Dec. 30 – Merovingian Coinage

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Merle et al

I’ve included the others, since some of them will be dealing with some of the same issues.
For the fifth century, for Western Europe, for the most part RIC will catch you up on what’s known. For the seventh century most coins are pretty clear in terms of mint and even ruler. So the big problem is the sixth century, in which, with a few exceptions, the coinage of western Europe comprised only gold pseudo-imperial coins, that is solidi and tremisses with the names of Byzantine emperors. Some of these can be localized on the basis of mint-marks, such as those of Provence from Marseilles, etc., or those of the Ostrogoths and Burgundians with monograms of rulers’ names (for the Ostrogoths there are also silver and bronze coins with rulers’ names, but the gold are pretty much pseudo-imperial). For a quick intro to this, read my chapter in William Metcalf’s Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage(available online with a Princeton login). For more details, the most up-to-date work is Grierson and Blackburn, Medieval European Coinage, vol. 1.
Beyond these cases, minting attribution for pseudo-imperials is based mainly on style and find-spots. Some of the style is fairly clear; for example the pseudo-imperial coins that are very similar to those bearing the names Leovigild and Hermenigild can be attributed to the Visigoths in the late sixth century, and there are similar cases for Burgundians, Lombards and Ostrogoths. For the specific series of tremisses with reverse of Victory with palm and wreath, there are attributions in Wallace Tomasini, The barbaric tremissis in Spain and Southern France: Anastasius to Leovigild, Numismatic Notes and Monographs 152 (New York: ANS, 1964). 
 
Ultimately, the Lafaurie volume and other find information may help us contribute to the minting attributions. For now, what we need to do is be able to group the known pieces into something we can consider an issue and represent them on the spreadsheet. Let us first of all agree to accept the attributions proposed by Tomasini and in MEC I for now, with the idea that we can revise them in due course. Let us also adopt the convention of dating the issues of pseudo-imperial coins by the regnal dates of the Byzantine emperor whose name appears on them (again, we may eventually extend these). So, for pseudo-imperial coins bearing the names of sixth-century emperors which are attributed by Tomasini or Grierson to the Visigoths, let’s list them by the dates of the emperor and give the mint as the capital of the Visigothic kingdom in this period. For the most part, for the Merovingian region, there are no readily available regional attributions to allow assignment of pseudo-imperial coins to Austrasia, Neustria, Provence, etc., so we’ll just have to list them as Merovingian kingdom for the time being. In terms of how to divide into issues, and sources for assembling the corpus, let’s not kill ourselves with making a separate issue for every variation; just try to group them into clear category such as what direction the Victory is facing, or whether there is a specific type of reverse cross, and whether the reverse type is separated from the legend by a wreath. Most of these groups will be represented in MEC I; to go beyond you can use Prou, Belfort, or Depeyrot’s version of them.
Once you get into the seventh century, the number of mints becomes very large, especially for the Merovingian and Visigothic areas. The best approach for these is to limit yourself to those mints for which the attribution to a known place is certain, and feel free to leave out, at least for now, mints known from only one or a couple extant coins. For the eighth century, for deniers and sceattas we’re back to a period of uncertainty; let’s use the sceatta attributions in the Oxford catalogue of Michael Metcalf (no relation to William), and for the deniers follow MEC 1.
 
The point to bear in mind is that for the present, we are trying to pull together what is known to make an overview for the entire Mediterranean/European region, not to be precise to the smallest detail or solve attribution questions that have been debated for centuries. Once we get together in March, we will discuss how to proceed with some of these issues, as well as with recording circulation; for now we want to get the spreadsheet to the point at which we can begin seeing overall patterns.
 
Everyone feel free to use respond-all to share your ideas and advice on these issues.
 
Alan

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