Catharine C. Lorber
The coinage of the Ptolemies stands apart from other royal Hellenistic currencies in interesting respects, including the prominence of gold and bronze coins vis-à-vis silver and the role of coin types in promoting royal cult. The Ptolemies have also been credited with a policy of controlling monetary supply to maintain price stability in the chôra (countryside). The reforms of Ptolemies by definition expanded the monetary supply. While the immediate purpose of the first weight reduction was to finance particular royal objectives, ultimately the reforms served to support the growth of the court, the administration, and Greek-style capitalism. The vast library of surviving papyri and ostraka includes many financial documents that shed light on an evolving and unusually complex currency system, and on its role in the Egyptian economy.
Ancient Egypt essentially encompassed some 1,180 kilometers of the Nile Valley where the river fans out into multiple branches and ultimately reaches the Mediterranean Sea. The ancient Egyptians themselves viewed their homeland as the “Two Lands,” Upper (southern, riverine) and Lower (northern, Delta) Egypt, unified by a king traditionally named Meni and over which his successors ruled for nearly three millennia. Bronze Age Egyptian history after this unification and its succeeding Early Dynastic period is divided into the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, periods of centralized royal authority, separated by numbered “Intermediate Periods,” when instability and loss of this authority divided Egypt into multiple smaller political units, some even ruled by foreigners. Despite these interruptions, the concept of Egypt as one unified “Two Lands” remained unshakeable and all pervasive to the ancient Egyptians themselves.