How Old is Ancient?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Mkm5, Feb 18, 2021.

  1. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Numismatically, I consider the cutoff between ancient and medieval to be:

    Western Europe: Rise of Charlemagne and the shift from a gold/copper economy imitating the Romans/Byzantines to the silver denier

    Byzantine: Coinage reform of Anastasius in 490s

    Middle East and Central Asia: Islamic conquest from 650s-750s, replacement of native designs with mostly epigraphic/Islamic ones

    India: Fall of the Hunnic kingdoms and Harsha's empire and the rise of Rajput and Gadhaiya coinage

    Far East: Rise of Tang dynasty and cessation of Wu Zhu in favor of Kai Yuan Tongbao
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  3. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    You caught on to that pretty fast. My whole life has been dedicated to the study of history with a penchant for the Classical World and there is not a day that I don't log on to Coin Talk that I don't learn something new. If this site were licensed they could charge tuition for the education members provide. I have seen sites where participants will cite postings on Coin Talk as a reliable source of information. Now that's coin cred.
    Mkm5 likes this.
  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    I wish there were a way of cataloging coins that made it easier to recognize overlaps better than either strict adherence to time or place. I keep coins in date order by culture BUT I keep all coins of, for example, Caracalla after all Septimius Severus even though some of Septimius were made 15 years later than some of Caracalla. I also separate coins by mint with all my "Emesa" Septimius coins together even though they fall by date mixed with coins of Rome and other mints. This is the way RIC IV and BMC V did it. Later, however RIC VI put coins of two co-rulers together on one page but I continued to log all Diocletian coins before the first Maximianus, for example. I keep my Divus Augustus coins at the end of my Augustus section even though one was made by Nerva. If one were to use a strict date order, it would be easier to see who might have known which other ruler (Harun al Rashid knew Charlemagne but I would have to look up to be certain that Basil II was on the Byzantine throne then. Did any of those guys know Zhen Zong? I have no idea. Computers make it possible to print out our databases in several ways but information is hard to put in easily sorted data when rather few coins are known to have been issued in a specific year (and that does not allow for the fact that there were several different calendars in use around the globe at any given time).

    I admire teachers who can simplify things for students but I would prefer that they be taught that there is something better to study in history than a list of dates and labels. I wanted to teach history on the college level but that never happened. Today I am slightly grateful to the draft board that would not let me go to graduate school. At the time, I did not care for them in the least.
  5. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark all my best friends are dead Romans Dealer

    You can't seperate dates from history, but in college, I never took a class where I necessarily needed to memorize specific dates. I had an adviser who frequently paraphrased Einstein-- "I don't need to know the date...I just need to know where to look it up."

    "Never memorize something that you can look up." Albert Einstein.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2021
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  6. Herodotus

    Herodotus Well-Known Member

    ‘Ancient’ to me represents referring to items that are dated in 1000s of years(millennia) ago vs. those dated 100s of years(centuries) ago.
    Mkm5 likes this.
  7. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure I agree with Anastasius. Although his economic reforms had a quite the rejuvenating effect on the byzantine economy, its not like his ideas were wholly new. I wouldn't say that restoring economic standards to that of previous centuries (more or less, following the use of heavy bronzes and fractionals akin to early imperial coinage) and adding marks of value would make a currency change from ancient to medieval.
  8. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE

    VERY much agreed.
  9. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    I found that giving students a rough sense of chronology enabled them better to understand cause and effect. No, Johnny the Mongols did not cause the Athenians to lose the Peloponnesian War. Yes, Sally, Charlemagne could be considered the founder of modern Europe. Today, class, we will learn about the the Nullification crisis of 1833 which could be considered a remote cause of the American Civil War. Chronology can be a handy hook to hand an event onto.
  10. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    I was fortunate to have a number of eminent professors, from Dr. Warren Treadgold, who considered "Byzantine" to be anything after 284 and the rise of Diocletian, hence his book Byzantium and Its Army, 284-1081 and Peter Brown, who coined the term Late Antiquity. In Brown's view the demarcation into the Medieval period was the terminal point between the 7th and 8th centuries, one of the defining changes was the emergence of "the holy man" in Christianity, which we get with the Anchorites in Egypt starting as early as the 4th century.

