Coins, Bodies, Games, and Gold

Coins, Bodies, Games, and Gold : The Politics of Meaning in Archaic Greece

3.8 (5 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 
Free delivery worldwide Expected delivery to the United States in 6-11 business days.
Not ordering to the United States? Click here.
Order now for expected delivery to the United States by Christmas Order now for expected delivery to the United States by Christmas


The invention of coinage in ancient Greece provided an arena in which rival political groups struggled to imprint their views on the world. Here Leslie Kurke analyzes the ideological functions of Greek coinage as one of a number of symbolic practices that arise for the first time in the archaic period. By linking the imagery of metals and coinage to stories about oracles, prostitutes, Eastern tyrants, counterfeiting, retail trade, and games, she traces the rising egalitarian ideology of the polis, as well as the ongoing resistance of an elitist tradition to that development. The argument thus aims to contribute to a Greek "history of ideologies," to chart the ways ideological contestation works through concrete discourses and practices long before the emergence of explicit political theory. To an elitist sensibility, the use of almost pure silver stamped with the state's emblem was a suspicious alternative to the para-political order of gift exchange. It ultimately represented the undesirable encroachment of the public sphere of the egalitarian polis.
Kurke re-creates a "language of metals" by analyzing the stories and practices associated with coinage in texts ranging from Herodotus and archaic poetry to Aristotle and Attic inscriptions. She shows that a wide variety of imagery and terms fall into two opposing symbolic domains: the city, representing egalitarian order, and the elite symposium, a kind of anti-city. Exploring the tensions between these domains, Kurke excavates a neglected portion of the Greek cultural "imaginary" in all its specificity and strangeness.
show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 408 pages
  • 152 x 235 x 26.67mm | 595g
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • 9 halftones
  • 0691007365
  • 9780691007366
  • 1,821,983

Back cover copy

"Leslie Kurke's readings are always interesting, often simply brilliant. She does a superb job of presenting Herodotus as a locus for the preservation of the archaic debate. Highly innovative and well-documented, this book will be a model for future work in the broader field of historically grounded poetics."--Josiah Ober, Princeton University

"Leslie Kurke has written an original and exciting work that will refine our understanding and pique our interest in ancient metals and money. This book raises gripping questions about important ancient practices and ideologies and offers a powerful argument for using both positivistic and theoretical approaches to ancient material. Coins, Bodies, Games, and Gold will give classicists much to ponder and argue about; cultural historians and comparatists in other fields, too, should read this book."--Deborah Boedecker, Center for Hellenic Studies and Brown University
show more

Table of contents

Illustrations ix Preface xi Acknowledgments xiii Abbreviations xvii Introduction Toward an Imaginary History of Coinage 3 I. What Is Coinage for? Numismatic and Historical Debates 6 II. Literary Methodology 23 III. The Structure of the Argument 32 PART ONE: DISCOURSES Chapter One The Language of Metals 41 I. Forging the Language of Metals 45 II. Metals and Others in Herodotus 60 Chapter Two Tyrants and Transgression: Darius and Amasis 65 I. Darius and the Daric 68 II. Darius Kapelos 80 III. Amasis the Vulgar Tyrant 89 Chapter Three Counterfeiting and Gift Exchange: The Fate of Polykrates 101 I. Counterfeiting and Violated Exchange 101 II. Cosmic Reciprocity ill III. Gift Exchange as Civic Violence 121 Chapter Four Kroisos and the Oracular Economy 130 I. Kroisos in Epinikion 131 II. Gift Exchange, the Grotesque Body, and the Civic Norm 142 III. Competing Economies, Competing Epiphanies 152 IV. Lydians and Ludopatheis: The Gap between History and Ethnography 165 PART TWO: PRACTICES Chapter Five The Hetaira and the Porne 175 I. Inventing the Hetaira 178 II. The Porne and the Public Sphere 187 III. Ideological Faultlines 199 Chapter Six Herodotus's Traffic in Women 220 I. Herodotean Pressure: Destabilizing the Terms 220 II. Herodotean Alternatives: Reimagining the Public Sphere 227 Chapter Seven Games People Play 247 I. Games and Other Symbolic Systems 248 II. Pessoi: The Mediation of the Game Board 254 III. Aristocratic Games: Embodiment, Chance, and Ordeal 275 IV. Herodotean Games 295 Chapter Eight Minting Citizens 299 I. The Two Sides of the Coin: Materiality as Ideology 301 II. Coins Are Good to Think with 316 III. Changing the Currency 328 Conclusion Ideology, Objects, and Subjects 332 Bibliography 337 Index Locorum 365 General Index 373
show more

Review quote

"An excellent monograph on several aspects of the varied culture of ancient Greece. Scholars and graduate students will applaud her study."--Choice "Eminently engaging ... This is an important, fascinating book that should not be ignored by any monetary theorist."--L. Randall Wray, Journal of Economic Issues "Kurke's book is lucidly and coherently written... Even if we cannot unreservedly sign up to Kurke's thesis, we still feel that we have learned a great deal in following its progress."--Sue Blundell, American Historical Review
show more

About Leslie Kurke

Leslie Kurke is Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of The Traffic in Praise: Pindar and the Poetics of Social Economy and the co-editor, with Carol Dougherty, of Cultural Poetics in Archaic Greece: Cult, Performance, Politics.
show more

Rating details

5 ratings
3.8 out of 5 stars
5 40% (2)
4 20% (1)
3 20% (1)
2 20% (1)
1 0% (0)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X