Coin Design: Masterly Tool or False Representation?
Presented by Mike Saxby
The Whitting Room (Arts 436), University of Birmingham
5:15 PM 11th February 2015
It can be argued that in simple form a disc of metal marked with a value, and possibly marked with its place of origin, can perform a basic function as money. If a design and inscription featuring the ruler are added, then a second function is added also: that of the invocation of the authority of the ruler. The idea that coins can provide publicity for a ruler can operate at several levels, as may be seen at least as early as Roman coins. Thus Mattingly suggested that Roman coins provided not simply publicity, but could be considered a form of propaganda. Subsequent discussion of the concept of propaganda on coins has been influenced by experience of propaganda in the twentieth century; such experience has tended to attach more negative connotations to the term ‘propaganda’ when applied to coin design. However Byzantine numismatists have been more willing to refer to ‘propaganda’ in coin design than have some other numismatists.
This presentation looks at examples of the invocation of imperial authority on Byzantine coins and also considers the caution of some numismatists in relation to propaganda.