Byzantine Gold Coins in the World of Late Antiquity

Byzantine Gold Coins in the World of Late Antiquity

Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations, Dr. Qiang LI (Northeast Normal University); Prof. Dr. Ying LIN (Sun Yat-sen University); Organizing Universities: Northeast Normal University, Sun Yat-sen University, University of Cologne
Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations, Northeast Normal University
From - Until
23.06.2017 - 25.06.2017
Sven Günther

If one wants to adopt the chronological term “Late Antiquity” to cover the “world”, mainly referring to the regions from the Mediterranean Sea to Mesopotamia from around AD 300 to 700 (i.e. the late Roman and Early Byzantine Empire on the one side, and Sassanian Iran and the Early Arab Empire on the other), the first thing is to figure out the common characteristics of that world in these times. For instance, when thinking of the world of the Hellenistic Age (330-30 BC), some outstanding traits come into our mind immediately, such as the chain of Greek cities ranging from Syria to Afghanistan, or the spread of Greek language in the time of the Maurya Dynasty and the Kushan Empire, furthermore the influence of Greek art on very distant countries, as the Gandhara Buddhist statues demonstrate.
In studying the Hellenistic world and the successive Pax Romana, coins indeed play an important role in detecting the depth of impact of the Greco-Roman world. For instance, lead pies appearing in the first-century tomb in Gansu corridor (Chinese borderland at that time) marked the eastern boundary of what was Hellenistic. Instead of following the normal motifs of ancient Greek coins (intricate portrait of the ruler and deities with inscriptions surrounding him) like Kushan and Parthian coins did, what one can find in these Chinese “hybrids” were only inscriptions (in a distorted Greek alphabet). However, the portrait, the center of the Greek coin, was ignored. The Roman imperial coins and their imitations excavated from Óc Eo, southern Vietnam, on the other hand, show how far the influence of the Roman Empire reached in the historical setting of Indianization in Southeast Asia.
This is the view what we expect to look upon the “world” of Late Antiquity. What made it different from the “world” in other periods? What were the markers of this world: the wider diffusion of several world religions including Christianity (Nestorianism), Manicheism, and to a lesser extent, Judaism? the role of some communities as intermediaries in the cross-regional and cross-cultural trade, like the Sogdians and the Steppe people? the circulation of a variety of luxurious goods like precious metal works and glassware to meet the increasing needs for kingship ritual?
The symposium aims at studying the wider spread of Byzantine as well as Sassanian coins from Constantinople to Chang’an with a comparative and connective approach. By analyzing these “dollars in the middle ages” to measure the expansion of the “world” in Late Antiquity, one has to ask what features we should pay special attention to? Monetary economy in the long-distance trade, pattern of trading, or social use of them in the communities with different ethnicity and culture? And, last but not least, there is the question that whether Byzantine coins can be added to the above-mentioned list? What are the boundaries or limits of this “Globalization of Late Antiquity” in comparison to the modern world through the view of coins?


Preliminary Schedule:

Opening ceremony (9:00-9:30): Zhang Qiang (Northeast Normal University), Chen Zhiqiang (Nankai University), and Xu Jialing (Northeast Normal University)

