I have a coin on my desk… It’s a Roman denarius, about the size of a five pence piece (or about a dime in the US) and it’s 1,800 years old.
Holding this coin leaves me filled with a sense of awe. It’s a feeling I’ve been searching for for as long as I can remember and only so often do I get to glimpse it.
I guess I can only really describe it as a feeling of historical connectedness.
I keep the Roman denarius on my desk and whenever I feel a bit bummed out about the state of the world I pick it up and I think about the person on it – stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius – and I think about the stories this coin has and the other people, just like me, that have held it these past 1800 or so years…
I feel like it’s a bit of a faux pas to tell people on the internet where you live but you and I are friends and so – Graven Hill is this amazing self-development community.
You can basically buy a plot of land and then build your own home on it.
It’s also the site of Alchester.
Alchester, which is now completely abandoned, was the largest town in Roman Oxford here. But what’s perhaps even more exciting is that it started off as a fairly major military base…
I live in modern-day Alchester. On my desk is that Roman coin. In all likelihood not, but perhaps the very same Roman coin that someone that once lived here once held. It’s possible – there were people making their homes right here at the same time that these coins were in circulation.
Yes there certainly would have been coins of Marcus Aurelius in circulation in the later town. We do have coins right to the late 4th century. Marcus Aurelius obviously was emperor from 161 to 180. And silver denarii tend to have a fairly long circulation. So in Alchester we have silver denarii going back to roughly 150 BC, which was around 200 years before the Romans arrived at Alchester. They circulate for much longer than the base metal coins.
What we do in life echoes through eternity…
Okay, that’s a quote from Gladiator – but I do feel the ripples of time echoes from the past reverberating into the present.
Everyone I show this coin to is kind of amazed by it.
Most people have never touched anything this old about 1,800 years as I say and it seems an almost impossibly large amount of time, doesn’t it?
I still don’t know what that feeling is.
That feeling of historical oneness, of connectedness, of feeling somehow personally addressed by the coincidences of history.
This coin was a gift. Somehow, potentially, back where it belongs.
I suppose it’s a sense of sublimity. I’m still searching for the right word.
But I do know that this tiny coin, a passive witness to almost two millennia of history, suddenly feels a whole lot heavier.
30 Apr 2023about podcast contact