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General Courses



 (8 C: Michaelmas)

Instruction in how to read and understand Linear B tablets covering both epigraphy and approaches to interpretation. No previous experience required. The classes are open both to postgraduates and to third-year students taking D and E papers in Part II.



(8 C: Lent)

The course is open to students of all branches of Classics and will cater for all levels of preparation (Part I, Part II, and graduate students. No previous experience of coins is required and bye-classes on coin-identification and on reading coin-catalogues will be offered. Its aims are:

  1. To enable takers to recognise areas in their other work (whether research papers or written examinations) where it might be appropriate to look for relevant numismatic evidence, whether or not "coins" or "coinage" figure in a particular thesis-title or are listed among the topics to be covered in the syllabus of their Tripos papers;
  2. To enable takers to gain the confidence to tackle a book or article in which numismatic topics are discussed; and
  3. To enable takers to pose questions on the procedures and conclusions reached in the numismatic literature, rather than proceed on the basis of blind acceptance.

In addition to graduate students (who should consult the Graduate Courses entry, below; and the Graduate Handbook), the course has in recent years attracted both Part IA students and Part II candidates, the latter offering various combinations of A, C, D, E, and X Group papers. Part II thesis-topics on which advice has been sought since 2012-13 include Julius Caesar, the Flavians and Judaea, Trajan (two candidates), Pompeii, the ventennio fascista, ancient cartography, the iconography of the coinage of Ptolemy I, and Libertas and Res Publica in late republican and imperial ideology.

The classes will be fully illustrated and (with discussion) will run for two hours. The programme will be problem-centred rather than a chronological narrative of Greek and Roman coinage (for which see, below, the Oxford Handbook) and will aim at examining the strengths and limitations of the different and sometimes apparently contradictory sorts of evidence employed in trying to understand how coins behaved in the ancient world. The course deliberately takes the perspective of the student working primarily from printed sources – coin-catalogues, find-reports, and mint- studies – and a primary objective will be to provide him or her with a critical framework for approaching such sources. The interaction of literary, material, and comparative arguments will, it is hoped. assist in the development of more widely applicable research techniques and an understanding of how information is evaluated.

The main series (provisionally booked for Thursday afternoons, from 16:00 to 18:00) will be concerned with a rich mix of general procedures, exemplified, so far as possible, by material related to the interests of individual class-members. They include considering what can be learnt from the way coins are made and what weight should be given to the designs that appear on them. Set pieces from previous years include a critique of a particular site-report (Coins from the centre of Rome) and the reception of Greek and Roman coins from the Renaissance onwards, most recently by looking at the case of Punic silver coinage and the Iberian peninsula (offered in association with the C3 paper on Carthage and Rome). A visit to the Bank of England Museum (refurbished in 2014) and to the British Museum's Money gallery (refurbished in 2013), either at the end of the Lent Term or at the beginning of the Easter Term, will complement the Cambridge classes.

Interested Part II students are strongly encouraged to attend the main classes, as arguments are developed over the whole term. But it is proposed to offer a number of additional classes (provisionally booked for Friday afternoons, from 16:00 to 18:00) beginning with the first bye-class on coin-identification and continuing, as necessary, with more detailed discussion of topics related to C group papers than might be possible in the main series. The scope and structure of these classes will depend upon intending takers' interest and availability.

There will be a meeting for all interested students immediately before the start of the lecturing term, to introduce the course and to decide on the balance of topics to be covered over the two series. Part II students minded to write a thesis on either a numismatic topic or one that is likely to draw on numismatic evidence are encouraged to contact TRV so soon as possible, by e-mail to

Preliminary reading: P. Grierson, Numismatics (Oxford, 1975); M.H. Crawford, ‘Numismatics’, in M.H. Crawford (ed.), Sources for Ancient History (Cambridge, 1983); C. Howgego, Ancient History from Coins (London, 1995); W. Metcalf (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage (Oxford, 2012); and F. Martin, Money: the unauthorised biography (London, 2013).

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