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The ‘Vota Publica’ Tokens from late antique Rome: Isiac and Egyptian Cults within a Christianizing Roman Empire

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

Project title: The ‘Vota Publica’ Tokens from late antique Rome: Isiac and Egyptian Cults within a Christianizing Roman Empire

Principal Investigator: Dr Cristian Mondello (PhD)

Host Institution: University of Messina, Italy

Funding body: European Union – NextGenerationEU (D.D. no. 247/2022)

ID: CFFE1C55

Acronym: VOTA

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‘Tokens’ of classical antiquity constitute a largely neglected category of material culture. They are mostly small monetiform objects, but not coins, which were used within the communities of the ancient Mediterranean with a variety of functions: for instance, as entrance tickets, tesserae for public distributions, religious banquets and festivals, objects for administration and exchange within commerce, or gaming pieces. Due to their singular features, these artefacts provide unique insight into different social groupings (cultic groups, collegia, Roman families and their networks), and shed light on different aspects of the Greco-Roman society, such as public and private events (triumphs, ludii and spectacles, imperial births and marriages etc.), Greek and Roman festivals, imperial largitiones and private acts of euergetism. 

Yet, although the nature of this material has been discussed since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, research on ancient tokens has made little progress in the centuries that have followed. In recent years, the active roles that these objects actively played throughout the ancient Mediterranean have recently and more clearly been reconsidered by the ERC-funded Token Communities in the Ancient Mediterranean (TCAM) project at the University of Warwick (UK) (2016-2021).

In the wave of the growing academic attention towards this singular class of material culture, the project The ‘Vota Publica’ Tokens from late antique Rome: Isiac and Egyptian Cults within a Christianizing Roman Empire will provide the first comprehensive analysis of the ‘Vota Publica’ tokens from late antique Rome and the roles they played in social, religious, political and economic history of the Roman Empire from the Tetrarchy (AD 293-305) up to the early fifth century AD. 

The ‘VOTA’ project is headed by Dr Cristian Mondello and will be hosted at the University of Messina, Dipartimento di Civiltà Antiche e Moderne (DiCAM). ‘VOTA’ is a complementary and consequential project with respect to the ERC-funded The creation of tokens in late antiquity. Religious ‘tolerance’ and ‘intolerance’ in the fourth and fifth centuries AD project (2019-2021) (H2020-MSCA-IF-2018; no. 840737/TOK), which was led by Mondello at Warwick University and was integrated into the TCAM project.

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Introduction & Context
Since the sixteenth century, a special and enigmatic late Roman token series, the ‘Vota Publica’ tokens, has received attention from antiquarians, dealers and collectors, although mainly as curiosities.
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Research Aims
The project The ‘Vota Publica’ Tokens from late antique Rome: Isiac and Egyptian Cults within a Christianizing Roman Empire will provide the first broad, in-depth assessment of the role played by the ‘Vota Publica’ tokens, which are an enigmatic and under
Selected Biography
  • Alföldi A., Isis-szertartások Rómában a negyedik század keresztény császárai alatt = A Festival of Isis in Rome under the Christian Emperors of the IVth Century, Budapest 1937.
  • Alföldi A., ‘Die alexandrinischen Götter und die Vota Publica am Jahresbeginn’, JbAC 8-9 (1965-1966), pp. 53-87.
  • Bricault L., Isis, Dame des flots, Liège 2006.
  • Crisà A., Gkikaki M., and Rowan C. (eds.), Tokens, Value and Identity. Exploring Monetiform Objects in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, London 2019.
  • Mondello C., ‘Re-reading the So-called «Asina tokens»: Religious Diversity in Late Antiquity’, AJN 32 (2020), pp. 273-312.
  • Mondello C., ‘Una «perduta» collezione di tesserae romane di Girolamo Tanini (XVIII secolo). Tra fonti d’archivio e strumenti digitali’, in M. Puglisi & C. Mondello (eds.), Proceedings of the 8th Joint Meeting of ECFN and nomisma.org on Coin Finds and Digital Numismatics. University of Messina, May 2-4, 2019, Messina 2023 (forthcoming).
  • Ramskold L., ‘A die link study of Constantine’s pagan Festival of Isis tokens and affiliated coin-like ‘fractions’: chronology and relation to major imperial events’, JNG 66 (2016), pp. 157-239.
  • Rowan C., Tokens and Social Life in Roman Imperial Italy (forthcoming).

The project has received funding from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), Mission 4, “Education and Research” - Component 2, “From Research to Business” - Investment line 1.2, “Funding projects presented by young researchers”, funded by the European Union – NextGenerationEU (proposal no. CFFE1C55/VOTA).

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