Ancient Fakes and the First Celtic Coins

Started by cavaros, June 04, 2016, 05:26:06 PM

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(Didn't know whether to put this in Greece or Barbarians, so decided to post it here. >:D

Official (i.e. ancient) fakes and the production of the first Celtic coinage:


A heavy hitter this time. I have some doubts.

The Macedonian prototype was imitated for a long time. Your Bulgarian examples are dated from the 3rd century BC. Furthermore, you mention Lysimachos, who, as you undoubtedly know, needed the Western Black Sea coast to keep Demetrius the besieger and his father, Antiochus-one-eye, apart. It seems then that the forgeries started to appear during the events leading up to the battle of Ipsus.

If this is so, the Celtic imitations can at least partly be explained by a a lack of coin. The whole region had been a war theater for some 20 years, disrupting markets (grain for Attica and Egypt via Rhodos) diminishing the population (attrition of war, murder, enslaving, scorched earth tactics) and exhausting the economy by taxes needed to replenish fleet losses, constructing engines for throwing sharp or heavy stuff and hiring mercenaries. The destruction must have taken a great toll on the availability of coins, while there was "new" silver and gold available only from looting. Indeed, it seems more likely that Celtic mercenaries took the prototypes home than merchants or freed slaves.

I am baffled by the phrase
Quoteanalysis has shown that such forgeries were being produced in official Macedonian mints specifically for trade with the 'barbarians', i.e. there existed an official policy on behalf of the Macedonian authorities to systematically defraud their trading partners
The intention to use coins for foreign trade seems to me something that must be documented with contemporary evidence in order to be accepted. All through history, trading coins were better than local coins and this makes sense. While locals can be forced (within limits) to accept bad coin, foreigners cannot, but if they accept your coin, you gain seigniorage. The result is a constant battle for market share, which is driven by constant quality and weight, notwithstanding what happens with the coins at home. If the Macedonians continued Alexander's coin types, that was to instil trust, at home and abroad. If they made fourrés, the last target group would rationally have been trading partners.

Then there is the mystery that the core of the fourrés is silver. If the intent was to deceive, why not use a much cheaper metal? I see your pictures, I accept the gold on silver but that doesn't mean I understand it.

What follows is pure speculation, not knowledge. I could imagine that the fourrés were meant for unwanted payments. One example could be buying back Macedonian hostages, prisoners or slaves. Deceiving your enemy would probably have been considered positive and smart. That doesn't explain the silver core, though and it may have become counterproductive if the deceit was discovered prematurely. Another, more romantic and dicey but better fitting proposition is offerings to someone else's gods. As a Macedonian, you may want to pay homage to a Celtic god for political reasons. In order to save, you make the fourrés, knowing full well that the priests will spend them and that the gold will wear off quickly, but you plan to blame the priests for "turning gold into silver" and win twice...

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


The Bulgarian examples are given to illustrate the artistic evolution from the prototype - on the Balkans, not central Europe. The Serbian case clearly illustrates the early/imitative phase of this process. In terms of the Macedonian fakes, the academic consensus is that these were officially sanctioned / executed issues. It appears that the Greeks underestimated the 'barbarians' who may have been new to the monetary system, but were experts when it came to matters concerning metal production and processing.