Meetings take place at 6-7.30pm on the third Tuesday of each month at The Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London WCIH 0AB, except: Tuesday 19th December 2017 and on Tuesday 19th June 2018 at Spink & Son Ltd., 69 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4ET. Meetings are open to all and constitute an annual programme of lectures on a range of topics. Recently, the RNS lecture programme has taken to including student lectures, often showcasing work submitted to the Parkes Weber Prize, to encourage the future generation of numismatists. Below you will find a programme of this year’s talks (also in the sidebar), followed by abstracts for each presentation.
Programme of lectures 2017-2018
Bank of England Museum
|Stories from the City: Bank of England in Literature|
|21 Nov||Tom Hockenhull
|The Currency of Communism|
Presentation of the RNS Medal
University of Tübingen
European silver exports to Syria and a Crusader-Ayyubid condominial mint
|16 Jan||Andrew Woods
York Museums Trust
Money and the Viking Great Army: Interpreting the coinage from Torksey
University of Warwick
University of Warwick
Spent or Saved? The Circulation of Festival Coins Struck for the Eleusinian Mysteries
Token Identities: Discerning the role of leaden tokens in the formation of group identities in the Roman Empire
|Kingship, Court Rituals and Coinage in the Mughal Empire|
|17 Apr||Nick Holmes||
The Iconography of the Coinage of the Valerianic Dynasty (AD 253-268)
|22 May||Sushma Jansari
Sophytes: Reappraisal of an enigmatic ruler and the Sophytes coins
AGM & Summer Party
Andrew Burnett, President
Coinage in Rome and the Roman Provinces V
Tues 17 Oct
Jennifer Adam, Bank of England Museum, Stories from the City: Bank of England in Literature
In September 2017, the Bank of England issued a new £10 note, featuring Austen on the reverse. This presented an ideal opportunity to explore the theme of money in Austen’s work. Her discussions of money are more than drawing room gossip – they provide witty social commentary that captures the social, political and economic reality of her time.
Stories from the City is an exhibition that celebrates the launch of the new £10 note, and explores the Bank of England’s literary connections – from its appearances as a setting, an inspiration, and – as an institution – a kind of character in itself.
Austen is not the first writer to appear on a Bank of England note – the display features the William Shakespeare £20 and artwork from the Charles Dickens £10 note. Dickens had accounts at the Bank of England, and wrote about the institution in both his fiction and journalism. Robert Browning narrowly escaped a career here; Kenneth Grahame, author of the Wind in the Willows, spent his working life as a Bank of England official. Elsewhere in the City, Charles Lamb, PG Wodehouse, and TS Eliot both worked and wrote. Other writers, from Jules Verne to Neal Stephenson, imagine thefts from the Bank; real-life frauds and counterfeiters have also inspired writers to tell their tales. Meanwhile, from Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot, to David Hare and John Lanchester, literature continues to provide an outlet to explore the impacts of financial crises.
These and more will be discussed in a lecture that explains how the Bank of England, its currency, buildings and reputation gained a presence in the literary world as well as that of economics.
Tues 21 Nov
Tom Hockenhull, British Museum, The Currency of Communism
In the century since the Russian Revolution, various pragmatists have attempted to adapt Marxist theory to suit a set of diverse economic and geographic conditions, bringing a form of communism to more than twenty countries around the world. Communism proposes that money is a social construct, and therefore has no role in a utopian society. To date however, no communist state has successfully eliminated money from its economy. Rather, concepts of value and wealth are eroded and distorted, while the national currency becomes just one of several types of exchange, both formal and informal. Coinciding with the British Museum exhibition The Currency of Communism, Tom Hockenhull will discuss various aspects of monetary life under communism, including its function and design.
Tues 19 Dec
Lutz Ilisch, Medallist, European silver exports to Syria and a Crusader-Ayyubid condominial mint
Tues 16 Jan
Andrew Woods, York Museums Trust, Money and the Viking Great Army: Interpreting the coinage from Torksey
Arriving in AD 865, the Viking ‘Great Army’ spent fifteen years campaigning in England. They moved around the various kingdoms, defeating many of the established kings and ultimately settling across much of Eastern England, an area that is often known as the Danelaw. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the movements of the army, noting that each year they made camp in a different place during the winter months. The precise locations of these winter camps have proved elusive but recently metal-detecting has increased their archaeological visibility.
