Author Topic: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?  (Read 593 times)

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Offline Matteo

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Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« on: December 26, 2017, 03:01:49 PM »
Hi :)

I've recently read a paper written by Corfù in 2011 "A new thesis for Siglos and Dareikos".

In brief Corfù thinks that the Achaemenid coinage could not be an imperial/regal coinage because it didn't circulate in the whole empire. Also in Lydia there were other coins and not only sigloi and darics. It could be a civic coinage of a mint in the satrapy of Lydia.

Corfù adds other interesting reasons to support this thesis.

What do you think about this theory?

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2018, 11:34:25 AM »
Interesting. It sounds correct to me. The idea of statehood is relatively new. Certainly in Achaemenid times, the concept of borders applied to farmer's fields at best, not to the end of military power. Building an empire was all about paying taxes or tribute, whatever the name. Those taxes could be acquitted in any coin or agreed goods, so the appearance of the coin was irrelevant. Only its precious metal content counted. It is significant in this respect that Athenian colonies did not mint Athenian coins.

Maybe a little anecdote from a much later time will clarify this. The ransom of the French king, Jean II was paid in French coin, freshly minted to pay the ransom. Upon arrival in the Tower, the coins would be destined to be remelted.

If the ruler doesn't care what the coin looks like, the only issues are weight and the profit from minting. The destination of the profit can be arranged with a tax. The weight would probably be determined by trading patterns (ECW may be able to say more about this), which is another argument for looking at coins of the periphery as local issues.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Matteo

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2018, 07:25:24 PM »
Thanks for your answer Peter.

I have to read again the bibliography on Achaemenid coinage because I don't remember who was the first to state sigloi and darics are an imperial coinage.

Another question: is it possible to state that Achaemenid mint in the West was Sardis? If it is, Sardis would be the only city to have struck coins with Persian images. Other Asia Minor cities have continued to struck their own coins.

Sardis was an important city for the Achaemenid in the west part of their empire: for example, from Sardis started (or finished) the Royal Road. So it could be possible that in this important city the autorithy (the emperor? Hard to say...) wanted to issue a new coinage with Persian images. However, the running-kneeling position of the "archer" was more Greek than Persian (see for example the running-kneeling Herakles).

What do you think?



Offline Figleaf

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2018, 10:47:36 AM »
That question is outside my competence. Very much in general, a mint is most logical to be established:
  • Where the ruler is, even if the ruler is on a military campaign. A mint can also support a local power centre.
  • Where a major trade centre (especially a port) is, in order to deal with incoming and outgoing domestic and foreign currency
  • Where a rich copper mine is, because of transportation cost. There are cases of mints near a silver mine, e.g. Melle.
Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Matteo

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2018, 08:30:23 PM »
Very much in general, a mint is most logical to be established:
  • Where the ruler is, even if the ruler is on a military campaign. A mint can also support a local power centre.
  • Where a major trade centre (especially a port) is, in order to deal with incoming and outgoing domestic and foreign currency
  • Where a rich copper mine is, because of transportation cost. There are cases of mints near a silver mine, e.g. Melle.
Peter

Thanks Peter,

this is certainly true certainly true.
After the Persian conquer of Sardis, but for a brief period, Achaemenid have struck coins in the same types of Croesus' coins. Then they began to issue coins with the "archer" and the Sardi's coinage with lion and bull foreparts disappeared.

So I think it could be possible to state that the coins with lion and bull foreparts and the coins with the "archer" were from the same mint: Sardis.




Offline EWC

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2018, 10:02:20 AM »
Hello Matteo, Peter

M > In brief Corfù thinks that the Achaemenid coinage could not be an imperial/regal coinage because it didn't circulate in the whole empire.

From this – it looks to me like the guy is just playing with words.  Its long established that the coins seem officially sanctioned but only circulated in the coin-using Western provinces.

Since the gold darics were much used for paying bribes to Greek political allies, and also, they were struck, not to local Lydian weight standards but to the Sumerian/Babylonian weight standards established before 2000 BC, I would call them imperial issues – but arguing about use of words seems rather a waste of time to me.

While we are on this topic, I will mention a very important connected matter brought up by Kurke.  It is the fact that no written text ever even mentions coins for about the first 150 years of their existence. 

A guess about this is to do with the scandalous sort of popularism coin use was associated with, by the lights of the elite scribal class.  We have no clear histories of this matter, history starts only after coins have been invented.  But there are hints that the social changes associated with first coin use make the French Revolution look like a picnic in the park.

Rob T
« Last Edit: January 09, 2018, 03:33:32 PM by EWC »

Offline Matteo

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2018, 11:49:17 PM »
Dear Robert,

thanks for your answer.

Ps: I'm going to buy the Kurke's book.

Offline EWC

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2018, 01:24:00 PM »
Hello Matteo

There are plenty of matters associated with this that I never got round to reading up myself.  For instance, in writing about the philosophical differences between coin using Athens and non-coin using Sparta, Popper turns to notions of Ionian vs Dorian culture.  In that connection he then points to suggestions that in the hugely influential Ionian cultural centre of Miletus, the entire aristocracy was killed in a rebelion at about the time coin use started.  But I never studied that further to check out the sources.

Rob T

Offline Matteo

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2018, 04:58:07 PM »
Thanks for this "input". Are referring to the book "The Open Society and Its Enemies"?

