As one of the most enduring icons of economic life, money has been a common feature and central focus in complex societies from antiquity to the present. Arguably, it gained weight as a key feature of Mediterranean economies in the course of the first millennium BCE, mostly in the form of coinage. But money is more than just coin, and its significance more pervasive than just to the strict sphere of what is usually known as "the economy". This session explores how a more inclusive understanding of early money sheds new light on both ancient economies and the relation between money and the state.
Money was sanctioned for use and its value was constructed through exchanges and payments in a range of specific contexts, such as religion and cultic institutions, cultural and colonial interactions, elite strategies, military or economic expansion, and in the articulation of political messages. The use of money (whether metal bullion, coin, or other 'money-stuff') was part of political and social strategies, being subject to what has been termed 'the politics of value' (Appadurai 1986).
Against this background, money has been regarded one of the more prominent means for political entities – states – to assert themselves, i.e. by controlling the issue of coinage and exploiting them as media for political messages. It is therefore hardly surprising that money and its rise to prominence in the embedded economies of the ancient Mediterranean have been predominantly associated with the state, in theoretical opposition to the market (Hart 1986). We wish to subject this assumed relation between the spread of early forms of money and the state to debate.
For this session, we are interested in critical perspectives on the relation between money and the state, including the issue and spread of money by individual actors or social groups. Examples could range from money-stuff regulated or appropriated by the state, to coinages unrelated to state authority. Our focus is not on coinage as a material category within a specialized discourse, but on early money in its wider social settings and the question what it can tell us about the organization of communities. We welcome contributions that focus on these issues in any part of the Mediterranean and/or neighbouring regions, from the Bronze Age to late Antiquity.