Why is provincial coinage interesting?

Coin type, volume 4, temp. № 725, minted in Cyzicus, depicting Commodus as Roman Heracles / hero Kyzikos with horse.


Different people will find different things interesting. Probably most people are interested in the designs on the coins, such as the portraits of emperors or rare members of the imperial family, like Vespasian the Younger, the young cousin of the emperor Domitian whom he adopted as his heir, or Antinous, the gay partner of the emperor Hadrian

The iconography and inscriptions of the provincial coins are full of wider interest:

  • The extent to which coinage was used to define and display identity is of considerable significance.
  • The inscriptions on the coinage include imperial names and titles, the names of imperial officials and members of the local elites, and the magistracies they held.
  • The coins are a vital source for relationships between cities, both of rivalry and of ‘alliances’.
  • The iconography is immensely rich for topics ranging from mythology and religion to the representation of the emperor.
  • The provincial coinage is also a vital source for the study of monetization in the Roman world.

Collectors are drawn to the provincial coinage, because new sorts of coin are always turning up, unlike the imperial coins, where finding a new one is a very rare event.