Author Archive: Mike Markowitz

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Small Change: The Tiniest Ancient Coins

Small Change: The Tiniest Ancient Coins

CoinWeek Ancient Coin Series: By Mike Markowitz “Parva Ne Pereant” In 2014 the British Royal Mint issued a gold proof 50p coin only 8 mm in diameter*, weighing in at 1/40 Troy ounce (0.8 grams.) This is the smallest coin the UK has ever struck and surely one of the smallest modern coins. For comparison, […]

The Ancient Coinage of Crete

The Ancient Coinage of Crete

CoinWeek Ancient Coin Series by Mike Markowitz….  Labyrinths and Minotaurs and Bulls, Oh My! For the Ancient Greeks, Crete was a place of myth and legend. It was the birthplace of Zeus and the site of the Labyrinth. It was home to the Minotaur and the Cretan Bull. It was also the center of Minoan […]

193: The Year of Five Emperors

193: The Year of Five Emperors

Ancient Coin Series by Mike Markowitz for CoinWeek…. The Death of Commodus In Ridley Scott’s film Gladiator (2000), demented emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) is slain in the Colosseum by mortally wounded general-turned-gladiator Maximus (Russell Crowe). In the closing scene, we are left to imagine that wise Senator Gracchus (Derek Jacobi) and lovely princess Lucilla (Connie […]

Ancient Coins: What about Sparta?

Ancient Coins: What about Sparta?

Ancient Coin Series by Mike Markowitz for CoinWeek… Spartans disdained many things that other ancient Greeks valued. One of these things was money. Hundreds of different Greek cities issued coins between the birth of coined money around 650 BCE and the end of Greek civic coinage some time after 300 CE. The apparent exception was Sparta. Many […]

By September 23, 2014 0 Comments Read More →
Ancient Coins: Coinage of the Barbarian Invaders

Ancient Coins: Coinage of the Barbarian Invaders

Ancient Coin Series by Mike Markowitz for CoinWeek… Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas? Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts, and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds? Why are they carrying elegant canes beautifully worked in silver and gold? Because the barbarians […]

By September 8, 2014 0 Comments Read More →
Ancient Coin Insights: Coinage of Parthia

Ancient Coin Insights: Coinage of Parthia

by Mike Markowitz for CoinWeek…. Parthian royal history (c. 247 BC – 228 CE) is a dismal record of sons murdering fathers, and brothers slaying brothers to seize a shaky throne. Yet for most of this era, Parthia provided reasonably efficient government to a population of Greeks, Persians and Arabs; tolerating Christians, Jews, Pagans, Zoroastrians […]

Medieval Numismatics: Coins of the Crusaders

Medieval Numismatics: Coins of the Crusaders

CoinWeek Medieval Coin Series by Mike Markowitz ……….. Crusader coins survive in surprising abundance and have much to tell us about this distant era, which has so many parallels to contemporary events. Between 1096 and 1291, the Church of Rome, the aristocracy, and the peoples of Western Europe launched a series of military campaigns against the Muslim […]

The Coinage of Aksum

The Coinage of Aksum

by Mike Markowitz for CoinWeek…. Ancient Coin Series Where the south declines towards the setting sun lies the country called Ethiopia, the last inhabited land in that direction. There gold is obtained in great plenty… –Herodotus, The Histories, Book 2 (c. 450 BCE) Five days march inland from the Red Sea, on the hilly Tigray Plateau, […]

The Coinage of Carthage

The Coinage of Carthage

by Mike Markowitz for CoinWeek…. Ancient Coin Series Most of what we know about Carthaginians was written by their enemies–first the Greeks, then the Romans. They are described as greedy, treacherous and brutal. Yet even Cicero, a Roman politician born 40 years after Carthage was wiped out, grudgingly admitted that “Carthage would never have held […]

Comets and Meteorites on Ancient Coins

Comets and Meteorites on Ancient Coins

By Mike Markowitz for Coinweek….. Ancient Coin Series The night sky was really important to ancient people. This can be hard for us to understand, living as we do in a world where light pollution denies us a clear view of the stars. What people saw in the sky – or thought they saw – […]

Elephants on Ancient Coins

Elephants on Ancient Coins

By Mike Markowitz for Coinweek….. Ancient Coin Series Strong, intelligent, and long-lived – yet surprisingly gentle – elephants have long exerted a powerful hold over the human imagination. Prehistoric cave paintings depict elephants and their extinct cousins, the wooly mammoth and mastodon. Ivory from elephant tusks was a precious raw material in the ancient world because it […]

Why Museums Hate Ancient Coins

Why Museums Hate Ancient Coins

By Mike Markowitz for Coinweek….. Ancient Coin Series As collectors of ancient coins, one of the most Frequently Asked Questions we encounter is “Don’t these things belong in museums?” The answer, sometimes with a patient sigh, sometimes with a snort of derision, is an emphatic, “No!” The Dirty Little Secret is that museums hate ancient coins. Or, […]

Ancient Coin Insights: Real Roman Women on Coins

Ancient Coin Insights: Real Roman Women on Coins

By Mike Markowitz for Coinweek….. Ancient Coin Series Much like Americans, Republican Romans had a deep-rooted prejudice against depicting living people on their money. It was something that pretentious Greek kings and tyrants did. When Julius Caesar violated this taboo, his assassins claimed that he was trying to make himself a king. And yet, within […]

Why Did Byzantine Coins Become Cup-Shaped?

Why Did Byzantine Coins Become Cup-Shaped?

By Mike Markowitz for CoinWeek ……. Ancient Coin Series …… On March 27, 2014 the US Mint released its first curved coins: five-dollar gold, one-dollar silver and 50-cent copper-nickel clad proof commemoratives celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The reverse shows the stitching of a baseball (convex side), while Cassie McFarland’s […]

The First Real Woman to Appear on a Coin

The First Real Woman to Appear on a Coin

By Mike Markowitz for CoinWeek….. The earliest coins, which emerged around 650 BCE on the shores of the Aegean Sea, depicted ancient symbols of power such as the lion and the bull. Shortly after 500 BCE images of mythological beings start to appear on the coinage of Greek cities: gods, heroes, and imaginary creatures like […]

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