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Third Introduction: The Minting of Coins

Many of the city-states of Asia Minor minted coins since 600 BC. Rome's widening sway over Asia Minor did not at first change this. Typically, cities were prohibited solely from producing their own coins in silver and gold. The cities satisfied the need for small change, that is to say bronze coins in various denominations for usage in daily transactions, with their own coinage. In the first two centuries of the epoch of the Roman Emperors, the number of cities capable of minting their own coins rose due to increasing economic prosperity. This was also due to the increasing urbanization of Anatolia, which Rome encouraged. The bronze coins of the cities, also called “Greek imperials”, are an indispensable source of our knowledge of the city-states of Asia Minor, thanks to their rich trove of motifs. Most feature depictions from the everyday life of the then-current polis. They show city-specific myths, urban cults, prominent buildings, political connections, festivals, and they also commemorate the major socio-political events of the realm.

In the course of the third century, all cities of Asia Minor ceased to issue their own coins. At the end of the Severan dynasty, during the era of the rule of Maximinus Thrax (235-238 AD), there were still well over 200 cities with their own coins, but there was only one left under Tacitus (275-276 AD). This was closely linked to the economic, military and cultural crisis and transformation of the Empire, which hit the cities especially hard. The process of the disappearance of provincial Roman coinage is an especially visible sign of the creeping expansion of the crisis. While some regions managed to withstand this crisis for some time, in others, for example Lycia, the cities completely abandoned the minting of coins quite early on. The fact that Perge, the last city, continued to mint its own coins, can be explained by other evidence that shows that the city blossomed in the third century, quite in contrary to the general trend.