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The oldest massmedium

Massmedia are common in this day and age. It’s easy to reach the whole world hrough Facebook or YouTube. It is impossible to imagine our world without this form of communication. Radio, newspapers and television are the somewhat older massmedia, but they have the same function and envelopment.

But how were messages transmitted in the Roman or ancient Greek World? Few people will realise that coins had an important role here.

Even in ancient times coins covered vast distances. Through trade, payment of mercenaries, redemption money and taxes coins changed hands. Often up to thousands of kilometers from their place of issue.

With the Greeks the city, the polis, was the most important. It was often represented by a patron-god or –goddess. An important event in the history of the city, for instance a victory at the Olympis Games, could be represented on the reverse.

In the beginning the acceptance of the coins and the continuïty of this was of greater importance than a potential message. With some exceptions, coins became true bearers of messages in Hellenistic times. It was the Seleucids who  who tried to cultivate the unity in their realm by putting a representation of Apollo on their coins. Under different names Apollo was known in the whole ancient World.

During the Roman Empire coins were specifically used as vehicles for the transmission of information. Often coins were issued to proclaim the goals and deeds of the emperor. Think of victories, food distribution, social- and rebuilding-programs, etc..

In this way a population in an empire that stretched from Irak to Scotland was reached in a speedily and effective manner.