Another short update.
Today was our fifth meeting. In previous meetings we examined the historiographical development of the iconographic approach to Roman coins up to c. the mid-twentieth century and critiqued their interpretation as instruments of "propaganda." Today, we looked at A.H.M. Jones' influential and provocative essay "Numismatics and History" in which he argued that numismatic scholars should not investigate political questions via iconography, comparing them to postage stamps, something which few people would pay much attention to at the time they were produced (handout Deutsch - English). He also criticized the haphazard way coin images had been studied and interpreted as propaganda as creating fanciful histories. In Jones' view numismatics and history could be better served if scholars were to focus their energies on questions revolving around technical concerns, volumes of issues, intricacies of coin circulation and supply, law, chronology, and economy.
To his credit, Jones influenced many numismatic scholars who investigated the potential of these other areas and, in our discussion, we commented on the ways where numismatic science has matured (or has started to mature) in these other areas (e.g. the work of Kemmers on the logistics of Roman coin supply and circulation). Although we may disagree with Jones' negative assessment of the iconographic approach to coins, his critique also stimulated a methodological review in the discipline.
C.H.V. Sutherland is perhaps one of the best-known twentieth century Roman numismatists who regularly investigated political question via coin iconography. In 1959 he published a response to Jones' article and outlined the ways in which coin images can be soundly studied and pointed to numerous examples where attention to coin images enhances our understanding of Roman politics and the Roman world. The participant who was to report on Sutherland's two articles in the handout was preoccupied with an important report for another seminar and so we will discuss the two contributions from Sutherland in more detail in our meeting next week.
We then talked about Weigel's methodological essay from 1995. Weigel turns against Jones' criticism of the iconographic approach, much like Sutherland, but layed out a firmer methodology. His emphasis was on interpreting coin images from multiple perspectives and the necessity for both a critical and interdisciplinary approach to Roman coin images, whereby they are not studied in insolation of other comparative evidence.
In coming weeks we will look at the interdisciplinary nature of studying coin images by discussing the contributions art historical, numismatic, and archaeological contexts. Next time we will address the topic of "Art Historical Context: Defining Roman Art and Redefining the Role of Images on Roman Coins – The Concept of Bildsprache" (handout Deutsch - English).