View Full Version : Longevity and Dispersion of Provincials

Mar 8, 2007, 02:17 PM
I have titled this "Longevity and Dispersion of Provincials" because I am curious to know how long coins tended to stay in circulation, in a day-to-day way, in the bazaar, etc. and how far afield coins tended to disperse.

The reason I am interested is because one of my collecting foci is Roman Provincial Coins that St. Paul may have seen (and even held!) during his four voyages, or in the cities where he resided. Jerry Walker helped me get started on this focus by his selling the book "The Pocket Guide to Saint Paul"-- Coins encountered by the Apostle on his travels. The time period is from Augustus to Nero, or roughly 27 B.C. to 62 A.D. when he was killed.

The book's authors' premise is that they will include in such a grouping only those coins that were minted in the places where Paul was. In other words, they do not include in the possible coins with a St. Paul connection, any coins from Alexandria because Paul never went to Alexandria. Likewise for the Spanish coins, and so on.

For some time I followed their precepts. But now that I have been collecting these coins and studying them for over a year, the question has occurred to me if perhaps there might be some coins that Paul would have seen even if they were not struck in the very towns and cities he visited.

Hence my question about longevity and dispersion. Longevity of course refers to time. And dispersion to distances. So, a question might be, 'Why couldn't Paul have seen some coins that were minted before he was born but which still would have been in circulation?' Afterall, if they still exist today, then ipso facto they existed after they were minted on into Paul's childhood and adulthood. Likewise, even though Paul never visited Alexandria, couldn't some of those silver tetradrachms of Claudius, for example, have found their way to Tyre, or even Antioch? (or even Jerusalem?).

Were coins like silver tetradrachms acceptable money in regions outside their place of manufacture and local government?

A good example of a longevity question would be the Mysia Pergamon AR cistophoric tetradrachms. These were minted in an area that Paul certainly visited, many times in fact, and was not far at all from Ephesus were he lived for some time. The years given for some of these tets is 133-67 B.C. Paul was born in Tarsus around 5 A.D., not incredibly long after the "younger" cistophorics were minted, roughly 72 years.

I have already mentioned an example of a dispersion question, namely the relatively common tets struck in Alexandria for Claudius; example being a billon tetradrachm, ca. 45-46 A.D. w/ Obverse: laureate bust right; Reverse: Messalina as Demeter standing left, ala Emmett 74, Dattari 129. Paul was in Jerusalem in May 57 A.D., Caesarea 57-59 and these two cities were not far from Alexandria at all. So could Paul have seen some of these Alexandrian tets of Claudius? (I think all the tets of Nero are after Paul's demise in 62 A.D.).

Thanks as always for y'all's views and knowledge!

Mar 9, 2007, 07:53 PM
Hi all, just trying to keep this on the front page. I have a sneaking suspicion that few look into the Forum categories when visiting, but if they see the question on the front page they will?

Mar 10, 2007, 01:50 PM
Hi Breck,

I can't definitively answer this thread, but I can 'shed some light', as it were, and in turn possibly be corrected by someone more experienced in the field. My expertise is in Imperial coins, provincials and their use is quite secondary, although it's my next area to 'conquer'.

Alexandria is a different ball of wax compared to the other mints. My understanding is that the 'insular' currency of Alexandria in use in Ptolemaic times continued into Imperial times. That is, money struck and distributed for use in Roman Egypt did not, as a rule, circulate outside of Roman Egypt. As such, I think you can largely discount the chances of Paulus using Alexandrian issue coinage to pay for his vinum. This also explains in part why the silver content of Alexandrian tets was 'allowed' to be so much lower - otherwise Gresham's law would certainly have applied and driven out, say, the higher silver quality tetras struck at Antioch during Nero's reign.

I also think that the metal of the coinage would affect it's chances of circulating widely. Local provincial types, struck on bronze, are unlikely to have travelled to the opposite end of the empire. A good Roman silver denarius, on the other hand, would be taken nearly anywhere due to its intrinsic value. For proof of this, see the vast number of Indian imitations of Augustan/Tiberian denarii that are out there. CNG sold a large hoard of these in January, and they are appearing in many dealers shops in the months since.

