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Roman Coins and Long-Distance Movement. East to West

Benjamin Hellings

Yale University

The production of Roman Imperial Coinage at a number of mints throughout the Empire provides an excellent opportunity to investigate the extent to which coinage might have moved across the Empire. Roman Provincial Coinage, local coinage that was primarily restricted to Eastern mints and users, also provides a useful lens to assess long-distance connections between remote areas of the Empire and beyond (Howgego 1994). The similarity and differences of coin find profiles between various provinces have been used to make cases arguing for an integrated or regionalized economic system of the Empire (Duncan-Jones 1994; Hopkins 1980; Howgego 1992).

This paper presents several case studies where Roman coins struck in the East travelled across the Roman Empire to the Roman northwest – to Britain and the Germanic provinces as well as to barbaricum (e.g. Howgego 1996; Duncan-Jones 2001; Hellings 2016). Economic and non-economic explanations for the connections between East and West, as demonstrated through coin finds, are sought and explored in the paper. Each case study points towards a different facet of long-distance movement of coins and the various ways that coins stuck in the Eastern half of the Empire can and cannot elucidate long-distance exchange networks.

The economic explanations put forward argue that non-archaeological evidence, such as services and manpower, formed part of this long-distance exchange network and is an important feature often ignored. It will tentatively be argued that, during particular periods in time, ancient cultural considerations and attitudes may also have affected the movement of coins, thereby placing limits the ability of numismatic evidence to answer some of the questions addressed by the panel.

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Coins and Trade

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