Ancients Conference, UC Classics Dept, Christchurch - 2-3 July 2022

2 July 2022 @ 9:00 am - 3 July 2022 @ 12:00 pm

'Old Chemistry Building', 3 Hereford St, Christchurch

The Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand Inc. and
Classics Department of the University of Canterbury
Te Whare Wananga o Waitaha

Conference on Ancient Coinages
Ōtautahi – Christchurch 2 – 3 July 2022

Saturday 2 July 2022 – Classics Department, Old Chemistry Building, 3 Hereford St
9:00 – 10:30 Session One presentations

10:30 – 11:00 Morning tea

11:00 – 12:30 Session Two presentations

12:30 – 2:00 Lunch
Delegates are free to choose from a wide choice of options. DUO Dining Room is on Hereford St opposite the venue, while Bunsen Café, Fiddlesticks and Zen Sushi are within the bounds of the Arts Centre precinct and Riverside Market at 96 Oxford Terrace (650m walk) offers a wide selection of dining options and an opportunity to explore this rejuvenated area of Christchurch – - for choices and floor plan.

12:30 – 3:30 Classical coins and antiquities fair, hosted by Aventine Numismatics and Antiquarius, will offer displays and items for sale in Camerata Room on Level 3.

2:00 – 3:00 Viewing of collections held in the Classics Department on loan from the Canterbury Museum and in the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities.

3:00 – 3:30 Afternoon tea

3:30 – 5:00 Session Three presentations

6:30 Delegates who have registered for the optional conference dinner are invited to begin to assemble at Curator’s House Restaurant, 7 Rolleston Avenue, Botanic Gardens, for dinner at 7:00 – for more about this house and restaurant.

Sunday 3 July 2022 – Ravenscar House Museum & Gallery, 52 Rolleston Avenue
10:00 Delegates are asked to be at the Museum entrance by 9:50 to enable the tour to begin promptly. Visit for information on the history of the museum and gallery.


9:00 Coins during Chaos: The coins of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius during the “Year of the Four Emperors”
F2F - Gwynaeth McIntyre

9:30 Allies and Empire: The Context of Early Roman Coinage
Zoom - Jeremy Armstrong

10:00 How Identifiable Coined Portraiture Established a Ptolemaic ‘Royal Brand’
F2F - Manon Post

11:00 Zenobia’s Public Image
F2F - Hamish Cameron

11:30 The Enigmatic Emperor? A Quantitative Reassessment of Hadrian's Imperial Coinage
Zoom - Charlotte Mann 

12:00 The Emperor on his Mount: King or Comrade?
F2F - Alison Griffith

3:30 A New ‘Pegasus’ mint (Paleis) and the question of Kephallenia
Zoom - Kenneth Sheedy and Stephanie McCarthy-Reece

4:00 3D Modelling of Ancient Coins: From the Lab to the Classroom
F2F - Gala Morris

4:30 The Mystery of the Bi-lingual Coinage of the Indo-Greek Kingdoms
F2F - Allan Speedy

Coins during Chaos: The coins of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius during the “Year of the Four Emperors”
In the years 68-69 CE, four individuals claimed the title “emperor” in Rome. We know that coins played an important role in how emperors promoted themselves, but how does an emperor spread messages through coinage when in power for only a short time (3-6 months)? This talk examines the six coins of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, held in the Otago Museum’s collections, two from each emperor. It explores how each emperor used portrait styles as well as particular images and personified virtues to distance themselves from their competitors and show that they were the one to bring peace back to Rome. While not known for their intricate designs or collectable value, each of these coins made it into the museum’s collection through a private individual’s donation of their own collection. This talk also explores why these coins may have been acquired by these individuals and how they fit into their collections.

Dr Gwynaeth McIntyre, Senior Lecturer, Classics Programme, School of Arts, University of Otago

Allies and Empire: The Context of Early Roman Coinage
The birth of Roman coinage c. 300 BCE has often been considered a small, and largely aesthetic, part of a larger ‘Hellenizing’ movement in Roman society at the time. As the Romans expanded into Magna Graecia in the late fourth and early third centuries, they are thought to have gradually adopted the forms of Greek currency, almost as if by accident, alongside other aspects of Greek culture. In contrast, the present paper will suggest that early Roman coinage should instead be understood as one stage in Rome’s wider engagement with the military systems in the region. In the fourth century BCE Mediterranean world, coinage was primarily produced to pay for state-based military expenses. Rather than representing a cultural trend which the Romans became enamoured with c. 300 BCE, Rome’s early use of coinage in this period can be explained by the state’s increasing participation in this existing pan-Mediterranean military system – first through her allies, and later through minting coinage directly.

