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Ecology and Monetary Standards in Roman Egypt

Date and Time: 
Friday, October 30, 2020. 12:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Zoom
Workshop: 
Standardization in Ancient Economies
Meeting Description: 

During the Roman period, coinage thoroughly permeated Egyptian economic and social institutions and, furthermore, the province’s coinage enjoyed nominal integration in wider monetary networks within and beyond the Roman world. The emergence and endurance of integrated monetary standards in Egypt, first under Hellenistic regimes, and then subsequently under Roman authorities, seems largely a product of top-down political forces. Egypt’s unique ecological context, however, also played a key role—sometimes undergirding, sometimes undermining monetary policies, as well as influencing the behavior of coin users. Hidden in plain sight, the rhythmic inundations of the Nile and Egypt’s related agricultural cycle shaped the meanings inhabitants attached to coins, and even affected the quantity and quality of Egyptian coinage. Roman Egypt offers scholars a crucial case study in the ongoing interdisciplinary effort to understand the ways in which ecology interacts with political and economic institutions.

Colin P. Elliott is assistant professor of history at Indiana University. He is the author of Economic Theory and the Roman Monetary Economy (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and is currently writing an epidemiological, ecological, and economic history of the High Roman Empire entitled Pox Romana: The Antonine Plague and the End of the Roman Peace (Princeton University Press, under contract).

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