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Currency, the Pompeiians and Vesuvius


Dernière modification : 8 septembre 2017

Collection Moneta, 193, mai 2016, 204 pages 75 euros, ISBN 978-94-91384-61-5

The analysis of Roman coin circulation is generally based on hoards and coin finds. They reflect two different aspects of the movement of coins. The former are the result of the careful selection of coins according to metal, date of issue, conservation ; the latter are the result of haphazard losses of petty coins that nobody wanted to spend time to recover.

Pompeii is a unique case. The sudden eruption of Vesuvius on October 24th, 79, stopped life in the city. At this moment (1 pm), a large part of the population was working outside the town. While the inhabitants of Herculaneum had enough time to try to escape from the city, Pompeii was quickly covered with pumice that made it impossible to return to the city or obstructed escape from the houses that the first pyroclastic flows very rapidly submerged. Pompeii is a unique opportunity to see a frozen image of coin circulation, even if the immediate looting of the ruins may have disturbed the remains.

During the extensive excavations conducted in the 18th and 19th centuries a huge number of coins were found, but unfortunately they were largely mixed together or lost. However, the diaries of the excavations give many imperfect mentions of coin finds. Nevertheless a collection of all these imprecise descriptions offers a picture of the coins and the city.

The main purpose of this study is to understand the reality of currency distribution. It is time to try to analyse how many coins were found and how many coins were in the hands of the population. What was the reality of the coin supply in such an Italian town ? How many coins had each Pompeiian, by metal, and by regio. What was the composition of their savings ? When did they segregate coins according to metal ? What was the relationship between the monetary stock and prices ? What was the role and the level of intervention of the bankers in comparison with the precious hoards and savings of the rich Pompeiians ? Can we deduce from the coin finds the social position of the inhabitants of the various villae ?

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