Communicating with coins: Messages and media in the Roman world

University of Birmingham
Wednesday 20 March 2024 (13:00-15:00)

Money is becoming more and more intangible, particularly when we can pay for things by tapping a card or phone. It might be difficult to imagine a form of money that could be used to communicate messages to a wide audience but coins – as small, portable and circulated objects – have great potential to communicate to the masses. The Romans recognised this. When the Roman currency of the denarius was introduced in the third century (during the Second Punic War), the images and texts on the coins were standardised and limited. However, the Romans quickly realised the potential for individuals to promote themselves, their families and contemporary events and concerns on the coins produced by the Roman state each year.

In this masterclass, you’ll get to think about coinage as means of communication and what messages the Romans, in both the Republic and Empire, might have conveyed on their coinage and to whom.

You’ll start by learning about what coins are and how they were made in the ancient world, as Dr Maria Vrij, Curator of the Coin Gallery at the Barber Institute of Fine Art, introduces us to minting practices (and hopefully a tour of the coin gallery). This masterclass will also show you how to examine some examples of imagery on coins in the late Republic and Early Empire, learning how to decipher the images and text of Roman coins. At the end of the session, you'll get a chance to develop your own coin design!

This Masterclass also links into teaching resources previously created as part of a pilot project called Classics in the Classroom

Who can attend this masterclass?

This event is open to any Year 12 and 13 students, but may be of interest to students studying Classical Civilisation or Ancient History (and possibly also History). Explore the rest of our masterclasses for more fun learning opportunities. 

View all masterclasses

Questions? Email the team