson, pp. 146-61, Howgego, pp. 39-61

   Roman Imperial and Provincial Coinage


Week 6: October 16

               Student presentations: documentary analysis

   Scientific analysis

   Later Roman coinage and early medieval coinage


Week 7: October 23

               Student presentations: paper proposals

   Economics and numismatics: Howgego, pp. 111-40

   Byzantine coinage


Week 8: November 6


Statistical applications: Burnett, pp. 42-47; Keith Hopkins, “Taxes and Trade in the Roman Empire (200 B.C. – A.D. 400), Journal of Roman Studies, 70 (1980), 101-24 [online via JSTOR]; Richard Duncan-Jones, Money and Government in the Roman Empire (Cambridge, 1994), charts on pp. 73, 224, 124; Theodore V. Buttrey, “Calculating ancient coin production,” The Numismatic Chronicle, 153 (1993), 335-51, and 154 (1994), 341-52; and François de Callataÿ, “Calculating ancient coin production,” The Numismatic Chronicle

Numismatics and the Antiquities trade

Islamic Coinage


Week 9: November 13

               Case study: the mint of Venice

   Medieval coinage, Renaissance medals


Week 10: November 20

               Final project workshop


Week 11: December 4

               Student presentations


Week 12: December 11

               Student presentations


Alan M. Stahl

Firestone Library, RBSC

(609) 258-9127