Words and coins. From Greece to Byzantium

Les mots et les monnaies

24 November 2012 – 24 March 2013

Copper coins are unassuming: they were not used to pay the tributes of the conquered, nor did they display the triumphs of the conquerors. They constantly changed hands in exchange for daily mundane goods and services. However, their beauty and naïve simplicity still impress today.

The coins were engraved with images of gods and lords, planets and cities as well as heroes and legends. By drawing parallels between these copper coins and texts of Western literature, the exhibition organized at the Bodmer Foundation raises some of the fundamental questions surreptitiously posed through the engravings on the coins. For example, how to affirm one’s identity yet still recognize differences; the link between what is sacred and faith; questioning personal limits and mortality; memorizing events; and the handing down of culture and values…

The exhibition invites visitors on a journey through space and time. The display features coins that portray twenty centuries of history, spanning the 5th century BC to the 15th century AD – from the ‘invention’ of democracy in Greece, to the glory and decline of Byzantium.

The exhibition is organized jointly by the Benaki Museum of Athens and the Martin Bodmer Foundation.

Prof. Vasso Penna, curator KIKPE numismatic collection, scientific adviser and author of the exhibition catalogue.

Prof. Sylviane Messerli, Vice-Director of the Foundation.