Minting victory: symbols of authority, legitimacy and power in the barbarian coinage of Late Antiquity
The overthrow of the Western Emperor in the 5th century gave rise to the kingdoms of the Goths, Franks and others: in short, the barbarians. But how ‘barbaric’ were these kingdoms? Contemporary sources attest to the survival and adaptability of Imperial Roman institutions, titles and values. The ubiquity of the image of the Eastern Emperor on coinage suggests ongoing and mutually beneficial relationships between the Western kingdoms and the Imperial (Byzantine) court in Constantinople.
This thesis reports on my exploration of how authority, legitimacy and power was maintained throughout the Western kingdoms. Specifically, this project focuses on the production of coinage by these kings which seemingly ‘imitates’ Roman currency, evoking the Victoria with a palm and wreath of Classical times. Specifically of interest are the issues on which a subtle, yet distinctive, monogram appears: a •T•. Who does it belong to, and why is it there?
To address this problem, my research involves a thorough re-assessment of previous scholarship on the •T• coins, as well as the incorporation of new data from hoards, site-finds and unpublished collections. This updated corpus provides ample opportunity for analysis and comparison to similar examples of barbarian and Byzantine coins in contemporaneous circulation. As a result of this study, recorded examples of these coins have been considerably expanded. New stylistic groups have been identified, as well as die links. Statistical analytical methods have been applied to estimate die coverage and output in the first study of its kind.
By considering the broader experience and fluency of the numismatic symbols of the barbarian kings, and how they were deployed to maintain (or subvert) Imperial authority, barbarian coinage signals a departure from theories of ‘imitation’ (and its negative connotations) towards agency and intention in leadership during a period of significant transition.