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Mark Lehman's NJCL Lecture Print E-mail
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Mark Lehman's NJCL Lecture
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Now of course, some states copied the designs of more established coinages so that their coins could ride on the coattails of existing reputations in international trade.    This is where Rome comes into the picture, both chronologically and stylistically, as their power and influence in the Hellenistic world grew.

This picture shows how coins looked when the Romans were just getting started, right after Alexander the Great "conquered" - actually connected-the-dots around the known world - despite their high opinion of themselves the early Romans at this time, by and large, were still pretty much living in mud huts and you can see in their early coins how they crudely tried to imitate the pinnacle of Hellenistic culture with which they were beginning to trade.  Note how much the early Roman denarius looks like a knock-off of the stater of Corinth - how the Janiform As is about the same size as that "paperweight" bronze of one of the Ptolemies. 

8. Golden Age-late Republican, Early Empire through Antonines
Roman Coins
Roman Coins

By the time of the "Pax Romana" say, late-middle of the first century BC to the middle of the third century AD or thereabouts, and with the notable exception of Parthia - modern Iraq and Iran, approximately - which continued to issue a Hellenistic-style regal coinage - and I'll talk more about that eastern empire when we get to Valerian and Gallienus, a little later -

                        PAUSE FOR EMPHASIS

all significant areas of the Classical World were under Roman rule or influence by the reign of Augustus Caesar.  

You can see how far Rome had come in sophistication of execution by the time the Republic was becoming Empire.  The portraiture was trending towards photo-realistic and the Romans were really working with an idea - originally the Greeks' idea for "advertising" the wares or power of individual city-states- the Romans were nothing if not great adaptors of what worked well! - the Romans were working the idea of using the coin as a sort of "advertisement" for the state - a tiny billboard in your purse - or maybe in your mouth - beginning with proclamation of representative government side-by-side with empire - the "SC" types - and working through an entire pantheon of deities and allegorical personifications to tell the Roman in the street what sorts of virtues the emperor espoused, and by association he should be espousing too.