Iconographic Trends in Roman Imperial Coinage in the Context of Societal Changes in the Second and Third Centuries CE : A Small-Scale Test of the Affluence Hypothesis

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GLOMB Tomáš KAŠE Vojtěch ZAVŘEL Viktor

Year of publication 2023
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Open Archeology
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Web https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2022-0308
Doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/opar-2022-0308
Keywords Roman coinage; Roman imperial ideology; iconography; affluence hypothesis; temporal modeling
Description This article presents a quantitative analysis of iconographic trends in the depiction of deities in the coinage of the Roman Empire throughout the second and third centuries CE to explore temporal shifts in Roman imperial propaganda in the context of developments and pressures in affluence, prosperity, and political stability. Next to providing deeper insight into the topic of Roman imperial ideology, the article’s main objective is to test the validity of the so-called affluence hypothesis from the debate on cultural evolution. The hypothesis predicts that an increase in affluence and prosperity leads to the emergence of moralizing themes in religion. Based on the comparison of the iconographic trends in Roman coinage, as represented by the Online Coins of the Roman Empire project portal of coin types, with changes in affluence and prosperity indicators for the period of the second and third centuries CE, the results suggest that in times of political stability and prosperity, Roman Empire emphasized moralizing deities on coins more often than in times of crisis. In contrast, martial deities and those oriented on dominating power were promoted on coins more frequently in turbulent times. In this small-scale case study, the results support the arguments of the affluence hypothesis.
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