The starting section (9:30-11:00) of this symposium will have three presentations. Wan Xiang (Xi’an Jiaotong University, China) will discuss the Kushan gold coins and Kushan state along the Silk Road before the 4th century AD, i.e., before the start of Late Antiquity. According to his argument, the mode of trade before the 4th century was different from that of the later era. The Kushan Empire was strong and active in controlling the long-distance trade and Buddhist pilgrim routes, including gold coins as a way of taxation. Stefan Heidemann (Hamburg University, Germany) will sketch the ending part of Late Antiquity and the beginning of the next, new age. The rise of the Islamic Empire changed the cross-continental monetary flow. Byzantine or Islamic gold coins did not reach anymore Central Asia, and Arab Sassanian coins were no longer found in T’ang tombs even before the battle of Talas in AD 751, which was fought between the Chinese and the Caliph’s armies. While the flow of coins seemingly stopped, on the contrary, there was still trade of Chinese porcelains to Iraq and their imitations. Stefanos Kordosis (Northwest University, China) will present the state of research on the title or name “Fromo Kesaro” on a Bactrian coin-type of the 8th century. Particularly, after presenting the suggestions made so far in international scholarship regarding the term “Fromo” as a place-name and by making use of the sources presented in relation to the coin’s inscription, an attempt to locate “Fromo” more precisely will be made.
Within the temporal framework sketched by first three speakers, section one (11:15-12:30) will center around money in the Mediterranean world. Sven Günther (IHAC, Northeast Normal University, China) will talk about the migration of motifs as a qualitative approach to the question of connectivity in Late Antiquity, while Pagona Papadopoulou (Aristotle University, Greece) will give an introduction to the circulation of Byzantine coins and the use of coin bracteates in the Mediterranean world. Jonathan Jarrette (University of Leeds, UK) will trace the changes of the western coinages of the Roman-Byzantine Empire from 5th to the 7th century.
Section two (14:00-15:30) includes three specialists on Sassanian and Sogdian coinage and an archaeologist from Xinjiang. Aleksandr Naymark (Hofstra University, US) will discuss the role of Byzantine coins in the context of Sogdian coinage, while Nicholaus Schindel (Austrian Academy of Science, Austria) will comment on Sassanian silver coins appearing in Uzbekistan and other Central Asian areas. Anwar Abdulkasim (Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology, China) will give an introduction to the Byzantine and Sassanian coins found in Xinjiang in the time span of Tang Dynasty.
Section three (16:00-17:30) focuses on Byzantine gold coins found in China. Li Qiang (IHAC, Northeast Normal University, China) will provide a survey of the scholarship on Byzantine coins found within Chinese territory in recent 10 years. Guo Yunyan (Hebei University, China) will give a panoramic view of the flow of Byzantine gold coins to China. She will argue, according to numismatic evidence, that Hephtalite and Rou-ran played important role in taking Byzantine coins eastward.

Section four (9:00-10:30) will present new coin finds from Mongolia. Ankhbayar Batsuuri (Institute of Eurasia Nomadic Culture Research, Mongolia) firstly gives a survey of the finds of Western coins in this period in the Mongolia steppe. Odbaatar Tserendorj (National Museum of Mongolia, Mongolia) will introduce the over two hundred Sassanian silver coins recently collected in Mongolia with the comment from Erdenebold lkhagvasuren (Mongolia University of Science and Technology, Mongolia). Saran Belig (Inner Mongolia Institute of Archaeology, China) will focus on Byzantine coins and imitations from the seventh-century tomb in Bulkan Province, Mongolia.
Section five (10:45-12:30) turns to the sea route in Late Antiquity, a topic almost ignored so far. Rebecca Darley (University of London, UK) will give an overview of Byzantine coins found in India. Brigitte Borell (Heidelberg University, Germany) will introduce the Roman and Byzantine coins found in Southeast Asia. Li Jinxiu (Chinese Academy of Social Science, China) will provide a comprehensive analysis of Sassanian silver coins in South China with written sources and archaeological finds.
Section six (14:00-15:30) belongs to specialists from museums with collection of Byzantine coins and Sassanian coins. Wang Yue (Shanghai Museum, China), Wang Yongsheng (Numismatic Museum of China, China) and Wang Bin (Xi’an Great Tang West Market Museum, China) will introduce the collections in their museums and will comment on how to start the Silk Road coinage research and program in public museums with the help from universities and international scholars.
The concluding remarks (16:00-17:30, hosted by Zhang Xushan (Tsinghua University, China), Claudia Sode (University of Cologne, Germany) and Lin Ying (Sun Yat-sen University, China), will cover three subjects:
1. The Late Antique world through the sight of Byzantine coins
2. Byzantine and Sassanian coins flowing in the cross-regional and cross-culture context
3. Imitation of coins, Technology and Dynamics

Contact (announcement)

Qiang Li

Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations, Northeast Normal University
5268 Renmin Street, 130024 Changchun, Jilin Province, China
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