Now situated in the nation of Albania, the ancient city of Apollonia was founded by Greek colonists from Corinth and Corfu around 588 B.C. The Greek settlers lived alongside a native Illyrian tribe known as the Taulantii; however, the Greek colonists and their descendents effectively dominated the city and the natives were by and large relegated to serfdom. Apollonia prospered thanks to its large natural harbor. Commerce consisted mainly of local agricultural goods and slave trading. The city also benefited as one of the western termini of the Via Egnatia, the road that connected the Adriatic ports with Thessalonica and Byzantium in the east. As an important commercial center, the city minted its own coins that were traded far beyond its domain. Apollonia was absorbed by the burgeoning Roman Republic in 229 B.C. and the city continued to prosper under Roman rule. However, Apollonia’s fortunes would forever change in the 3rd century A.D. when a major earthquake altered the path of the Vjosa River, causing the harbor to silt up. Even worse, the inland areas were transformed into a malaria- ridden swamp, effectively rendering the city uninhabitable. During the Roman Republic, moneyers were in charge of minting coinage. Controlling what legends were branded on the coins, some moneyers used this position to promote themselves and their political ambitions.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or your purse? What eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our possession? As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change, we rarely hesitate to think of who touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after us. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and place, whether currency in the age we live or an artifact of a long forgotten empire. This ancient coin is more than an artifact; it is a memorial to an ancient city passed from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation. - (C.5524)