Coins Linked to Historical Events

Nominations of collectors
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This page is a result of a poll taken on the Greek and Moneta coin lists. List members were asked to nominate coins of antiquity with a connection to a major historical event. These are the results. Although it may be said that all coins are linked to a historical event or person, these have struck the collectors as extra special.

John Thomas comments on this Republican denarius struck in 75 BC. by Farsuleius Mensor. 'This issue commemorates the passage of the Lex Julia in 90 B.C. This law gave citizenship to all Italians and played a major role during the "Social Wars" of this period. Julius Caesar was only 10 years old when the Lex Julia was passed, but he was 25 when this coin was struck. It may have presented a strong reaffirmation for his political views in the years to come. The obverse has the bust of Libertas with the Cap of Liberty behind. The reverse has a Roman soldier assisting a citizen onto his chariot. This is Roman coinage propaganda at its best. Plus !!!! this was a special issue by the consent of the Senate. (S.C.) on the obverse.

Kavan at sent this South Indian King Rajaraja Chola [985-1014] gold stater (Kahavanu). These were the prototype to the 'Standing and seated King' series associated with Lanka for the next 500 years. Rajaraja Chola invaded Lanka in 990 AD and conquered the northern half. One of the great figures in Indian/Sri Lankan history, Rajaraja constructed the Great Bragtheeswarar Temple at Thanjavur, his capital, remembering the pious religious works of his ancestor Parantaka I. The temple is a stupendous monument of the religious instinct of the sovereign. The king was ardent devotee of Lord Siva, yet was highly tolerant in matters of religion.

It is an AE3 of Constantine the Great, with a reverse showing a vexillum with three dots, topped by a Chi-Rho, impaling a serpent. The popular theory on this coin is the reverse shows the Christian triumph of Constantine and his sons (the three dots) vanquishing Licinius, represented by a serpent, being an evil sign from a Christian standpoint. There is some speculation as to whether or not that is the correct interpretation, but it is plausible and would have been a big propaganda point.

Dave Garstang nominated this unassuming little Judaean bronze coin, minted in 130 BCE, and designated H. 451: Background: In 168 BCE, the Seleukid king Antiochos IV invaded Jerusalem, rededicated the Jewish Temple to Zeus, and forced the Jews to worship the Greek gods. But a group called the Maccabees fought on, dislodging the Seleukids in 165 BCE. This is the event celebrated in the Jewish holiday Chanukka, and there's an implied, '... and they lived happily ever after'. So what's this little coin, minted 35 years later in Jerusalem, bearing the Greek legend, "Of King Antiochos, Benefactor"??? Surprisingly few people know of the brief "alliance" between Antiochos VII and Jewish High Priest John Hyrcanus I in 130 BCE, yet it was all tied into the disastrous Parthian campaign that pretty much broke the back of the Seleukid empire. It completely re-shaped the power dynamics of the region, leading to nearly a century of Judaean self-rule, and incidentally opening the door for the Romans in the region

This is my submission. The history of Armenia is rife with war and persecution. Geographically and politically, their region sits at the confluence of many great powers. Under Tigranes, Armenia reached its zenith of power and influence and became, albeit briefly, the strongest state in the Roman east. Extensive territories were taken from the kingdom of Parthia in Iran, which was compelled to sign a treaty of alliance. Iberia [modern Georgia] and Atropatene had already accepted Tigranes' suzerainty when the Syrians, tired of anarchy, offered him their crown [83 BC]. Tigranes was finally defeated by an alliance ofPompey the Great and Tigranes' son in 66 BC. He was nevertheless allowed to rule as a Roman vassal for 10 more years [While his son was taken to Rome as a prisoner and later killed]. This coin illustrates the invasion and conquest of the Seleukid empire with the famous Tyche of Antioch reverse that was later to grace many Roman provincial coins minted in Antioch. Photo courtesy of CNG.

