Communicating through coins

Most written records from the ancient world have been lost or destroyed.

As coins are mass produced and durable, they survive where other evidence may not. Indeed, sometimes they are the only kind of evidence we have.

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Silver Indian Tetradrachm issued in the names of Agathocleia and Strato
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    Silver Indian Tetradrachm of Agathocleia and Strato, Gandhara, 130 BC - AD 100 

    Coins as evidence...

    Occasionally coins are the only evidence that survives of the existence of particular rulers. From 150-20BC there are a total of 22 kings and two queens from Gandhara (modern Pakistan) and Northwest India of which very little is known. The coins are our only means of creating a possible chronology.

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    Gold coin of Anarevito and Eppillus, 10 BC – 10 AD, Iron Age 

    The lost king of Kent...

    The discovery of just one coin can sometimes change our historical understanding and shed light on a ruler who had been forgotten for two thousand years. This is perfectly illustrated by the discovery of a gold stater by a metal detectorist in Dover in 2010.

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    Silver coin of Vadfradad I, Persis, 4th century BC 

    The continuation of tradition...

    Even after the collapse of the Achaemenid Empire in 331 BC coins allowed Persian and Sasanian rulers to continue the ancient Achaemenid practice of showing royal and religious messages on their coins. Whilst the coins followed Greek examples, a simple device such as a distinctive hat allowed the continuation of an iconographic tradition.

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    Gold aurei of Nero, Roman, mid-1st century AD 

    The changing face of Nero...

    During the Roman Empire portraits of the emperor or members of his family became common. Coins were used to enable rulers to present a particular image of themselves, even if to modern eyes, these sometimes appear unflattering.