Roman coins in South Asia
Summary of discussion on Moneta-L eGroup.
From: John Hartwell
Date: 2000 Sep 13, 6:44pm
This afternoon there has been a brief thread in the Southasia-coins list
regarding some Roman and Byzantine coins found in Sri Lanka. Inquiring
further, it seems that Classical coins are found with some frequency in
the region (mention was made of a hoard of Roman gold found some years
ago in Viet Nam, Mekong Delta -- one corespondent tells me this find is
'very well known!"). I am told that experts in Asian coinage are quite
familiar with the phenomenon, but Classical numismatists are usually
surprised to hear of it.
South Asian (India & vicinity) coins are very rare in the Mediteranean
world, suggesting that trade was largely in terms of Roman cash for
Eastern goods rather than vice versa. Roman gold is more common in
hoards in the east, while bronze are usually individual finds. Makes
sense, when you think about it.
It seems we need some sound interdisciplinary communication. I'm
inquiring after some references on the Southasia end, does anyone on
this list know of any relevant publications?
From: Dawson Lewis
Date: 2000 Sep 13, 7:30pm
Subject: Re: Roman coins in South Asia & beyond
The book "COINAGE IN THE ROMAN ECONOMY, 300 B.C. TO A.D." by Kenneth W. Harl
has a chapter about the use of Roman coins beyond the Empire.
The Aureus was so respected that for most of the time of the empire
even other kingdoms like the Persians used it. Also, there were
extensive trading ties between the Empire and India from the time of
Augustus through about 200 and again after Constantine came to power.
During the 1st and 2nd century the denarii was so respected that
Indian rulers struck imitations for their own internal use.
During the troubles of the 3rd century apparently trade broke down or
was abandoned. Finally, coins of the Constantinian family appear in
Sri Lanka as trade was reestablished. And from Sri Lanka in the 300's
and 400's the local kingdom minted copies of the Roman bronze coins
for their own needs.
Michael Grant has a book that discusses coins used in trade with India. The
book title is "Roman history from coins; some uses of the imperial coinage to
From: John C. Lavender
Date: 2000 Sep 14, 00:10am
There is an abundance of scholarly publication that examines Roman coins found in India.
Probably the easiest references to locate are:
Paula J. Turner, Roman Coins from India,
RNS Special Publication no. 22 (London, 1989).
Lawrence A. Adams, "The Indian Imitations of Roman Aurei,"
SAN Journal, Vol. XVII - 4. (September 1989), pp. 68-74, 76.
William E. Metcalf, "Roman Aurei from India,"
ANSMN 24 (1979), pp. 123-27.
From: Marvin Tameanko
Date: 2000 Sep 14, 11:28am
I would like to add the following to list of references
'Rome Beyond the Imperial Frontiers' by M. Wheeler, pg. 29.
'Roman Coins from Anhadra Pardesh' (India) by Lal Gupta.
'Indian Type Denarii of Tiberius' by M. Tameanko in the Celator June 1991.
Pliny the Elder, the Roman historian, AD 23-79, in his work
'Natural History' tells how Roman merchants were shipwrecked on the
coast of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka and how the local king was very
impressed by the coins in their purses which were of a standard weight
and alloy of silver and of a fine design. So he decided to copy
them. I can't remember the volume or page number for this reference
but I could find it in about a week or two.