As an alternative to the Odoaker-half siliqua [The Germanic ruler who sent the last Roman Emperor into exile in 476 AD] Dirk Faltin nominates another coin of similar significance: a solidus of the Frankish king Theodebert from the mints of Cologne and Metz. Theodebert was the first Germanic king to put his full name on gold coins in place of that of the Roman Emperor [others had used monograms]. The statement of this action was clear, Theodebert [died 548 AD] claimed the same status as an Emperor, which he made clear in a letter to Justinian. In this sense, the coin symbolises the fact, that Rome would never again make a claim on the former provinces in Gaul and Germania.

In Daniel "Lord" Best's and Mike Braunlin's opinion the most historically significant coins are the silver stavraton minted by Constantine XI during the final siege of Constantinople. Coins minted during the fall of the second greatest city and one of the most significant empires the world has ever seen.

: In contrast or to supplement the coin above, Scott Uhrick believes that the coins of the founding of Constantinople should rank high. 'The history of Europe and the Middle East was forever altered by the movement of the center of government to this vital crossroads. Think of the mighty tribes and empires which were to batter themselves to ruin against the walls of Constantinople. Islam was kept out of the center of Europe for what, 800 years? Bulgars, Goths, Huns, Sassanians - all saw their tide flow up to her walls, all ebbed away in defeat'. Photo on right courtesy of CNG

Jan de Veen proposes the famous Brutus denarius Obv: BRVT IMP L PLAET CEST, Brutus, bare head right. Rev: EID MAR, pileus (cap of Liberty) between two daggers. Struck at Western Asia Minor or Macedonia, summer/autumn 42 B.C. Quoting Sear: 'Probably the most celebrated of all the coin types of ancient Rome, this denarius combines the only attested portrait of Brutus on the silver coinage with a reverse which is an unabashed celebration of the very act of tyrannicide' [Caesar's murder on the Ides of march, 44 B.C.] This coin gets a second nomination from Robert Kokotailo - and a third from Carl Zipfel!

Reid Goldsborough suggests that the first coin minted in the Western world [pre-Kroisos Lydian electrum coin] certainly ranks high in historical significance.

And, From Thom Bray: 'Besides the EID MAR (which few of us can afford), my vote for most historically significant coin is the AEGYPTO CAPTA denarius of Augustus. [Octavian, Sear1564, RIC 275b.] This coin commemorates the defeat of Marc Antony and Cleopatra at Actium, arguably the most important battle in Roman history. It certainly changed the world, and unlike the EID MAR [a great coin] some of us can afford this one.'

Howard Cole believes the most historically significant coins were the tetradrachms of Alexander the Great. They have set the style of coinage up to the present day. One side shows a bust in profile of either a ruler or other important person in the culture minting the coin and the other side shows a national symbol. I know that the portrait on Alexander's coins was a representation of Hercules, but later successors of Alexander copied his design and put their portraits on it. Also these tetradrachms and drachms became a world-wide trade coin for hundreds of years. Yes, the Athenian Owl was an earlier trade coin, but it was not as wide-spread as Alexander's coins. You might say Alexander's coins were the first widely accepted currency in the world, sort of like the US dollar today.

Jim Gossett gives a great rationale for the historical importance of a coin of the first Jewish revolt. 'Without the first Jewish revolt against Rome, the Jerusalem Temple might not have been destroyed. Destruction of the temple and its aftermath led to the preeminence of rabbinical schools and changed the way that Judaism was practiced thereafter. Destruction of the Temple in particular and Jerusalem in general, led to a waning of the importance of Jerusalem to early Christianity, too -- paving the way for the dominance of Pauline doctrine over that of the Judaeo-Christians of Jerusalem. The first Jewish revolt shaped Christianity as much as it shaped Judaism.' image courtesy of Atlantis, Ltd.

David Pendor continues with the religious theme with the 30 pieces of silver [Shekels] paid to Judas for betraying Jesus. The impact they had on Christianity and the impact Christianity had on the world was great. Photo courtesy of CNG.

Coin photos at top of page courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group [CNG]

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