Dr Jeremy Armstrong, Associate Professor, Classics and Ancient History, University of Auckland

How Identifiable Coined Portraiture Established a Ptolemaic ‘Royal Brand’
The novelty of the introduction of humous portraiture onto the coinage of the early Ptolemies is well established, however, this recognition has not produced analysis of how these coins came to interact with existing messaging systems. This oversight hides the existence of a visual echo chamber, created by portraits in a variety of mediums and inspired by a variety of contexts. This effectively created a ‘royal brand’ that tied the distinctive appearance of the portraits to the kings’ messages and actions – creating an identity for the ruler that their subjects could ‘know’ in a way that they previously hadn’t. This policy, provably successful in both its rapid uptake and continued existence, is an under-recognised legacy of the Ptolemies, and one of the keys to their dynastic longevity.

Manon Post – MA in Ancient History, University College London 2019-20, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Auckland 2021. Currently seeking PhD opportunities.

Zenobia’s Public Image
The breakaway “Palmyrene Empire” only lasted for a few years in the tumultuous third century CE, but produced one of the most fascinating figures of the Roman world, the queen and regent known and Bathzabbai in Aramaic, Septima Zenobia in Greek, and commonly known simply as Zenobia (Andrade 2018). Studies of her coinage are usually focused on reconciling the literary sources to establish a timeline for 268-272 and discussing how her relative degree of “loyalty” to the central Roman state changed and developed over that time (Carson 1978; Bland 2011). Instead of dealing with issues of chronology and imperial geopolitics, I will move in a different direction to explore the images Zenobia used on her coinage and consider what they might tell us about how she wanted to be perceived by her subjects. What symbols and non-portrait did Zenobia use on her coinage? What divine figures did she invoke? How did those representations create a representation of Zenobia and her power to the people among whom the coins circulated?

Dr Hamish Cameron: Lecturer in Classics, School of Languages and Cultures, Victoria University of Wellington

The Enigmatic Emperor? A Quantitative Reassessment of Hadrian's Imperial Coinage
Hadrian has bewildered modern historians and their ancient counterparts. The Epitome de Caesaribus baulked at the challenge of describing his varied personality entirely, protesting that Hadrian was 'varius multiplex multiformis' or a man of contradictory impulses (Epit. de Caes. 14.6). More recently, Thorsten Opper declared that a romanticised image of Hadrian clouds public perception and that the real 'Roman Hadrian' remains undiscovered (Opper (2008) 22). Nowhere, however, is Hadrian so enigmatic as in the imperial coinage issued in his name. The most recent catalogue of Hadrian's imperial coinage contains more than one hundred distinct reverse types, which infuriated and beguiled its editor in equal measure: 'tantalisingly,' Abdy writes, 'it is the very artistic diversity which makes Hadrianic coinage fascinating that has hampered our understanding of it' (Abdy (2019) 1). This paper uses a hoard sample of 16,600 imperial coins to re-evaluate Hadrian with the imagery present in greatest frequency at the forefront of his public image. This quantitative perspective shows that Hadrian's imperial coinage focused upon thirteen major types that created an image of Hadrian as the benevolent ruler of a stable Empire. The results of this analysis bring clarity and cohesion to the study of Hadrian's coinage, undertaking described by Harold Mattingly and Edward Sydenham as an 'arduous task' (Mattingly and Sydenham (1926) 319).

Dr Charlotte Mann, University of Warwick and Macquarie University

The Emperor on his Mount: King or Comrade?
In the ancient Near East, images of deities grasping lions, and rulers spearing carnivorous animals from horseback or shooting arrows from a moving chariot were an expression of power stretching back to the 2nd millennium BCE. This visual shorthand for the vigour and athletic prowess of the ruler was easily adapted to convey success in combat, for example by Alexander the Great and his successors. In a Roman context, however, the triumphant general only appeared in a special horse-drawn chariot, and never astride a horse—until the 2nd century CE. In this paper I will briefly examine the sudden appearance of the emperor on horseback on 2nd- and 3rd-century coins. Using legends, clothing, equipment and gestures, I will argue that such images are not merely a revival of past visual tropes, but rather that they sit at the intersection of religious trends, political tensions on Rome’s eastern frontier, and changing expectations of the emperor as commander-in-chief.