    My own view is that the coming of Muhammad and Islam heralded a whole new age for the Near East, starting around 640 A.D. and after the culmination of the war between Byzantium and Sassanid Persia, which changed the geographical parameters, social parameters, and monetary parameters. Both empires were severely weakened and unable to stop the progression of Islam and the source of new energy emerging from Arabia.

    With regard to the Western Empire, it had been tottering since the reign of Honorius and under the control of advisors such as Stilicho and Ricimer for most of the fifth century. So when Rome "fell" it was to German chieftains who ruled nominally in the name of the Roman emperor of the East, hence I do not use the customary date of 476 and the deposition of Romulus Augustulus as the commencement of the Medieval period.
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  11. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Chronology yes, but specific dates are largely irrelevant. One does not need to know 1453, but it drove the knowledge of ancient greek to Italy to jump start the renaissance. That kind of thing. Specific dates are the purview of lazy teachers who want an easy multiple choice test to grade.
  12. Treashunt

    Treashunt The Other Frank


    Just think of Doug!
  13. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    One thing that likely confuses new collectors (and rightly so) is the trend in the numismatic trade to classify all things Byzantine as "ancient".
  14. Kinda weird to call anything before 330 "Byzantium", due to Byzantium being took from the capital being moved in 330.
  15. OutsiderSubtype

    OutsiderSubtype Well-Known Member

    The lines between ancient and medieval coins are super blurry in many areas. And those blurry lines often make for really interesting coins.

    Consider the Ostrogothic coins that look just like late Roman ones and even say ROMA INVICTA which is hilarious irony.

    Or there are the very cool Tabaristan coins, struck under the Ummayids and Abbasids, that still look just like Sasanian ones. Except where the portrait's head would be, there is a diamond and calligraphy to comply with Islamic sensibilities.
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  16. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    For me, ancient covers any coin produced from the fall of Rome, in 395 AD, and the period of the Eastern Roman Empire, including Byzantine coinage. Then there is the early medieval period, a grey area to be sure, but I would say that the period up to the fall of Constantinople in 1435 could be included, greatly expanding the "ancient" moniker for me. These are western time markers that do not necessarily apply to the coinage of other civilizations.

    The 1400's was a century of great upheaval, and it set the stage for the destruction of the feudal order, giving rise to the start of what would be come the modern nation state. At the same time, coinage began to evolve from hammer struck (although this practice continued well into the 18th century and even later), to machine struck coinage. This was the dawn of modern coinage, as I see it.
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  17. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    I agree. I think the idea there would be cultural trends were forming which later defined Byzantium. As you pointed out, however, it wasn't Byzantium yet...A square is always a rectangle but a rectangle is not always a square. Likewise, Byzantium is always roman but Rome is not always Byzantium
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  18. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE

    All of the comments seem very Western-Centric.

    China, India, Americas have a completely different stream of History. While the West Europe area went into Dark Ages. Other areas were flourishing.

    I agree with @medoraman .

    This is an interesting book I picked up in Hong Kong several years ago. It dispels a lot of the Western-Centric approach to MANY of the inventions and ideas thought to have arisen in the West. In many cases, China had been using various inventions, tools, concept for hundreds of years before the West.

    Easy read, but really puts a lot of things in perspective.


    The Genius of China: 3000 Years of Science, Discovery & Invention New Edition
    by Robert Temple
    ISBN-13: 978-0233002026
    ISBN-10: 0233002022
    Copyright 1986, Reprints 1999 and 2002, Amazon has this new edition 2013.


    China Tang 718-732 CE AE Cash Kai Yuan Tong Bao - Blank H 14.3
  19. The Trachy Enjoyer

    The Trachy Enjoyer Well-Known Member

    A lot of negative Byzantine bias comes from the same area. People see a "foreign greek" empire and dismiss it out of hand...Oh well, that just means more coins for me :pompous::D
  20. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE

    LOL, yes, more for you. Regretfully, I am not "high" on Eastern Roman Empire history... everything seemed "cloak-and-dagger" to me, killing each other off, poisoning, etc. I could never really get excited in their history.

    ENJOY your PASSION though!

    I just follow other areas for me! And, yeah, MORE COINS FOR YOU! :)
  21. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    To be fair, Byzantine is an acquired taste. Not classically beautiful like Greek, not pristine examples of portraiture like early Roman Imperial. You have to appreciate what they were attempting to convey with their artistry to fully appreciate the coins IMHO.
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