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Greek vs. Roman

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  • Greek vs. Roman

    This is deliberately provocative but sincerely felt. Greek coins, in my view, are cooler than Roman coins for the same reason that early 20th and 19th century American coins are cooler than late 20th century coins. Age is only a small part of it.

    The main reason has to do with symbolism and archetypes. The obverses of Roman and current coins typically depict people, while earlier American and Greek coins typically depict primordial universal symbols. Nothing wrong with dead presidents or live emperors, but a figure portraying Liberty or Athena or Herakles or a turtle or a bee or even a satyr raping a nymph touches a part of us deep inside, and makes the spirit soar, more than a figure of any mere mortal.

    From emperors and presidents you get a feel for history, for where humankind had been. From archetypes, you get that and where humankind wants to go, and what makes us humankind in the first place.

    Greek coins in general are also considerably more attractive, aesthetically, than Roman coins. They're higher in relief, like small sculptures, and they're typically more stylishly engraved. Greek coins represent the pinnacle in numismatic art. Except in a few instances, this art to this day hasn't been surpassed. Roman coins are lower quality, lower relief and often debased copies.

    What's more, ancient Greece as a whole is cooler than ancient Rome. The foundations of our way of life, even the way we think, began not in Rome but in Greece. Our philosophy, politics, education, mathematics, science, medicine, art, theater, architecture, and sport all originated in ancient Greece from relatively inchoate antecedents. The Greeks masterfully developed the very substance of our civilization from what they inherited from Egypt and Mesopotamia. In contrast, all Rome did was take what Greece gave it and impart some order to it, with relatively little original thought or innovation. Rome was the Microsoft of the ancient world.

  • #2
    I agree! I have real trouble understanding why people collect US coins, which appear to have little to distinguish them from each other. Early Romans have some interesting features, but the Greeks are full of surprises, the variety is infinite and altogether more fun.


    • #3
      I also agree that collecting Greek coins is in a class of it's own. When being introduced to Ancient coin collecting I found Roman Imperial quite boring and repetitious with portrait after portrait.

      The only down side to Greek is that the cost tends to be substantially more. One can secure many near mint state examples of coins for very meager prices. This is highlighted if part of your hobby is buying uncleaned coins where a Roman will cost $0.75 to $1.50, and Greek coins range from $3.50 to $8.00.



      • #4
        I agree, I have ppicked up a few Greeks because of the equestrian depictions and grapes. Both fun to find and there is a variety.

        Too many coins - not enough time


        • #5
          While I am a dyed-in-the-wool Roman coin collector, I too have some interesting Greek coins such as the crabs, porpoises and other animals.

          I truly believe the following applies to Greek and Roman coins

          Greek coinage = Art that happened to be used for money. Roman coinage = Money that happened to contain some art


          • #6
            Greek v Roman

            In this household, our hearts belong to Greeks, and my dear wish is to convert my old friend and ACE supporter in Texas , to at least collect some Greek Goats, since he breeds them in real life!

            So- We are going to send him an unclean Greek with goat/goats, since even the Greek Goat coin card sent him by Kids at a school in Austin has not converted him yet ! Also he might actually be more interested in Greeks if he saw the nymphs and satyrs
            mentioned earlier, but I am not getting into that discussion with him.
            Souzana and Mikhali in VA


            • #7
              I must admit to prefering Roman Republican coinage over Greek. I find the propaganda side of it fascinating and also being able to research the moneyer who minted the coin. I guess I appreciate the history more than the art. I think the one thing that puts me off Greek coinage is that its a lot harder for a beginner to read the Greek inscriptions.


              • #8
                Well, I am definitely a fence straddler. Art and history are equivalent, but art tends to sway me. I love the Greek coins of southern Italy partly because my family comes from Calabria. I love the Repulican coins for reasons already stated and I can't get enough coins of Trajan for a variety of reasons: a) The portraiture reaches levels seen on only the best Greek; b) very interesting fellow ala Thomas Jefferson (a Renaissance man before the Renaissance) c) His social policies (Alim Ital).
                Now, of course I need Sassanian coins for the cool crowns, Celtic coins for their abstract interpretations, Islamic coins for the beautiful Caligraphy....

                Most importantly they are all time machines that provide a direct link into our past.

                To paraphrase: So many civilizations, so little time and cash!



                • #9
                  I started out collecting Roman coins some 30+ years ago; then got "sophisticated" and collected Greek coins during the later 70s and early 80s; then got "wild" and collected Medieval Islamic (Turkoman) coins during the later 80s and early 90s. Finally, I have come to the conclusion that nothing beats Roman Provincial coins for mystery, symbolism, historical importance and sometimes even sheer beauty. I suppose in another ten years (with luck) I'll find another series of equal or greater fascination.


                  Wayne G. Sayles


                  • #10
                    I have only been at the collecting game for a few years, but I have centered for the last two on the City Gates and Camp Gates types. I love the Provincials, but trying to find attribution resources is a whole world apart! But I do love the Proviacials for their art work.

                    Too many coins - not enough time


                    • #11
                      Greek vs Roman

                      I like to collect Greek coins because I find the variety in design to be more interesting. I tend to like those that have horses, lions, helmets, etc.
                      I must admit I have picked up a few coins solely because of thier age. The older they are, the closesr I am to the time when coins where first minted.

                      I also like Roman Republic coins, but I try to get ones with different reverses. I only need so many Victory in biga.
                      I am also trying to obtain the Twelve Caesars and I have some of the Imperial emperors up through Commodus because I have always been fascinated by that time period. I do not find the later Roman coins interesting unless they have a unigue design.

                      But in the end if I could collect only one type of coin, it would have to be Greek. They are beatuiful, unique, old, and it's just really cool to hold one in your hand.


                      • #12
                        Lets not forget the king of our hobby Byzantine coins. I have noticed most Roman Imperial collectors evolve into either Greek or Byzantine collectors. For a multiple of reasons I went to the latter. 1. Less compettitive market that gives you less exspensive coins. 2. You can more easily find rare and unknown varities of coins, especially in the late Byzantine period. 3. You can find some really attractive coins ( ugly ones too.) with a very simplistic style ( The evolution of art from Traditional to abstract).

                        It is interesting to learn about how the Roman Empire evolved till it's death in 1453.