Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Prof Kevin Butcher investigates myth-making and the coins of the Roman provinces

Roman coinWriting for BBC History Professor Kevin Butcher shares three myths found on Roman coins, two quite obscure and one a little more famous.

Myths were central to the ancient Greek and Roman sense of identity. They helped to give communities a common past. While intellectuals might have debated whether there really ever was a time when gods and heroes interacted, many cities in the eastern Mediterranean – particularly in the period of Roman rule – incorporated particular myths as elements of local history.

A city might claim that this was the place where the hero Perseus rescued Andromeda from the sea monster, or this was the place where the infant Dionysus had been nursed by a nymph called Nysa. Some cities were lucky enough to be central to certain well-known stories, like Ilium, the successor of Troy; however other, more obscure cities were forced to be creative. They adopted and adapted certain myths and claimed them as their own. In practice, it’s not that different from the association of diverse places in Britain with remote and shadowy figures like King Arthur.


Read more on the BBC History website