Offline EWC

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2018, 09:59:22 AM »
Yes.  Popper exposed some of the very shocking things Plato said in the first volume of his "Open Societies" book.  What I found interesting is that we find similar and equally shocking things in the books from the same period in China (Book of Lord Shang) and India (Arthashastra).

Popper failed to make the link from coins to the emergence of open societies in that book, but about 40 years later he gave a talk saying that he had spent those 40 years still wondering where open societies did come from.  He suggested an answer - it was that books became freely available, sold in markets at book stalls.

I think he nearly got it right - but needed to add - the markets themselves appeared because of coins...............

By the way Joe Cribb just put his early very controversial paper on dating India's first coins to the web - link below

Rob T

https://www.academia.edu/33778310/Dating_Indias_earliest_coins_in_South_Asian_Archaeology_1983_Naples_1985_ed._M._Taddei_and_J._Schotsmans_pp.535-54

Offline Matteo

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2018, 12:11:45 PM »
Yes.  Popper exposed some of the very shocking things Plato said in the first volume of his "Open Societies" book.  What I found interesting is that we find similar and equally shocking things in the books from the same period in China (Book of Lord Shang) and India (Arthashastra).

Thanks.

It's not common to read papers on the beginning of coinage with a deep study on social changes in that time. I'd like to discuss with you on this matter, but unfortunately we are on two very different levels...I think to have understood that aristocratics saw coins as a threat to their "economic power". But it's not clear to me if aristoratics are also governants. If yes, who did strike coins?

By the way Joe Cribb just put his early very controversial paper on dating India's first coins to the web - link below

Rob T

https://www.academia.edu/33778310/Dating_Indias_earliest_coins_in_South_Asian_Archaeology_1983_Naples_1985_ed._M._Taddei_and_J._Schotsmans_pp.535-54

I've read it this summer. Why do you think is controversial?
« Last Edit: January 12, 2018, 01:59:30 PM by Matteo »

Offline EWC

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2018, 03:55:34 PM »
M > But it's not clear to me if aristoratics are also governants.

I would say that the Bronze Age type Aristocracies ruled, but they were not governments in the way we would understand the term today – and certainly they tended to oppose coin use

M > If yes, who did strike coins

Well, I said No -  and the people who stuck coins at the beginning seem to be the so called “tyrants”.  They were anti-aristocratic popularitsts.  Think about the structure of the history by Herodotus.  Its supposed to be the first history, and, a history of the Greeks.  Why then does he begin it with an episode outside Greece – in Lydia?  An episode about the overthrow of a (non-Greek) Lydian aristocratic dynasty - by a commoner?

My answer is that really Herodotus is writing a history of “what happened next” - after Lydia created the first modern coin using government…………………………….

M > (on the Cribb paper) I've read it this summer. Why do you think is controversial?

P L Gupta tried to argue the origins of Indian coins were 900 BC.  Hardaker pushed him to retreat to 600 BC (same date as Europe).  Cribb tried for a late date of about 375 BC.  Made Indian coin use derivative of Western events.  Issues of national pride were involved, and I recall a negative reaction to the Cribb proposal in India connected to that

Rob T

Offline Matteo

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2018, 10:47:58 PM »
M > But it's not clear to me if aristoratics are also governants.

I would say that the Bronze Age type Aristocracies ruled, but they were not governments in the way we would understand the term today – and certainly they tended to oppose coin use

M > If yes, who did strike coins

Well, I said No -  and the people who stuck coins at the beginning seem to be the so called “tyrants”.  They were anti-aristocratic popularitsts.  Think about the structure of the history by Herodotus.  Its supposed to be the first history, and, a history of the Greeks.  Why then does he begin it with an episode outside Greece – in Lydia?  An episode about the overthrow of a (non-Greek) Lydian aristocratic dynasty - by a commoner?

My answer is that really Herodotus is writing a history of “what happened next” - after Lydia created the first modern coin using government…………………………….

M > (on the Cribb paper) I've read it this summer. Why do you think is controversial?

P L Gupta tried to argue the origins of Indian coins were 900 BC.  Hardaker pushed him to retreat to 600 BC (same date as Europe).  Cribb tried for a late date of about 375 BC.  Made Indian coin use derivative of Western events.  Issues of national pride were involved, and I recall a negative reaction to the Cribb proposal in India connected to that

Rob T

Dear Robert,

sorry for the delay. In these days I'm reading a "working-paper" by Peter Van Alfen "The role of “the state” and early electrum coinage". It seems interesting, but before to discuss it I have to finish my very slow reading.

I've never thought about the "Histories" in the way you said. Is it a your theory? I'm starting to think that coinage was a really revolution, a turning point in the ancient history...
« Last Edit: January 25, 2018, 02:22:13 PM by Matteo »

Offline Matteo

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2018, 02:52:19 PM »
Dear Robert,

I have only a "scholastic" translation of the Histories. In my book I read:

They were (Lydians, obviously) the first of people to struck and to use gold and silver coins and the firsts to be retail traders.

I think it is interesting the choice to tell these two important facts in the same sentence: the invention of coins and the retail trade. I don't think that Herodotus is saying explicitly that Lydians invented coinage for retail trade, but it is a strong suggestion.


Offline EWC

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Re: Achaemenid in Lydia: imperial/regal or civic coinage?
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2018, 09:01:09 AM »
I don't think that Herodotus is saying explicitly that Lydians invented coinage for retail trade, but it is a strong suggestion.

I completely agree   :)