Matthew Ball

The Roman imperial coinage was, without doubt, the first true medium of mass-communication. My research looks at how the second-century Roman state, from Trajan (AD 98–117) to Commodus (AD 176–92), used coin designs to transmit tailored messages to different segments of the empire’s population. Key questions include: which ‘audiences’ did it seek to cultivate? How frequently did it send shipments of coins bearing tailored designs to target audiences, such as soldiers garrisoning the frontiers of Germany and Britain? Most importantly, can these shipments still be detected among the mass of surviving coin finds? This period, despite the rich variety of designs on the coinage, has not received the same attention as those following or preceding it. My D.Phil. aims bridge this gap in our understanding of how Rome, at the height of its power, used the medium of coinage to cultivate opinion. An ever-growing inventory of coins drawn from the Ashmolean’s vast Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire database forms the lens through which I view this activity. The result will be one of the most comprehensive distributional analyses of the Roman imperial coinage and its role in the spread of imperial ideals undertaken to date.

This project is funded by the Leverhulme Doctoral Centre, as part of their Publication Beyond Print initiative. For more, see: