Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2012.12.10 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.12.10

Fabrice Delrieux, Les monnaies du Fonds Louis Robert (Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres). Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 45​.   Paris:  Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres​, 2011.  Pp. 343; 53 p. of maps.  ISBN 9782877542708.  €80.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by William E. Metcalf, Yale University (

Perhaps no scholar has had so significant an impact on Anatolian studies as Louis Robert (1904-1985). His intimacy with the land was profound, and his bibliography would be required reading for any student of Hellenistic and Roman Asia Minor—if it were possible to get through all of it. While Robert was best known for the thousands of inscriptions he published, emended, or annotated, his considerable interest in coins was manifest, principally in Études de numismatique greque (1951), Monnaies antiques en Troade (1966), and Monnaies grecques: types, legends, magistrats, monétaires et geographie (1967). His “La titulature de Nicée et Nicomédie: la gloire et la haine” (HSCP 81 [1977] 1-39) is a little gem, and Robert was one of the principal speakers at the International Numismatic Congress in 1979. In fact one of the fullest statements of his appreciation of numismatic evidence appears in Villes d’Asie Mineure (2nd ed. 1962) 420-426; for him provenance counted for a great deal, both in identifying cities and defining circulation of coins. Here we learn of his own substantial collection of coins, accumulated from the 1930s through the 1960s, when Turkish law affected collecting and export.

This is not a conventional collection. As de Callataÿ points out (p. 15), its commercial value is negligible and the condition of its pieces is undistinguished, as the plates (which conveniently face the text describing the objects) show. Some 290 of the coins were acquired in Istanbul, presumably, unless otherwise indicated, in the Grand Bazaar. In Istanbul Robert made the acquaintance of Hans von Aulock, the extraordinary collector/scholar who gave him “une série de doubles mal conservés, qui me serviront pour les agonistiques ou pour mes exercices aux H[autes] É [tudes]” (p. 303). But most of the coins were acquired during his travels, and the value of the whole rests in the care with which the place and circumstances of acquisition were recorded. These have been carefully documented by Delrieux, and in the very full index VIII a great deal of detail is reported.

The catalogue is arranged in a traditional order, which probably would have offended Robert himself: as his own collections show, regional boundaries with captions such as “Ionia” or “Lydia,” and above all the alphabetical arrangement of mints within these headings, have no meaning for coin circulation. Each coin description is accompanied by cross-references to major collections with similar pieces, and, most importantly, the place of acquisition, where known. These places have been consolidated into a number of handsome maps that conclude the volume, some of which are very revealing.

The first 26 of these maps document the travels of the Roberts In Asia Minor, which were undertaken almost annually except for the war years; the years 1932-1964, reported here, span Robert’s career as a coin collector. The maps are a remarkable testimony to the energy and durability of the Roberts, but they will be mainly of interest to “Robertophiles” (de Callataÿ’s term, p. 17; for another reference to the cult of the Roberts, see BMCR 2012.10.31). Others are scientifically far more useful. For example, Map 29 shows all the places outside Anatolia that contributed coins to his collection: seven mints and twelve coins are noted for Macedonia and mainland Greece, while at the other end of the Greek world 15 mints in eastern Pontus, Colchis, Mesopotamia, Syria, Phoenicia and Egypt contribute 33 coins. Map 44 shows the reach of the coins of Ionia, maps 45-49 that of coins of Caria, 50- 53 that of coins of Lydia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, and Pisidia respectively.

Many of the sites tell a different story. Of seven coins acquired at Gönen (=Conana, Pisidia), six come from nearby mints and two from Conana itself; the seventh from more distant Aspendos. On the other hand the Maeander valley, along which one would expect to find coins originating upstream, has many coins both from the coast and inland that crossed mountains to get there. Clearly, as Robert saw, there is much to be learned from more rigorous recording of provenance.

In the aggregate, the evidence gathered here alters the general picture suggested by the canonical article by Tom B. Jones (“A numismatic riddle: the so-called Greek imperials, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 107.4 (1963), 308-347) which suggested quickly diminishing representation of coins at archaeological sites the greater the distance of the mint, approaching zero after 150 miles. But this catalogue provides the kind of documentation that Jones needed, and which would have caused him to reconsider his treatment. In short, Robert’s collection provides an unprecedented level of documentation of place of acquisition. Unfortunately its like is not easily to be anticipated, given Turkey’s current discouragement of collecting.

This volume is a noble first step, and while it cannot replace the systematic attention of site archaeologists, it is a lesson for the more purely numismatic community in the importance of provenance, archaeological or not. Delrieux and his collaborators are to be thanked for producing an elegant, richly documented and useful work.

Table of Contents

Preface (Glen Bowersock), 13
Avant-propos (François de Callataÿ), 15
Introduction (Fabrice Delrieux), 19
Catalogue, 40
Index, 229
I. Les lieux d’émission et les fausses monnaies, 241
II. Les types monétaires et les attributs, 249
III. Les contremarques, 273
IV. Les trésors, 275
V. Les personnalités des mondes grec et oriental (rois, reines, satrapes etc.), 277
VI. Les personnalités des mondes romain et byzantin (empereurs, impératrices, imperatores, etc.), 279
VII. Les noms de magistrats et de particuliers, 283
VIII. Les lieux d’acquisition des monnaies de la collection Robert, 289
Cartes, 339

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