This paper will consider the evidence from one such camp, Torksey in Lincolnshire. In AD 872/3, the Anglo-Saxon chronicle records that the Great Army spent the winter there. The site at Torksey has been extensively metal-detected over many years, producing a huge number and large range of objects which offer an insight into life within a Viking camp. These have been recorded as a part of multi-disciplinary project to better interpret the Great Army phenomenon. Objects have been plotted alongside extensive survey and limited excavation work.
Torksey has produced over 300 early medieval coins, as well as many hundreds of other objects which allow a nuanced understanding of the numismatic material. The types of coinage – a mix of Arabic silver, Northumbrian copper and English pennies – mark the site as unusual. This paper will explore the relationships between these coinages, and how they can be understood within the broader assemblages from the site. It will be argued that they are likely to represent a single phase, a narrow window of intense activity. The manner in which coinage was used within the camp will also be discussed with the importance of exchange, metal-working and consumption assessed. Ultimately, the extent to which a number of different ‘economies’ can be detected at Torksey will be considered, with variety of practice stressed.
Tue 20 Feb, Student speakers
Charlotte Mann, University of Warwick, Spent or Saved? The Circulation of Festival Coins Struck for the Eleusinian Mysteries
The bronze coins produced for visitors to the Eleusinian mysteries between 500-400 BCE constitute a small, but intriguing, subset of Athenian currency. Struck with Eleusinian ritual imagery and the ethnic ‘of Eleusis,’ these coins raise questions concerning deme administration, festival organisation and mint management in Classical Athens that are of interest to historians and numismatists alike.
This study explores the role of Eleusinian festival coins within the ancient Greek economy. What happened to these festival coins when the mysteries were complete? Did they maintain an economic role, entering general circulation, or were they demonetised and discarded upon the festival’s conclusion? Or, alternatively, was the monetary character of festival coins superseded by their sacred associations, causing them to be withdrawn from circulation and saved as momentos or votive offerings to the gods?
This project uses excavation reports, hoard data and museum collections to gather and map the movement of Eleusinian festival coinages throughout the cities and sanctuaries of Greece. The data assembled presents an image of festival currency that contradicts the behaviour expected of low denomination coins. Unlike civic bronze pieces, that are expected to remain within the city of issue, festival bronzes are found in cities far beyond Athens and its territories, proliferating commercial areas and small cash hoards, while being noticeably absent from burial sites, temple inventories and votive deposits. The resulting impression, that Eleusinian festival coins maintained an economic, rather than a sacred or commemorative character, offers new insights into the use of small denomination currency and the ‘tokenality’ of ancient coins.
Denise Wilding, University of Warwick, Token Identities: Discerning the role of leaden tokens in the formation of group identities in the Roman Empire
Previous studies on the leaden tokens of the Roman Empire have been unable to reach a consensus as to their purpose, and no scholarship has focused on the role that they played in the everyday lives and identities of past communities. Studies undertaken by Rostovtzeff (1903), Milne (1908, 1914, 1922, 1930 and 1935) Thornton (1976) and Mitchiner (1984) have catalogued certain tokens, or focused on discerning their use through their imagery. Previous work has not, however, considered lead tokens from across the Empire in light of their archaeological contexts in order to investigate their purpose, or theorised their potential for mediating social identities.
This paper will draw on ongoing research to address this lacuna by contextualising the role played by tokens through analysis of their findspots and archaeological contexts. A selection of provinces from across the Empire shall form case studies in order to discern the extent to which their distribution across a variety of different contexts (temples, houses, rubbish dumps, baths, stray finds) can inform us as to their purpose. Through this, consideration will be given to the variation in their contexts of deposition in different provinces of the Roman Empire, and the implications this has for discerning their use.