Dr Alison B. Griffith: Associate Professor, Department of Classics | Pūawaitanga, University of Canterbury

A New ‘Pegasus’ mint (Paleis) and the question of Kephallenia
The accepted ‘canon’ of North-West Greek mints that produced Corinthian-type silver staters (pegasus/helmeted head of Athena) in the fourth century B.C. is generally limited to cities in Aetolia, the Ionian islands, and especially Ambracia. This paper contends that the polis of Paleis on the island of Kephallonia also produced a ‘pegasus coinage’ during the fourth century B.C. Given the general willingness of cities along the coast of North-West Greece to mint ‘pegasi’, the absence of mints producing this coinage on the largest of the Ionian islands, Kephallenia, is thrown into contrast, especially given its strategic location at the mouth of the Corinthian gulf. Imhoof-Blumer concluded that rare pegasi with the monogram should be identified as a ‘federal coinage’ minted by the Epirotes in Ambracia. We propose the monogram instead denotes Paleis, one of the four independent towns on the island of Kephallenia, and present arguments to support this attribution.

Dr Kenneth Sheedy, Associate Professor, Director, Australian Centre for Ancient Numismatic Studies, Macquarie University and Stephanie McCarthy-Reece: ACANS, Macquarie University

3D Modelling of Ancient Coins: From the Lab to the Classroom
First-year Classics and Ancient History students at the University of Auckland have traditionally been given access to select coins from the department’s numismatics collection as part of their tutorials. First-hand student interaction with ancient coins in the classroom, however, is limited due to time constraints and the requirement for staff-supervision. While providing two photographs, under the correct lighting, provides quite a lot of information, this system is recognised as a compromise, and ‘proper’ numismatic study has generally required the physical handling of the items to capture the three-dimensional aspects of the artefact. Digitised, 3D models of ancient coins provide new opportunities for students to interact with these coins – and particularly remotely (something which has become increasingly important due to the pandemic). Three Roman Republican coins from the University of Auckland’s numismatics collection were digitised using photogrammetric methods to create 3D digital models for student use. This paper will discuss the current methodological processes, challenges, and limitations of creating 3D models of ancient coins, as well as discuss the use and success of models as pedagogical tools for teaching Archaeology and Ancient History using survey data following their deployment in 2021.

Gala Morris, (Joshua Emmitt, and Jeremy Armstrong), University of Auckland

The Mystery of the Bi-lingual Coinage of the Indo-Greek Realms
It was known from Classical sources that Greek kingdoms or ’Yavanas’, largely forgotten or considered semi-legendary, had existed for a period in the North-western Indian subcontinent at some point after Alexander the Great’s invasion of India in 326 BC. These kingdoms remain among the least understood political and social entities of the ancient world. Indeed, only eight kings are known from literary, epigraphic, and archaeological sources, while over 40 can be identified on coins alone. These coins largely bear legends in Greek on the obverse and Kharoṣṭhī script on the reverse. The Achaemenid Empire had used a script called Kharoṣṭhī in administration of the eastern satrapies. The first coins to bear legends in Kharoṣṭhī script were those of the Indo-Greek kings. Over the short space of about 10 years (from c.190 BC - c. 180 BC) their coins changed from solely Greek legends to bi-lingual Greek/Brahmi legends to Greek/Kharoshti legends. Why? And why choose then to keep Kharoshti on the coins for almost 200 years? This paper speculates on possible answers.

Allan L.T. Speedy, Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society


We were thrilled to have received support from the Alistair Robb Numismatics Fund to support Numismatic Research and Development, administered by the Nikau Foundation, to bring this conference to life.

Founded in 1991 with the goal of building thriving, sustainable communities throughout the Wellington region, Nikau Foundation ensures that local generosity goes to local causes. Alistair Finlay Robb FRNSNZ served as President of the RNSNZ in 1971 and was a Vice-President continuously from 1981 to his death in July 2014.

For more information on Nikau Foundation, click here.