Carthage, Qart Hadasht, mean new city. Until his confrontation with Rome, made specific in the Punic wars, it was the greater powerof the western Mediterranean. Founded by the Phoenicians on year 814 BC, in century III BC counted almost 400, 000 inhabitants, and wasactive center of commercial interchanges. The main interest of the Phoenicians constituted metals, and to give with them they werearranged to undertake trips to very distant countries. The Phoenicians of Carthage (or Punic) looked for tin, and the tradition tries that they daredto transfer the mythical columns of Hercules, who as much curiosity and terror woke up in the Greeks, to sail until Great Britain eIreland.

The necessity to confront long and problematic passages turned to the Carthaginians the most expert sailors of the Mediterranean. They maintained relations yet the world: they changed to wines and weaves of luxury by the raw materials that brought of their long sea voyages. They controlled the precious metal commerce, and put its fleet to disposition of gnegos and Egyptian merchants. Its points of anchorage and centerscommercial they were distributed by all Mediterranean: territories of Africa of the North, Sardinia and Córcega, the southern coasts of Spain andWestern Sicily, with cities like Cartagena, military center in the Iberian Peninsula, was under the control and the hegemony ofCarthaginians. But the Punic ones were not limited, since their ancestors did, to choose good ports who served like strongpoints andsupplying: they operated the surrounding territory, reason why their factories also developed a flourishing agriculture and oneprosperous crafts whose products were destined as well to the commerce. The Carthaginians still used to interchange their merchandize by means ofexchange, when already a long time ago all the civilized towns had adopted the currency. The first Carthaginian currencies, dióbolos ofsilver, in the beginning goes back of century IV BC and probably they were coined in the mints of Sicily, a region that for a long timeshe was customary to create and to use currencies ellísimas. And also they are gorgeous, in effect, the currencies of Carthage, that, evidently, it contracted very competent and refined recorders. The first emissions present/display a similar iconography to the one of the currencies ofSiracusa, very known and appreciated, and therefore could well be accepted in the countries that now were incapable to do without the use ofcurrency, is had customary to in fact attribute to Carthage the currencies coined in Sicily (Palermo, Solunto, Make bristle, Mozia): in effect, only aend of century IV BC the Punic city instftuyó an own mint, to which it reserved the minting of gold currencies, whereas infactories of the colonies took place currencies of silver, bronze and electron, a gold alloy and silver very used in the currenciesCarthaginians.

Of Aretusa to Tanit

The currencies coined in Carthage present/display one more a more original iconography: in the obverse is the head of the goddess Tanit, the divinitynative equivalent to Aretusa. In reverso they frequently appear the horse, symbol of Carthage, or the lion, that represent Africa. Veryoften is the palm, single or accompanied by other symbols, as well expression of power and fertility. The image of the goddess deservescertain interest: it is truth that the model of the gorgeous siciliana Aretusa stays present, but without a doubt in the Carthaginian piecesfigure appears diversified and enriched by gorgeous jewels, and caracteñzada by a meticulosidad in the engraving in extraordinary truthfor a town traditionally dedicated to the most prosaic commercial interchanges. Also the figures of the horses, brave andvigorous, they imagine with a plastic detail and of movement that fascinates and surprises, mainly if thinks that these productionsmonetales had to serve, in fact, to pay the military benefits of the mercenarios. In a moment the production of the diverse onestypes of currencies became very consistent, mainly in Sicily: didracmas, tetradracmas and decadracmas began to circulate along withhemiiiirón, trías, hexas and ounces of bronze, own of the Carthaginian monetary system.

the currencies of Aksum

Fitted in the complex historical panorama of Eastern Africa, is the flourishing kingdom of Aksum. Created during century I BC bya population of Yemeni origin that managed to dominate itself the native, these just arrived, habasat (Abyssinian) founded on the high plateauof the present Tiger the city of Aksum. Their activities consisted of the culture of the barley and the commerce of the ivory, stimulated byport of Adulis, that was opened on the Red Sea (next to the present city of Massaua), and that allowed a good commercial activity. Thissmall but prosperous kingdom seems that inmiscuyó in the control of the Next East and southern Arabia by much greater powers. Thus, Rome, Bizancio and the sasánida Persia tried to resist the excellent position that Aksum had acquired in the local markets, andthat it had turned it an uncomfortable competitor. The monarchy that governed rather to aksumitas the era hard, and the sovereign tooktitle of nagasi, that means the one that it demands tribute (term del that will derive the word negus), which reveals a social structure incertain aspects still archaic. The aksumita kingdom the troops of the Islam ended, who put under this town towards century VII, making him lose all relevance in the economic field and the one of the commercial relations. The native currency of Aksum began towards century III AD. Indeed thanks to the study of the local numismatic production, know thattowards century IV the Christianity like official religion was adopted, first by the sovereigns and soon by the town. In the currencies, ineffect, the pagan symbols of the average moon and the star are replaced by the Christian cross. The aksumitas currencies present/displayvery original characteristics, often fruit of an operation of assembly of heterogenous aspects, recovered of monetales uses of othersadopted regions and by means of fusion with the local uses.

the incrustation: a unique case between the currencies

There is an aspect, nevertheless, that makes the aksumitas currencies interesting and only: diverse sovereigns, at least one dozen according to the findingscarried out in the excavations in Ethiopian territory, they commanded to coin currencies of silver and bronze with the added one of gold incrustations incentral part, generally in form of Christian cross or with the efigie of the sovereign. In these currencies it cannot be spoken of pictures, becausethe human figure imagines with very streamlined characteristics: the face is inexpressive, the eye is seen front, without consideringnaturalismo nor verismo some in the treatment of a put head of profile (this characteristic is typical of the Egyptian art, and also ofpicture of Shovels in the currencies of Athens, and also is in the bizantino art). The only element that experiences modifications andchanges in these currencies are the hairdo of the sovereign, who appears crowned sometimes with rich diadema, and sometimes with the headsurrounded in the real bandage, that hides the hair, according to usanza local. These gorgeous incrustations were obtained very with techniquescomplicated and difficult to execute, according to an art very refined, since in the deteriorated currencies more we even can distinguishchisel. In general, they were the two production systems of these so original currencies: one, used until century IVapproximately, it consisted of superposing to the die a wished gold lamina with the form and dimensions. When the minting took place, thatthin part was adhered to the currency. The second system, chronological later, consisted of preparing by means of a hollow the zonethat one was going away to gild. Later the gold, by means of suitable systems, was fixed to that oquedad.

So that as much complexity?

Many have been asked so that this production was so complicated and original. There is one who has thought about a system to compensate in certainway a variation of value in the numerario of silver, which had to a remarkable diminution of amount of precious metal in the alloy. Butadhered gold laminae were extremely thin, and therefore it was difficult that they could adapt to the diminution of the value. Othersthey maintain that these currencies were used inside the kingdom to differentiate them clearly from the other currencies that circulated likeconsequence of the commercial activities. But this would estimate the existence of an inner market economy very developed, characteristic that does not consist to us with respect to the aksumita kingdom. The most likely hypothesis is than these currencies had a purposepropagandistic, commemorative if nonsymbolic, since often they appear the figures of the sovereigns and the religious cross. Alsoamount of gold laminae used by one or another sovereign, sometimes very different, would come to confirm the symbolic character; a tributeformal to the aksumita monarchy, of which one seted out to celebrate the semisacred aspect, making coexist in the currencies, in a sincretismoof the greater interest, the properly sacred aspect and the local political traditions. The currencies of Aksum continue being a fascinating scopeof investigation, unexplored in many of its aspects.


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