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1. Coins as History
About this Lecture
In this module, we introduce the idea of coins as historical source—what can coins actually tell us about the past? can we trust their evidence? In particular, we introduce some of the basic terminology of numismatics—the concept of the obverse and reverse—as well as thinking about the trustworthiness of numismatic evidence—was Augustus really as youthful as he looked on all his coins? Did Vitellius really command the ‘loyalty of the Praetorians’?
In this course, Professor Kevin Butcher (University of Warwick) looks at the reign of Augustus through the evidence of coins. The first part of course provides a general introduction to numismatics—what do coins tell us about the past?—as well as the Roman monetary system—who produced coins in Ancient Rome? what were they made of? what denominations were there?
In the second half of the course, we focus on the Emperor Augustus, thinking in particular about how he uses coinage to present a certain image of himself to the Roman people—the rightful son and heir of Julius Caesar, the man who saved the Republic, the recipient of several civic honours, the man who rebuilt Rome, and so on. We also think about other people that appear Augustus’ coins—his colleague and later son-in-law, Marcus Agrippa, and his potential successors, Gaius and Lucius Caesar, and Tiberius.
Professor Kevin Butcher graduated from the University of Bristol in 1983, and subsequently went on to study for a Ph.D at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, in the field of Roman numismatics. His first book, Roman Provincial Coins, was published in 1988; in the same year he joined the staff of the Department of Coins and Medals at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge. After a stint as a Leverhulme Research Fellow he moved to Beirut, Lebanon, to take up a position as Associate Professor in the Department of History and Archaeology at the American University of Beirut. Professor Kevin Butcher was closely involved in the international rescue excavations of the Beirut Central District. In 2002 he became a full Professor, and joined Warwick in 2007, after a term as a Getty Villa Visiting Scholar in Los Angeles, California.
Prof. Butcher’s research interests include Greek and Roman coinage, particularly the civic and provincial coinages of the Roman empire; and the Hellenistic and Roman Near East, particularly coastal Syria and Lebanon. He is currently completing work on a three-year AHRC-funded project in collaboration with Dr. Matthew Ponting of the University of Liverpool, investigating the metallurgy of Roman imperial and provincial silver coinages from Nero to Commodus, and will shortly begin work on the Cambridge Handbook to Roman Coinage. He is also interested in the application of social theories in archaeology, particularly with regard to material culture and the ancient economy. He has worked on several excavation projects in the Mediterranean and published the coin finds from several major ancient sites, including Nicopolis ad Istrum in Bulgaria and Beirut in Lebanon.
Cite this Lecture
Butcher, K. (2018, August 15). Imperial Image: Coinage - Coins as History [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/augustus-through-coins/coins-as-history
Butcher, Kevin. "Imperial Image: Coinage – Coins as History." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018, https://www.massolit.io/courses/augustus-through-coins/coins-as-history