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Graduate Courses


(9 C: Lent)

(4 C: Easter, tbc)

The course is intended for students of all branches of Classics. Its purpose is to help takers to identify the relevance of numismatic material to Part II thesis-topics, MPhil essays, or PhD and other research-based work, as well as to taught courses in the Tripos. Past graduate-members have been drawn from a range of subject-groups, including classical archaeologists/art-historians, ancient historians, and students of ancient literature and linguistics. No previous experience of coins is required and at least one bye-class on coin-identification and on reading coin-catalogues will be offered (18 January 2019, 16:00-18:00, in room 1.04). MPhil students new to Cambridge may also be interested in other sessions in the supplementary (Friday) series in which topics relating principally to the four C-group Part II papers are discussed in more detail than is possible in the Thursday classes (consult the General Courses entry online and the individual entries for Part II Courses - Ancient History). Both series will continue, as necessary, during the first four weeks of Easter Term.

Recent MPhil essay-titles have been “Late Carthaginian coins of the Iberian peninsula”, “How did Rome pay its soldiers in Greece in the second century BC?”, "The coinage of the First Jewish Revolt: context and meaning", “Imperial women: Julio-Claudian female representations on coinage”, “The 874 AUC-issue and Hadrian’s coin programme for AD 121”, and “For love and honour: the deification of Faustina I”. There is, too, the option of offering a numismatic exercise in lieu of an MPhil essay; this might, for example, be a contribution to a project that has as its end a scientific catalogue of the now dispersed collection of Thomas Herbert (1656-1733), 8th Earl of Pembroke, of which a first fascicle, dedicated to the gold and silver coins of the late Roman republic, was offered in 2014.

The classes will be fully illustrated and (with discussion) will run for two hours. The syllabus will be problem-focussed rather than a chronological account of Greek and Roman coinage (for which see, below, the Oxford Handbook) and will seek to examine 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 unashamedly takes the perspective of students working principally from printed sources – coin-catalogues, find-reports, and individual studies – and a primary objective will be to provide you with a critical framework for approaching such sources. The interaction of literary material, and comparative arguments will bear, too, on more general research techniques and on the way information is evaluated.

General procedures will be exemplified, where possible, by reference to 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 (e.g. The image of Alexander the Great in fifteenth century Italy). 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.

MPhil students minded to write either an essay on a numismatic topic or one that is likely to draw on numismatic evidence are encouraged to contact TRV as soon as possible, by e-mail to He expects to be in Cambridge at the start of Michaelmas Term when he will be available (by appointment) in the Classics Faculty for one-to-one meetings (dates will be circulated nearer the time). A meeting for all interested students on Wednesday, 16 January 2019 (i.e. immediately before the start of Lent Term lectures) will provide an illustrated introduction to the course, as well as offering an opportunity to discuss course topics. It will run from 16:00 to 18:00.

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); S. von Reden, Money in Classical Antiquity (Cambridge, 2010); W. Metcalf (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage (Oxford, 2012); and F. Martin, Money: the unauthorised biography (London, 2013).



(8 C: Michaelmas)

Inscriptions provide the historian with a wealth of data touching almost all aspects of the Greek and Roman worlds. They are essential to our understanding of important areas of these civilisations: institutions and administration, laws, religion, crafts, prosopography, onomastics, etc. This course aims at providing a basic introduction to Greek (weeks 1–4) and Roman (weeks 5–8) epigraphy. Students will be guided in the use of basic epigraphic scholarly tools and introduced to the various types of inscriptions and their evolution through time. Whenever possible, examples relevant to the interests of the students will be chosen to illustrate the significance of epigraphic material.

Suggested preliminary reading: J. Bodel, Epigraphic Evidence. Ancient History from Inscriptions (Routledge 2001).



(8 (2 hr) C: Michaelmas: Fitzwilliam Museum)

A series of eight lectures and hands-on classes, conducted partly in the Faculty of Classics, partly in the collections of the Department of Coins and Medals of the Fitzwilliam Museum. The material, which ranges from the 7th century B.C. to the Late Roman Empire, will be considered from various angles – e.g. thematic, typological, archaeological and historical. Students will be exposed to the scholarly techniques of numismatics and will have the opportunity to develop their ideas for an MPhil essay or dissertation.



(8 C: Michaelmas)

Instruction in how to read and understand Linear B tablets covering both epigraphy and approaches to interpretation. No previous experience required. This Master's seminar is also available for undergraduates taking D and E papers in Part II. Please contact Dr Meissner ( for further information.

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