Coins and Texts. The Monetary Economy of Egypt, from Persians until the Beginning of Islam

Coins and Texts. The Monetary Economy of Egypt, from Persians until the Beginning of Islam. Cairo. October 29–31, 2015

Historians can have access to the reality of the Ancient World both from coins, which the scholars with difficulty tried to classify into series, and from texts. The coins then appear in accounts, receipts, contracts, narrations (reports, fiction, travel books…), on different formats (ostraca, papyri, inscriptions…). The aim of the conference is to bring together specialists of this two-sided part of the ancient social and economic history and to have them collaborate in order to define causes and consequences of the appearance and use of coinage in Egypt.

The economy of Egypt has known different languages, in relation to the different authorities that ruled the country along with the inhabitant population. Each language transposes the same reality but with different words. In this respect, the phases of transition between two different authorities (Persian – Ptolemaic – Roman – Islamic) offer a window that gives a glance to the changes and continuities and thereby an opportunity to understand the organization of the ancient economy.

Coins are an essential tool for the organization of exchanges.

At the bottom of the scale, it is important to focus on the use of coins in daily life, particularly on the difference between coins on the one side and the mentions of payments in accounts on the other, but also on the evidence of a separate use of coinage by different social groups (gold, silver, bronze).

Then, what is the path followed by coins? From the royal mint to the purse of the fellah and on the other way round, from the payment of tax to the royal treasury, what are the different steps of the transformation of coinage? Who was paying what, with which metal?

Periods of transition, finally, are often a way to take account of change, or continuity, of monetary policies of the authorities. From the introduction of the first bronze coins and the minting of pseudo-Athenian coins during the Persian period, to the change of accounting system under Augustus and later to the transformations led by the Islamic authorities, a large range of examples gave the opportunity to grasp the pragmatic side of the monetary exchanges.

These three topics offer a favorable ground to the organization of a three-day conference, which should lead specialists of coins and texts to a better understanding of the ancient economy. This meeting is not only inter-disciplinary, it also gives a view on the long term, from the Persian period until the early Islamic rule. Answers to these questions will give a better understanding of the effort of resilience of those who used coinage in Egypt and will shed light on the specific features of the economy of Egypt on the long term.

Contributions may address:

Questions on the daily use of coins:

  • What kind of coins were used?
  • What is the difference between the sums registered in papyri and the coins in circulation and therefore, the difference between sums given in the texts and the sums really paid in cash?What is the monetization rate in different regions, social groups, periods?
  • Who is using gold and silver, and who is using bronze?
  • Where did exchanges take place?
  • Were the coins weighted or counted, depending on periods? How was the value of coinage estimated, or established?

Production of coinage :

  • Who gave the order to mint coins, and for which use? Who were the recipients of those payments?
  • What is the role of gold/silver/bronze coins?
  • How was the market supplied in coins and how did coinage return to Alexandria?
  • What was the part of taxes paid in coins/kind?
  • What was the part of taxes in the state revenues?
  • What was the role of taxes in coin circulation? How easy/difficult was it for people to have access to coins for payment of taxes?

Administration of old and new coins:

  • When coinage appeared in Egypt, how was it presented?
  • How the transition between the old and the new system of account worked in Ptolemaic Egypt
  • How the system went back to a Greek system under the rule of Augustus, how “Ptolemaic” coins were used during the early Roman period
  • How the transition to the gold-standard was effected during the Byzantine period?
  • What kind of coins were used during the early Islamic period?

It would therefore be desirable to work in pairs (specialist of texts – specialist of coins) to allow a confrontation of sources and a fruitful debate. For a fast publication of the proceedings of the conference and for the debates during the conference to be as interesting as possible, it will be asked that you submit the text of your communication not later than the 15th September 2015. Texts of presentations will be printed as pre-proceedings and distributed a few weeks before the conference so that the participants will be able to study its contents.

Proposals for participation should be sent to Thomas Faucher (CNRS, IRAMAT- CEB, Univ. Orléans)

Posted on Jun 16, 2014 in Calls for Papers



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