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Numismatics

17:27, Wed 18 Mar 2009

Kevin Butcher and Stan Ireland of Warwick’s Classics department discuss the fascinating story of money in the classical world.

Money makes the world go round. From buying bread to waging war, you always need money. But money did not always exist. In the Classical world we can witness the birth of the money economy. Scholars who actually deal with ancient coins are called numismatists. Their discipline tells us a lot about ancient societies and how they worked in practical terms. Some aspects seem rather strange: to buy cabbage, you needed first needed minuscule coins, because the face value still corresponded to the value of the metal. Later on, governments resorted to ‘quantitative easing’ in times of troubles just as they do today; in other words: they printed money. But when and why did the Greeks start using coins? Could one easily pay in Alexandria and Athens with the same currency? And did the images of emperors in people’s pockets improve their popularity?

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