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Stratum plus. 2017. No6

T. N. Smekalova (Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation)

The Invention of Coinage of Various Denominations from Different Copper-Based Alloys




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Pages: 139-148


The article deals with a qualitatively new phenomenon in the ancient Greek monetary production that occurred in the Pontine time kingdom of Mithridates VI: the invention of coinage of different denominations made of different copper-based alloys. For the first time, along with bronze (copper, tin and lead alloy), the use of brass (copper and zinc alloy) and “pure” copper begins. These conclusions are based on the analysis using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy of about 13 thousand coins from the collection of the State Hermitage, which belongs to the ancient Greek states of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
With the help of the analyzes, the first “pure” copper coins were revealed. They were Pontic anonymous obols with the head in leather helmet/eight-ray star, issued before 95 BC. The first brass coins appeared to be tetrachalkoi of Amisus and Dia with the Dionysos/cista struck during the preparation and the height of the First Mithridates war with Rome (89/88 BC). Both types of coins belong to the Pontic kingdom of the era of Mithridates VI Eupator.
The purpose of coinage from various copper alloys is the issue of coins of conventional value of large denominations of cheap alloys, which at some stage could replace silver money. The introduction of new copper-based alloys into the coinage coincides with the First Mithridatic War with Rome and, apparently, was dictated by the urgent need to find additional funds to prepare for large-scale military operations, and to organize the peripheral coinage of the expanded Pontic state.


Keywords: Kingdom of Pontus, Rome, Bosporus, ancient period, Mithridates VI Eupator, coinage, copper alloys, bronze, brass, “pure” copper


Information about author:

Tatiana Smekalova
(Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation). Doctor of Historical Sciences. V. I. Vernadsky Crimean Federal University. Academician Vernadsky Ave., 4, Simferopol, 295007, Crimea; National Research Center “Kurchatov Institute”. Academician Kurchatov Sq., 1, Moscow, 123098, Russian Federation
E-mail: [email protected]

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