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Reconsidering the Impact of the Ptolemaic Closed Monetary Zone outside of Egypt

Paul Keen

While the Ptolemaic monetary system is often held up as the standard closed monetary zone, little attention has been paid to the functioning and ramifications of this system within the closed monetary zone itself. This paper seeks to shed additional light on the integration of the Ptolemaic kingdom outside of Egypt by examining the production and circulation of Ptolemaic-weight coins in Cyprus and Syria-Phoenicia with particular emphasis on the integration of these outside territories into the monetary trends best understood within Egypt itself. As is argued here, Cyprus and Syria-Phoenicia (during the third century) were fully integrated into an overarching monetary system and participated in monetary reforms with respect to both silver and bronze coinage throughout the dynasty. Nonetheless, the circulation patterns of coins produced at the non-Egyptian mints strongly suggest that the individual mints within the closed monetary zone played specific roles in contributing toward to the overall money supply. Whereas the Cypriot mints produced coinage as part of an overarching monetary system linked to Alexandria, patterns of hoard structure in 3rd century Syria-Phoenicia suggest a more localized pattern of circulation in accordance with the battles for Koile Syria during the Syrian Wars of the 3rd century and in close connection with Ptolemaic military presence.

These production and circulation patterns cast important light on the nature of the closed monetary zone and the Ptolemaic state as a whole. As Manning (2008) has argued with regard to Egypt, the imposed use of Ptolemaic coinage may be read as "code" for the Ptolemaic state. Unlike the circulation of Ptolemaic weight coins in conjunction with troop movements in the Aegean and Crete, the use of the Ptolemaic weight standard within Cyprus and Syria-Phoenicia served to integrate these particular territories into what must be considered the core of a greater Ptolemaic state. Furthermore, if the full integration into the Ptolemaic monetary economy suggested by parallel structures in bronze coinage is taken to suggest that the Ptolemies sought to replace the use of silver with bronze in a manner similar to that known in Egypt, the use of the Ptolemaic weight standard may well also be understood as a further sign of the depth of the Ptolemaic desire for, and ability to impose, a uniformity of bureaucratic systems onto even the non- Egyptian areas under their control in a fashion argued by Manning as a key characteristic of the Ptolemaic state in Egypt.

Session/Panel Title

Economic Integration and Disintegration: New Approaches to Standards and Denominations in Ancient Greek Coinage

Session/Paper Number

38.3

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