Spartan Coinage – The Ironic Lycurgus - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Spartan Coinage – The Ironic Lycurgus

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  1. Michael Wrench July – September 2013 Classics and Ancient History Supervisor: Clare Rowan ‘Why, then, should money-making be a preoccupation in a state where the pain of its possession are more than the pleasures of its enjoyment?’ ¹ Introduction This research has been undertaken to answer the question of how Greek Poleis reacted to Roman rule in the 2nd to 1st century BC. Study of primary numsimatic sources was undertaken in the British Museum Coins and Medals Archive, with the aid of a Warwick URSS research grant. In addition, we added numismatic data to Warwick’s Beginnings of Empire database. ² Spartan Coinage – The Ironic Lycurgus Findings Xenophon’s ‘Constitution of the Lacedaemonians’ is an important work the understanding of the political and legal systems of Sparta, and for the introduction of perhaps the most important Spartan being – Lycurgus. The Lycurgan reforms were many and varied, but one of the most important laws was the banning of the hoarding of wealth, and therefore coinage. This is why any coinage featuring Lycurgus in Sparta is intrinsically ironic. As Sparta was unusual in its late adoption of coinage, and its early ‘adoption’ of Rome, I concentrated entirely on its treatment of Rome via its numismatic iconography. My primary concern was discerning whether the coin in question, featuring Lycurgus’ bust and Heracles’ club, was reactionary to Rome in the sense that the iconography was an attempt to self define, or an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the more powerful Romans – the coin was minted for a very short period of time, and was then discontinued. The imagery of Lycurgus was never used before, or again. There are precedents to this sudden change. A coin was minted by Sparta featuring the bust of Atratinus, a Roman Pro-praetor of Greece. The coin was minted not by Atratinus himself, but in honour of him, by the Spartans. This is probably an attempt by the Spartans to ingratiate themselves to the Romans (image above right). Further, a coin was minted by Sparta that featured Roma, the Roman personification of Rome, suddenly without pretext and was quickly discontinued. This is harder to explain, but was probably another attempt by the Spartans to ingratiate themselves with the Romans. However, the difference with Lycurgus is that Lycurgus is distinctly Spartan. Roman scholars such as Plutarch mention him and occasionally praise him, but Lycurgus is, in his own right, a Spartan God. It probably suggest that this is the opposite reaction to Roman rule, that the Spartans are here trying to distinguish themselves from the Romans in a distinctive act of self- definition. This is the further proven by the fact that the coinage in question is bronze, and would probably have been used only by local Spartans, and not the Romans. In conclusion, it would seem like this distinctive, and completely ironic piece of coinage, was minted by the Spartans for their own use as some sort of self identification. The Spartans were once a major political power in Greece, and this act of defining themselves as something distinctly Spartan was perhaps a way of hawking back to the good old days of glory. • Select bibliograhy • Traditionalism Vs Romanization in Bronze Coinages of Greece 42-31 BC, John H. Kroll, Topoi Vol 7/1, 1997, P. 123 – 132 • Spawforth, Cambridge 2012, Greece and the Augustan cultural revolution, 117-130 • Howgego, Heuchert, Burnett, Oxford 2005, Coinage and Identity in the Roman Provinces, 95 – 107 • Xenephon, Constitution of the Lacedaemonians (E.C. Marchant & G.W BowstockTr, Xenophon in 7 Volumes, Volume 7, 1925) • M. Grant,Edinburgh 1954, Roman Imperial Money, 87 1.Xen. Const. Lac. 7.6 (E.C. Marchant & G.W BowstockTr, Xenophon in 7 Volumes, Volume 7, 1925) 2.http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/classics/research/dept_projects/beginningsofempire/ 3.For Lycurgus coin, http://snible.org/coins/bmc/peloponnesus/25.html (scan of BM coin catalogue, top left and right) 4.For Atratinus coin, http://www.acsearch.info/search.html?search=atratinus&view_mode=1&sort=&c=&a=&l=#0, Gemini LLC (Auction X, lot 410) 5.For Roma coin, http://www.coinarchives.com/a/lotviewer.php?LotID=570897&AucID=1022&Lot=1157&Val=f592da8a674dab538bb28f1400cc83a5, Auktionshaus H. D. Rauch GmbH (Auction 92, Lot 1157)