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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS45030: Money and Coinage in the Ancient World

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2021/22


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Excluded Combination of Modules

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  • To introduce students to the study of ancient numismatics.
  • To explore the role of coinage and money in ancient history, economy, and society.
  • To enable students to develop the specific skills required to study ancient coinage.
  • To build students’ confidence in using numismatic material in their research.
  • To promote self-motivated and self-directed graduate research.


  • The invention and proliferation of coinage throughout the Mediterranean was one of the key developments of Antiquity, with implications for all aspects of ancient politics, economics, and society. This course explores the nature of coinage and money in the ancient world and its connections to a wide range of historical themes, including imperialism, religion, warfare, cultural interaction, and commerce.
  • Key questions to be considered include: the relationship between coinage and money in the ancient world, why the ancient Greeks and Romans produced coinage when their predecessors and many of their neighbours did not, whether and how coins were used to propagate ideological messages, how coinage was involved in cultural interactions, and how coinage affected ancient politics, economics, and society.
  • Students will be introduced to the specialist skills and methodologies required to deploy numismatic evidence independently, including die-studies, quantification, use of hoards and archaeological finds, metrology, and metallurgy. If possible, the module will include hands-on sessions with the numismatic holdings of the Museum of Archaeology and the Oriental Museum. Throughout, the focus will be on how numismatic material can be combined with other forms of evidence to answer broader historical questions.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Detailed knowledge of a selection of Greek and Roman coinages.
  • Knowledge of a range of current scholarship on numismatics.
  • An understanding of the scholarly debates about coinage’s impact on ancient societies and economies.
  • Awareness of the ways in which numismatic material can contribute to debates on specific questions/problems in ancient history.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Familiarity with numismatic methodology and sources, including die studies, quantification, use of hoard evidence, and metallurgical studies.
  • Familiarity with the main numismatic resources and databases.
  • An ability to evaluate numismatic publications critically.
  • The capacity to produce independent and convincing interpretations of numismatic evidence.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to assess and compare a range of different arguments and methodologies.
  • The capacity to produce tight, well-evidenced, clearly expressed, and original arguments in a variety of forms.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will be through two-hour-long, fortnightly seminars organised around specific themes. Their length and frequency will allow significant preparation and detailed discussion.
  • Each seminar will start with a presentation by a student on a case study, to kick-start discussion on the seminar’s theme. Subsequent discussion will draw on examples from across ancient history, giving students an opportunity to draw on the periods, regions, and contexts of interest to them.
  • If possible, there will be three “handling sessions” at the Museum of Archaeology and one at the Oriental Museum, using their numismatic collections to allow students to engage directly with ancient coins and practice numismatic methodology.
  • Formative assessment will be (i) oral presentation of a case study to the class, or negotiated alternative (e.g., a digitally distributed poster); (ii) submission of plans / drafts of summative assessments by the end of Epiphany term.
  • Summative assessment will be (i) a “numismatic poster” presenting a specific series, hoard, or assemblage of ancient coinage; (ii) a 3000-word “thematic essay,” dealing with the relationship between money and a particular aspect of ancient society or culture in a particular context. The exact topics of these assessments are to be determined by the student, in conversation with the lecturer. The two assessments should not overlap excessively.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 4 in Michaelmas and 4 in Epiphany 2 hours 16
Preparation and Reading 284
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Numismatic study Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Poster A1 size 100% Yes
Component: Thematic essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

• Presentation of a specific case study for one of the seminars, orally or by negotiated alternative (e.g., digitally distributed poster). • Plans / drafts of summative assessment.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University