My research focuses on the political ideology of the Late Roman state, specifically as expressed through the political messages presented in the imagery and inscriptions of its coinage, and how said messages compare to concepts of rulership in other contemporary media.
My interest in period between c.4th-5th centuries AD, from Diocletian’s tetrarchy onwards, is in part due to the increasingly centralised control of coin minting and disappearance of ‘provincial’ Roman coinage. Moreover, the emergence of state-supported Christianity and the more rapid Christianisation of the empire’s populace marks this period as the significant change in the nature of imperial authority, on its continued development from the early Roman emperor as princeps to the Byzantine emperor as God’s vicegerent on earth. Coinage, as arguably the most widely produced and distributed form of state-selected political messages, is an ideal medium for studying such a significant period of ideological change.
An essential element of my research involves the use of quantitative analysis. Gross coin data, obtained through the collation of site finds and coin hoards, will be used to identify trends of continuity and change within imagery and inscriptions presented on coinage. Such an approach seeks to engage with contemporary numismatic methodologies and thus move away from prior practices of cherry-picking and inflating the significance of iconographically interesting types.
Through its varying denominations of gold, silver and base-metal, coinage came into contact with almost all levels of Roman society, unlike literary sources’ predominant focus on and association with the ruling elite. Part of my research thus aims to identify any variation between the images/inscriptions of different denominations that may indicate the state’s targeting different audiences, ultimately providing a more nuanced understanding of the fluidity of rulership ideology beyond the more rigid expressions of court literature.
Beyond considerations of the political messages of coinage, my research and the use of quantitative methodologies also looks to consider levels of monetisation and circulation patterns. Such information is essential in order to gauge the extent to which coinage penetrated this pre-modern economy and help to clearly clarify the audiences the coinage actually reached.
My project has significant geographic and chronological scope, and seeks to set the groundwork for future comparative analyses with both later periods of Romano-Byzantine coinage and the western successor states, as well as distilling a methodological practice applicable to large-scale analysis of other numismatic corpora.