Wearing Coins in Roman Times. How? When? For whom? Why?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Roman use of coins as ornamental components of jewellery is widely spread in time and diversified. The first aim of the paper is to discuss its chronology. The dating of individual artefacts must take three factors into account: the date of issue of the coin (terminus post quem), the temporal range of diπusion of the same type among jewellery with and without coins (terminus ad quem) and the date of the archaeological context in which the jewellery was discovered, if any (terminus ante quem). Therefore, the oldest surviving pieces of Roman coin jewellery date back to the last years of the 1st/early 2nd century CE. Afterwards, coin jewellery has a considerable and continuous development until the 5th century. Secondly, the paper intends to present the diπerent types of Roman coin-set jewellery. The most elaborate of them inserted the coins – usually in gold – into pendants, rings, bracelets, brooches, belts, body-chains. Moreover, bronze coins (just pierced and suspended to perishable laces) could also be transformed into less pretentious jewels. Thirdly, the paper tries to identify the wearers of the various categories of coin jewels from a gender perspective, answering questions such as: was a type of coin jewel worn only by women or only by men? Was a type of coin jewel common to both? Its last part is dedicated to the function of coin jewellery. The most ostentatious gold items seem to leave no doubt about their role as a status symbol and display of wealth. But one should also consider the hypothesis that coin jewels and especially pierced coins would be worn as a sort of amulet – thanks to their images and to the protective function assigned to metals (gold and copper) – rather than merely intended as an ornament. My brief paper cannot certainly discuss all the questions related to Roman monetary jewellery. It presents very briefly the main themes that I deal with in greater depth and width in my forthcoming book "Nomismata pro gemmis. Gioielli monetali romani".
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-60
Number of pages22
JournalGEMMAE
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Roman coin-set jewellery
  • coins as amulets
  • non-monetary uses of coins

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