As for time, it seems more a matter of condition than time, by and large - Taking a look at the coins recovered in Pompeii and Herculaneum, we see Republican denarii from the early first century BC sitting right alongside freshly minted coins of Vespasian and Titus - despite the 150+ years in between. However, we also see bronze coins of Augustus countermarked or removed from circulation by the time Tiberius was emperor.

Hope this helps, if you have more questions I'll answer whatever I can!


Mar 11, 2007, 12:13 PM
Hi Steve. Very helpful. I was being honest when I said that I'd gratefully accept any and all ideas. And yours were certainly not ones that I had necessarily already known. But I can see now the logic of denarii moving from one end of the Empire to the other. They would be accepted everywhere, right?

By the way, just became aware of the HBO series, ROME. Last year's first season is now on DVD and without knowing anything about it, rented Vols. I & II last night and watched Vol. I. This is really cool stuff! Very authentic, esp. in comparison with the usual Hollywood take on Rome. And it was really neat to see a returned-from-the-wars soldier in the fleshpots of Rome upending his pouch of silver denarii onto a betting table!

I'd welcome any other contributions please.

Mar 18, 2007, 07:36 AM
Thanks to all who have replied on Forum and privately to me.
One aspect of the question that had not previously occurred to me: Republican denarii.
How likely that one would, say, see some later Republican denarii still in circulation if you were spending some time, in, say, Epheus during the reign of Caligula or Claudius? Or in Antioch, and so on.

Dec 20, 2008, 05:58 AM
One aspect of the question that had not previously occurred to me: Republican denarii.
How likely that one would, say, see some later Republican denarii still in circulation if you were spending some time, in, say, Ephesus during the reign of Caligula or Claudius? Or in Antioch, and so on.

This may go some way to answering your question:
or this one:
or even this one:
to name but a few.

Read the notes to these and several others, this may offer a clue.

Plus there are more to be found at sites other than CNG.

Walter Holt

Mar 7, 2010, 03:46 AM
I was part of a team excavating a Late Hellenistic-Early Roman street in Tarsus. The street certainly existed in St. Paul's time and it is probably the only area in Tarsus today dating to that era visible. The coins to that date I catalogued there were all minted in Tarsus. The majority of finds from earlier American excavations at Gozlukule-Tarsus published by Cox were also similar. Very few foreign money was found there and at our trenches in the city center, almost none. So I guess that answers your question about St. paul in Tarsus. He must have used Tarsus bronzes for small change..:) Oh, we found no artifacts connected with tent and rope making - not that we would recognize them if we did :) :) But we found many thousands of loom weights showing that area was pretty active in textiles. :)

There exists in Tarsus also an imperial temple, but quite possibly a later building then Paul's time...

Mar 7, 2010, 04:28 AM
Hello Electrum,
I don't know much about this subject, but there are books about coin hoard finds and research papers on archaeological digs that might be helpful. If I remember correctly, there have been Roman denari found in India and Roman coin hoards in England with mints from Europe. Likely the Imperial coinage traveled with soldiers and business people more than the local coinage. As I recall, the digs at Diana's temple at Ephesus had coins spanning over a century.

As for Paul's travels, I've tried to collect a coin from every city Paul visited that issued coins. If I could, I'd get a coin stuck during the time of his travels. But some of these cities struck coins long after Paul and are rare issues. I still decided to try and get these too. For example, Derbe and Lystra (book of Acts), are hard to find. I'm attaching a Derbe coin from my collection. It's rather rare and is of Lucius Verus/Heracles. A few of Paul's cities, such as Nicopolis (book of Titus) are hard to identify since there were several cities by that name. As for Nicopolis, most authors seem to lean toward Nicopolis Epirus.

For references, I've used Hendin's book, Bible and Biblical dictionaries and James Lovette's book Biblical Related Coins. Jame's book is helpful but several of his cities are speculation and a few are wrong in my opinon and are not the same town as the Bible verse he quotes; especially the Old Testament cities that perhaps have not yet been identified or there is disagreement over their location.