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The Coinage of the Achaian League: Between Federal Authority and Civic Autonomy

Hemidrachm of Achaean League, Elis, Greek, 50–30 BCE. Silver. Loan from the Trustees of the Arthur Stone Dewing Greek Numismatic Foundation, 1.1965.1848.

Lecture Ilse and Leo Mildenberg Memorial Lecture

Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street
Cambridge MA

This event was recorded. Please view the lecture here.

Since the American Revolution, the Achaian koinon (“league” in Greek) has been an essential case for understanding the formation of a centralized, federal government from a group of formerly autonomous, geographically disparate city-states. However, coins are conspicuously absent from historical research on this topic—despite the fact that coinage functions as an immediate marker and official product of the authorities within a society.
 
In this lecture, Catherine Grandjean, professor of ancient history at the University of Tours in France, will share new research revealing how the coinage of the Achaian League was emblematic of a federal idea. As soon as the Achaian League managed to unite the Peloponnese in 195/191 BCE, it created its own coinage. The coins featured silver hemidrachms and bronze coins adorned with the name Achaiôn as well as specific symbols or the name of each city. Referencing her numismatic study as well as recent metallurgical analyses of coins, Grandjean will demonstrate that there was no single central mint and that coins were struck by the cities with their own stock of metal. Given that the coinage was dictated by a central authority but locally governed, she will discuss how it can be viewed as a marker of federal authority across newly united territories. In this way, coins serve as an essential historical record of the relationship between central and local governments.

The lecture will take place in Menschel Hall, Lower Level. Please enter the museums via the entrance on Broadway. Doors will open at 5:30pm.

Free admission, but seating is limited. Tickets will be distributed beginning at 5:30pm at the Broadway entrance. One ticket per person.

After the lecture, galleries on Level 3 featuring related ancient coins will remain open until 8pm.

Complimentary parking available in the Broadway Garage, 7 Felton Street, Cambridge.

To honor the memory of renowned numismatist and scholar Leo Mildenberg (1912–2001) and his years of friendship with Harvard University, a fund was established by his friends and colleagues and endowed in 2005 by his wife, Ilse Mildenberg-Seehausen.