murgan

Andreas Murgan, Between lumps and coins – Italy in the first millennium BC

The ‚invention‘ of coinage in the 7th cent. BC in Asia minor as an important milestone in the development of the ancient societies spread soon across the whole Mediterranean area. Already in the 6th cent. BC coinage appeared in South Italy, issued by the Greek cities. Meanwhile, the Italic peoples had been using raw and formless pieces of copper alloy for centuries and continued to do so. The so-called aes rude was accompanied by heavy cast bronze bars and coins much later in the 3rd cent. BC.
Although trade between the Greek and Italic cities flourished, most of the latter ones did not take over the idea of coins for almost three centuries. Only in the late 4th and 3rd cent. BC many non-Greek peoples, like the Romans or the Etruscans, started to issue coins, which however did not replace the former forms of money: the archaeological record contains lumps and bars in contexts of the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. Two different types of money seem to have been in use simultaneously: the coins, officially issued by authorities, carrying specific messages, and the unformed objects, without a recognizable authority or message, being thus anonymous.
The introduction of coins by the Italic peoples occurred in troubled times that culminated in the 1st and 2nd Punic war. This paper wants to shed light on the question, why this change happened at exactly this moment, focussing on the social, political, and ritual aspects of money within the framework of state, religion and private market.