Monday, March 23, 2009

Course: "Picture Language on Roman Coins: Approaches and Interpretations"

Next month I will begin leading an upper-level course entitled "Die Bildsprache auf römischen Münzen. Methoden und Deutungen" (Picture Language on Roman Coins: Approaches and Interpretations) at the Goethe Universität Frankfurt.

This course grows out of my own research where I have been developing methodologies for understanding Roman coin images, but the course is designed to give a broad overview of the historiography of the study of coin reverses in addition to introducing students to the potential of developing methodologies in numismatics, Roman art historical theory, and archaeology.

I understand I am fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct a course on a specialized topic relating to coins since it is rare for even general numismatic courses to be offered at North American universities. Naturally, I realize there may be a broader interest in this subject and, taking advantage of the Internet Age, I invite any interested readers to follow along as we progress.

I have started a blog for the course: "Die Bildsprache auf römischen Münzen." When the course begins on April 14, I will begin updating the blog weekly with new themes and readings for each meeting. All of the downloadable course materials on the blog will be in German. However, I understand that some interested parties may not read German and so I will try to post handouts in English here, on this website, as we go through the course.

Although this course is upper-level and thus I would normally plan a more intensive list of readings for a seminar-style course such at this, I have consciously scaled back. I am told by my colleagues it will be of a more "elective" nature, according to the course requirements and system here, and so too many readings would scare off otherwise interested students. Therefore, for certain themes I will also be listing "further readings" for those who wish to be more thorough.

The documents I have posted on the course blog so far, which I provide in English here, are:

-Syllabus with course overiew (pdf)
-Week 1 (pdf)
-Week 2 (pdf)
(Foto: Sesterz von Vespasian, 71 n. Chr. Münzkabinett der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Objektnummer 18200606.)



Nathan- Good luck with your course. This sounds interesting. It would be particularly interesting at some point for someone to cover Roman coin types that recur over and over again over many reigns.

It would also be interesting to learn if you have any thoughts as to why numismatics is so neglected at American Universities.

Best regards,

Peter Tompa



I wish you well on this course. It sounds like a fascinating one. Wish I had the opportunity to attend. Thanks for the syllabus and bibliographic information. (By the way, I live in Kansas City and would enjoy talking at some point about the overlap between the images in the Apocalypse and numismatic iconography. I have done some research in this area [with countermarks during 68-70 C.E. period], but I am a biblical scholar who is an outsider to the numismatics field.)


David M. May


Nathan, great idea for a course. I will try to check in and do some of the readings.

I think this would be a great course for studio art students to take as an art history elective, because there are fairly clear meanings behind the imagery and figures on ancient coins.

I think Post-Modernist philosophy is a plague in art schools, not because Post-Modernism is wrong, but because people - including professors - use it as a catch all that all images are equally valid and meaningless... A course like this shows that images do mean specific things in context. Which, when that idea is understood by students, I think breeds optimism.

Good luck!