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Publications on Third Century numismatics



 ♦ Coins and Continuity in the Dutch River area at the end of the third century AD
(European Journal of Archaeology 6/1 2003)

Abstract:  The coin series from sites in the Dutch River area show a break during the last three decades of the third century and the first decade of the fourth century AD. Coins minted for Aurelian and his successors to the throne up to Constantine I are very scarce for all sites. The break has been interpreted to indicate the end of occupation of castella and settlements around AD 275. When the site finds from the Dutch River area are presented in the form of an adapted histogram however, the coin series show a striking similarity to site finds from Roman Britain, where on the whole continuity was safeguarded during the third century. The article argues that this gap in the coin series – detectable all over the western part of the Roman Empire – is caused by the special character of coin circulation during this period in the west and does not indicate the end of activities on the site that provided the coins. Coin finds even seem to suggest continuity during this period for a number of sites in the Dutch River area.


 ♦ 'Radiate Copies' : Late third century emergency coins
(Revue Belge de Numismatique et de Sigillographie CLI - 2005)

Abstract: Site finds and coin hoards from northern France, Belgium, the Rhine area and Britain usually include a large number of late third century radiate copies (‘barbarous radiates’). The radiate copies were produced mainly between 274 and 282 AD to meet a coin shortage, setting in after the end of the autonomous Gallic Empire in 274 AD. The radiate copies are generally thought to have come from a local, small scale, private production, merely tolerated by the authorities. Nevertheless, hoards and site finds show that the copies were a fully accepted part of general circulation for more than a decade. Any private production would have resulted in counterfeit coins, and the issuer obtains a profit, injuring the receiver and the government. The coin shortage in the former Gallic Empire however called for emergency coinage, and the local authorities would have taken the initiative to carry out the actual production. Given the situation in the former Gallic Empire, we conclude that the Roman army produced the radiate copies in the north-western part of this area. The army circulated the copies in the form of soldiers’ pay.


 ♦ Late Roman coin hoards in the West: trash or treasure?

(Revue Belge de Numismatique et de Sigillographie CLIII - 2007)

Abstract: The late third century AD yielded many Roman coin hoards in the west, and especially the hoards closing after 274 AD stand out. Traditionally, these hoards have been linked to raids and invasions during this period: the ‘troubles hypothesis’. This hypothesis presents a problem: numerous hoards are found in Britain, an area not suffering from invasions at the time. The ‘troubles’ hypothesis fails to explain the accumulation of these hoards and their geographical distribution. An alternative explanation, the ‘monetary’ hypothesis, stating that the hoarded coins were abandoned because they had been demonetized or had otherwise lost their value is also tested and rejected. Coins similar to those hoarded circulated until the beginning of the fourth century AD. The present survey proposes that the hyperinflation of the period was the main cause of the high number of hoards. The huge number of low value coins in circulation meant that more individuals had to conceal more units of coins more often. Leaving aside all possible external causes for non-recovery (invasions, war, plague etc) a certain more or less fixed percentage of non-recovery due to unexpected natural death, forgetfulness etc should always be expected. The ‘inflation hypothesis’ proposed in this survey seems to be a more probable explanation of the post-274 AD peak of hoards than the ‘monetary’ and ‘troubles’ hypotheses discussed here.

 Demonetization of Roman coins: Saloninus Augustus, a case study. 
(Published on this website May 11, 2013)


Abstract: Saloninus, the emperor Gallienus’ son and Caesar in residence in Cologne, was captured and put to death after a siege by troops of the rebellious governor Postumus in 260 AD. The ancient written sources deal with the episode without mentioning the fact that Saloninus took the title of Augustus during the siege. However, a coin issue in two metals bears witness to this new rank. The Augustus title was not conferred by Gallienus to Saloninus, but adopted by him as an unplanned localized reaction to the rebellion and siege. The title was not confirmed by written sources or coins from other mints. In view of the small number of surviving coins, this issue was thought to be demonetization and melted down by Postumus after the siege. However, demonetization is a modern concept which should not be projected into antiquity without further analyses. Demonetization of ancient coins was a difficult and complex process, as has been demonstrated before. After we determined the number of obverse dies of the Saloninus Augustus issue, based on a close die study, we calculated the original size and the survival rate of the issue, which closely conforms to the average survival rates established in a diachronic study. The survival rate does not indicate demonetization. When the incidence of Saloninus Augustus coins in hoards is reviewed, we also conclude that the demonetization hypothesis is less probable and should be rejected.