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LIST OF SUBJECTS.
COIN : metal stamped for currency, or in commemoration of some event, in which latter case the coin are frequently distinguished as medals. With the ancients, however, the coins used for currency had occasionally this property of the modern medal. [MEDAL.] The word coin is derived by some from the Greek kówos, common; by others from the Latin, cuneus, a wedge; the first currency of metal, in all probability, being in the form of wedges, or ingots. Commerce, in the earliest periods, was carried on by the mere exchange of articles, and it is remarkable that throughout the early part of Scripture, as well as through the poems of Homer, not a single passage occurs from which we can infer either the use or the existence of stamped money. Metals, however, being close and compact in form, universal as to use, and admitting of division into larger or lesser parts, soon became the representatives of value, though at what exact period remains in doubt. Á Herodotus, i. 94, speaking of the Lydians, expressly says they were the - first people on record who coined gold and silver into money. The Parian Chronicle, however, ascribes the origin of coined money to the 42ginetans, under Pheidon, king of Argos, 895 years before Christ. Ælian, in his ‘Various History, corroborates this statement as far as the Æginetans are mentioned: and our best numismatic antiquaries agree in considering the coins of AEgina, from their archaic form and appearance, as the most ancient known. They are of silver, and bear on the upper side the figure of a turtle, and on the under an indented mark, as if the metal, at the time of striking, had been fixed upon a puncheon, and from the weight of the blow had received a deep cleft. In later coins of AEgina, the turtle has been changed to a tortoise, and the fissure on the other side converted into a device. The coins of Lydia probably come next in point of antiquity, and then the early
Darics of the Persian kings, which occur both in gold and silver, and bear a strong resemblance to the coins of Ægina in the mode of striking: these, if they are to be referred to Darius the First, must have been coined between B.c. 522 and 486. The richer the metal, the smaller and more portable was the quantity required for the coin. There are coins in gold of the early kings of Persia, similar in type to the silver Darics, and of very minute size. The study of coins is not to be considered as the province of the antiquary alone. Coins are among the most certain evidences of history. In the later part of the Greek series they illustrate the chronology of reigns. In the Roman series they fix the dates and succession of events. Gibbon observes that if all our historians were lost, medals, inscriptions, and other monuments, would be sufficient to
record the travels of Hadrian. The reign of Probus might be written from his coins. In illustrating the history and chronology of sculpture and ancient marbles, coins enable the scholar and the artist not only to discern those peculiarities which characterise style, as it relates to different ages and schools, but to ascribe busts and statues to the persons whom they represent. The personation of the different provinces, too, forms another point of interest upon the Roman coins. Coins are frequently essential to the illustration of obscure passages in ancient writers; and preserve delineations of some of the most beautiful edifices
of antiquity not existing now even in their ruins. Addison, in his.
“Dialogue on the Usefulness of Ancient medals,” has long convinced the world of the connexion of this science with poetry. As a branch of the fine arts, it may be sufficient to say that some of the medals of Sicily belong to a period when sculpture had attained its highest perfection. We would particularly refer to the coins of Syracuse. In every quality of art, too, the Roman coins, to a certain period yield to the Greek alone. From Augustus to Hadrian the Roman mint was the seat of genius: and coins of admirable execution are found even down to the time of Posthumus. The generality of numismatic writers divide coins into Ancient and Modern;–the Ancient, into the great divisions of Greek, Roman, and Barbarian. The Greek they divide into cities and kings. Of the first they can make no chronological arrangement: it is alphabetical, under the different countries. The kings commence with the age of Alexander the Great, and belong to the four kingdoms into which his empire was divided, besides the kingdom of Epirus. This series, in a chronological point of view, closes with the extinction of the dynasty of the Lagidae in the Augustan age. The coins of the Greek cities were impressed either with appropriate symbols or the heads of deities. The coins of the monarchs bore the heads of the respective princes. Pinkerton observes that the first copper coins of Greece known are those of Gelon king of Syracuse, about 490 years before our aera. These were called Chalci, pieces of brass; others, of a more diminutive size, were called Lepta, or Kerma, as being change for the poor. He considers there is no proof of the coinage of gold in Greece before Philip of Macedon. Athens had no gold money at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war. The Roman coins are divided into consular, imperial, and medallions. The subdivisions of the consular are into Roman ases and coins of the families. Of the imperial there are two subdivisions, Roman and Grecian; the latter being again subdivided into those of provinces, colonies, and municipia. The medallions are likewise divided into Roman and Grecian. The earliest coinage of Rome was of copper, and took place in the reign of Servius Tullius, probably about five centuries before Christ. The Romans are supposed to have borrowed the art from their neighbours, the Etruscans. Of the as, its divisions and its compounds, we have already spoken in a former article. [As.] On some of the later Roman, as well as on what were called the Italian ases and their #. the practice became prevalent of placing the names of many of the principal families of Rome upon the fields of the coins. These form the division which are called family coins. The silver coinage of Rome was introduced in the year 266 B.C., when the denarius was so termed from its being equivalent to ten ases. Pliny informs us (‘Nat. Hist.’ xxxiii. 13, edit. Hard. ii. 612) that the coinage of gold was introduced sixty-two years after that of silver. The largest piece of gold was called aureus. [AUREUs.) The imperial coins of Rome
ARTS AND SCI, DIV. WOL. III,
form the most complete and most interesting series of any extant. Ib