This paper will also outline the potential for ascertaining how the tokens were perceived by those in the communities who used them, and the extent to which they were tied to group and civic identities both through their use and their iconography. For example, the imagery depicted on leaden tokens is diverse, and varies depending on the place of origin, thereby providing scope for investigation into the link between material culture and collective identities.
Tue 20 Mar
Shailendra Bhandhare, Title tbc
Tue 17 Apr
Nick Holmes, The Iconography of the Coinage of the Valerianic Dynasty (AD 253-268)
The principates of Valerian I and Gallienus have been described as among the most disastrous in Roman imperial history, and Gallienus in particular has been unjustly maligned by both ancient and modern historians. More recent studies have attempted to redress the balance by demonstrating that his 15-year reign was remarkably successful in military terms given the constant threats from with the imperial boundaries as well from external enemies. Less frequently mentioned are the innovations in coin design which took place during this period, reflecting the images which the imperial family wished to disseminate across the empire of themselves and their policies and achievements.
The first part of this study concentrates on portraiture, in particular on the coins of Gallienus, who had himself represented in numerous guises rarely or never previously seen on issues from central imperial (as opposed to provincial) mints. These portraits – military, consular, heroic, etc. – were intended to reinforce the emperor’s claim to the qualities required to rule the empire during the troubled times in which it found itself.
Reverse designs were frequently intended to contribute to the claims of the Valerianic dynasty to be the founders of a new ‘Golden Age’ for Rome. Clearly not all of them can be studied in the course of a single talk, and those themes which have been selected are those which are associated in particular with the coins of these emperors and which contain substantial number of innovative types to illustrate these themes. Unsurprisingly many of these are military in nature, not only highlighting victories achieved but acknowledging and encouraging the support of military units, on which the emperors relied for the continuation of their rule and even of their lives. Adherence to religious observance is emphasised by the sheer numbers of different deities from whom support was sought and the different ways in which they were represented on coins. Finally the frequently misunderstood concept of Virtus is discussed, along with the many ways in which these emperors attempted through coinage to convince their subjects that they possessed that quality.
As the various aspects of the coinage of the Valerianic emperors are studied, mention also has to be made of what can only be described in modern terms as a ‘propaganda war’ by means of coinage being fought between Gallienus and the Gallic emperor Postumus in the 260s AD. Similar themes can be found in the coin designs of the two emperors, as each appears to have tried to match or exceed the claims of the other to be the most effective ruler and defender of the empire.
Tue 22 May
Sushma Jansari, British Museum, Sophytes: Reappraisal of an enigmatic ruler and the Sophytes coins
Classical sources mention Alexander the Great’s dealings with local rulers in the Punjab including one named Sophytes. Intriguingly, Greek coins minted with the non-Greek name ‘Sophytes’ are found in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. These coins belong to the period between Alexander’s departure from the Punjab in c.325 BC, and Seleucus’ arrival in the East and transfer of territory to Chandragupta following their encounter and treaty in c.305 BC. 19th and early 20th century scholars argued they were minted by the Sophytes associated with Alexander; while recent scholars seek to break this link and argue for a Bactrian provenance.
Yet all these numismatists share a common methodology: they study or publish individual Sophytes coins or small groups of them, meaning that such studies are inherently limited. Nor is a clear methodology employed to research the coins and the literary sources together: e.g., some scholars infer Sophytes’ age when some of the Sophytes coins were minted based purely on the appearance of the portrait on the coins.
My approach is different. I compile the largest group of Sophytes coins that has hitherto been brought together thereby enabling me to study them in detail and in comparison to other contemporary coins found in the northwest of the subcontinent through, for example: iconography; signatures on the coins; weight standards; and die analysis. The resulting identification of the Sophytes named on the coins is not conclusive, but it is based on a holistic and more methodologically sound approach to the source material and, therefore, yields a stronger conclusion than has been put together thus far.
Tue 19 Jun
Andrew Burnett, President, Coinage in Rome and the Roman Provinces V
Andrew Burnett, President of the Royal Numismatic Society