Oct 18, 2019

Coins, Politics, and History

Christopher Howgego makes the following comment about Grecian coins but the same would apply to biblical period coinage as well.
"Coins cannot compare with literary sources in revealing the complexity of intentions and shifting sands of allegiance which make up political life, but they do have several advantages for the historian. First, in periods of autocracy they generally present the official line, and hence provide an important supplement to an often meagre body of surviving official literature and monuments. Second, while literary sources may illuminate brilliantly short periods or episodes, coins offer a much more continuous chronological and geographical coverage. Third, for many periods we may be confident that we have a comparatively complete knowledge of the typology of the coins, in sharp contrast to the low and uneven survival rate of literary sources. Finally, coins are a strictly contemporary source, lacking the disadvantages (and advantages) of the element of retrospect characteristic, for example, of historical writing."
Christopher Howgego, Ancient History from Coins (London: Routledge, 1995), 62.

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