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Graduate Courses


(4 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 argument to MPhil essays, PhD dissertations, and other research-based work, where coinage is not necessarily the principal topic. Graduate-members are usually drawn from a range of subject-groups, including classical archaeologists/art-historians, ancient historians, and students of ancient literature and linguistics.

Past 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 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 fascicule, dedicated to the gold and silver coins of the late Roman republic, was completed in 2014.

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 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. 

No previous experience of coins is required and at least one bye-class on reading coin-catalogues will be offered (17 January 2020, 16:00-18:00 in Room 1.04).

The fully illustrated classes will run (with discussion) 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.  Interested students are strongly advised to attend the Introduction (15 January 2020) and the first two sessions on “Looking at coins”, for their sideways approach to the material.

General procedures will be exemplified, where possible, by reference to material related to the interests of individual class-members. They include 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 Lent Term or at the beginning of 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, 15 January 2020 (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 a wealth of information regarding almost all aspects of the Greek and Roman worlds: institutions, administration, law, religion, society, language, prosopography, etc. The aim of the course is to introduce students to this type of source, its usefulness and limitations, as well as to the scholarly tools used in epigraphy. Through squeezes and images, students will be encouraged to read and interpret interesting texts from different classes of inscriptions.

The course comprises 8 lectures divided between Greek (week 1-4) and Latin epigraphy (week 5-8). It is available to Part II and graduate students. No previous experience in working with inscriptions is required and only basic knowledge of Greek and Latin.


Preliminary reading: J. Bodel, Epigraphic Evidence. Ancient History from Inscriptions (London 2001); J. Davies and J. Wilkes, Epigraphy and the Historical Sciences (Oxford 2012)



(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.All teaching materials will be provided. This course is also an ideal complement to D1 Aegean Prehistory and E2 Greek in the Bronze Age.

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