The monetary economy of the eastern Mediterranean, from Trajan to Gallienus
Although the third century has been characterised by modern scholars as a period of crisis from which only a few historical data have survived, I have been able to establish that the numismatic evidence found at excavated sites or in coin hoards is adequate for a detailed examination of the monetary system, its changes and its effect on the circulation of coinage and the use of money in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Unpublished material from seven museums in Greece and four museums in Turkey completes the picture, which shows that the circulation of bronze coinage was highly localised, since we rarely find coins away from the province of their production. In some cases, the pattern of the circulation of silver coinage also has localised characteristics. There is also evidence that indicates that, while the production of money was motivated by the political and military needs of the emperor, the wider use of coinage was promoted by a range of social elements that were involved, one way or another, with the local or inter-regional markets. Alterations of any of these factors could affect the circulation of coinage, the monetization of the empire and would eventually lead to adjustments in the currency of an area. Such adjustments that took place during the third century were directly linked with the political and military crisis that took place at the time, and the crisis must have brought about certain administrative and financial decisions that affected also the coinage. The need for an increase in mint output, which would cover the increased needs of the State, resulted the devaluation of gold coinage, the debasement of silver coins, the overvaluation of bronzes and the subsequent establishment of new rates of exchange. Unfortunately the experiments of the central authority did not last and the final collapse of the monetary system in the mid-third century AD marked the end of one economic era and the beginning of another.