Coins are an essential primary source of evidence for all students of the ancient world, historians, archaeologists and literary scholars alike, but specialist teaching in numismatics is not always available in universities. This intensive two-week course in Greek Numismatics aims to provide such teaching, and offers essential research skills not only for those who want to build on their existing numismatic knowledge, but also for those who have never studied coins before but who want to learn about them and how to interpret them.
The course is organised by Prof. Emeritus Keith Rutter (University of Edinburgh) and Dr. Chryssanthi Papadopoulou (Assistant Director, BSA) and is structured to combine a chronological approach – students learn about coinage in the ancient Greek world from its beginnings around 600 BC to the Hellenistic period – with a detailed examination of numismatic methodology – for example, describing and cataloguing coins, the importance of die studies and the information that can be derived from them, hoards and site finds, weight standards and metrology, metallurgical analysis and databases.
Apart from talks and other activities at the BSA the course exploits the rich resources of museums, institutions and other collections in the Athens area; ‘hands on’ experience of coins and their identification and interpretation is an integral part of it. The course includes a visit to the sites of ancient silver mining at Lavrion, Attica.
The 2018 course took place between May 21st and June 2nd 2018 and its itinerary can be found below. The next course will run in May 2020 (17th-30th). The call for applications will open in November 2019.
As far as the student point of view is concerned, the following is a sample of reaction from students on the 2016 course:
‘The BSA Postgraduate Course in Numismatics is a fantastic introduction to the study of coinage in the ancient Greek world. While coinage is a prime source of evidence for ancient historians, it is a difficult field to navigate without any formal training. The course offers an overview of the different coinages of the ancient Greek world and introduces the students to the different methodologies used by the ‘nitty gritty’ side of the numismatic discipline. The programme is intense, and the skills and information I have acquired would have taken me up to a year to assemble on my own. The most important aspect that a historian might take away from the course is the ways in which coinage can be used as evidence, and perhaps more importantly, the ways in which it cannot. I now feel a lot more confident in my use of numismatic evidence, and I recommend the course with great enthusiasm to anyone with a serious interest in the history of the ancient Greek world.’ (Charlotte Van Regenmortel)
‘The Numismatics course at the BSA is one I can recommend to any student who wishes to improve his research skills. It offers a clear historical and geographical overview of coinage and therefore allows the student to be eased into the subject, even without prior knowledge of numismatics. The variety of topics covers the entire spectrum of coinage, from iconography to metal analyses and die studies, helping students to get acquainted with these previously enigmatic terms. Moreover, the teachers at the course are engaging and stimulating in their enthusiasm for the subject, which helped greatly with the large amount of information to be processed in such a short period of time. Their contagious enthusiasm definitely helped to enhance the level of the course, as it ignited various debates during classes, in turn allowing for a more in-depth analysis of the problems posed by numismatic evidence. Another encouraging factor was the amount of ‘hands-on’ work that was offered to the students. The visits to several collections not only encouraged students to physically engage with the subject, but also helped them to realise the importance of the practical side to numismatics. In the end, the course has significantly broadened my horizon in terms of research and helped me to understand the uses and limits of coinage for my future historical research.’ (Roy van Wijk)
‘The BSA course left me feeling confident to approach numismatic material and to participate in ongoing debates. The course nicely complemented the other activities I was involved with during my research year in Athens. The access we had to both public and private collections in Athens was impressive. The guest lecturers couldn’t have been more accommodating, and it was really a pleasure to be able to talk at length with scholars who are doing interesting numismatic work within Greece itself. It was also wonderful to be able to work first-hand on the BSA’s own collections. Most importantly the course was fast paced and well organized; each subject area was taught by an expert in it. I recommend this and other BSA seminars to anyone who is going to spend a period over the spring and summer in Athens. The BSA is doing a real service in offering these courses on topics for which it is often not possible to obtain direct training at home.’ (Chris Parmenter)