Saturday, February 3, 2018

Electrum and the Invention of Coinage

The book was typeset in sentences. The result is a disjointed narrative, a series of unattributed assertions and contradictory generalities. Despite those and many other problems with the text and narrative, the work was intended primarily as “a comprehensive handbook on the origins of coinage.” As such, its best feature is the presentation of 179 coins organized chronologically, geographically, and by size. Overall, the book would have been greatly improved by professional editorial management.

I believe that the author made note cards from the reference books he relied on and then wrote the narrative after sorting the cards more or less by main subject. Maybe he just wrote all off the top of his head. However it was built, the lack of craftsmanship is painfully obvious. “Gold is immutable, Electrum has the appearance of gold. The first coins were made of Electrum.” (page 9). “The use of gold and silver coinage quickly spread throughout the known world, with City-States such as Kyzikos, Phokaia and Mytilene minting Electrum trade coinages with great success.” (page 74)

Electrum and the Invention of Coinage
by Joseph Linzalone
(Dennis McMilllan Publications, 2011),
 xv + 232 pages, color illustrations,
24x15 cm (9-1/2 x 6 in), $80.
Capitalization is Germanic. “Electrum, Silver, Bronze, Copper and other metals all have been highly esteemed and valued.” (page 1) … “One Talent equaled 60 Minas. A Mina was worth 60 Shekels.” (page 3) … “An Eighth Stater of Erythrae, 1.77 g., with a Floral pattern round with pellets with a reverse of a shallow square punch is published as Sear, Greek Coins and their Values, #3462.” (page 127). The lack of italics for the title of the book is typical of other typesetting problems. Oddly enough, although the foundation of the bibliography consists of German titles, the u in Münze has no umlaut, though Muenze would have been acceptable.

The invention of coinage is a singular problem. It is easy to project ourselves on the past and assume that they were initially intended to be money and were created as a medium of indirect barter to facilitate economic calculation. Over the past 150 years, scholars have attempted half a dozen theories to explain the creation of coinage. In 1869 Ernst Curtius put forward a "religious" theory, since the word "money" stems from the temple of Juno Moneta. That these earliest known proto-coins and coins are definitely associated with the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, which was excavated 40 years later, could substantiate that. Payment of mercenaries, specifically, as opposed to general commerce was the theory put forward by Robert M. Cook in 1958 ("Speculations on the Origins of Coinage," Historiav11 1958, 257-262.)  Philip Grierson looked to the administrative needs of the early Greek city-states (Origins of Money 1970, 1976). Following Cook, Martin J. Price underscored the fact that these first coins were worth more than anything you could buy with them, and therefore, they were probably given to mercenaries as honor awards. (See "Thoughts on the Beginnings of Coinage" in Studies in Numismatic Method Presented to Philip Grierson, Cambridge, 1983). Given the intellectual ferment of archaic Hellas, those theories might all be true in some array of close context, but none of that is in this book. Linzalone cites Aristotle and Plato who posited the need for a medium of indirect barter to facilitate commerce and leaves it at that.

The author does indeed acknowledge the consequences of the commercial revolution associated with the introduction of coinage. The event coincides with the rise of democracy, as well as the birth of philosophy, formal geometry, the ascent of a mercantile class, and the mercenary army. But understanding the place of coinage in that context requires teasing out those threads, which the author never does. He merely repeats that coins (beginning with unmarked proto-coins) were money.

The author also projects into the past our atomic theory of matter. The first abstract conception of “elements”—earth, water, air, fire—came from Empedocles of Akragas c. 500 BCE. But it was not developed further until the Enlightenment and it was still argued into the 1800s, even as the periodic table was being worked out. The author misses the fact that electrum, silver, and gold were three distinct metals, as were copper, tin, and bronze. Demokritos of Abdera and others notwithstanding, lacking an atomic theory of matter, the ancients had no other way to understand electrum but to accept it as a metal in its own right, naturally occurring but capable of manufacture.

The primary strength of this work is the catalog of 179 images of proto-coins and coins, organized geographically and sorted by size. Each listing includes the weight in grams to two decimal places. Coin 1001 is an archaic proto-coin stater of Samos 17.65 grams and 17.5 mm in diameter. In every case that diameter is always the major axis of the ellipse. And most of these objects are elliptical, not the least of which is the famous Phanes coins of Ephesus. However, all of these images are reproduced at twice actual size. So, comparisons are easy. Moreover, modern technology allows the user to blow these images up even more before pixiliation and the loss of resolution. Unfortunately, except in the cases where the images were borrowed from the owners, no attributions or provenances are given; and the ones that are, give only the last auction house by name, not by sale and lot number.

In response to a request for an interview via email, Joe Linzalone wrote (verbatim): It is a hand book filled with useful facts and information about the coinage and the issuers. Focusing thus I did not maintain a narrative story-teller stance. The book was written on request off my colleagues, in that I am the foremost dealer in Electrum, with 41 years experience. I was asked to write that my expertise would not be lost when gone.” According to, the book is shelved at 14 libraries including the Library of Congress, the University of Oxford, and the University of Queensland. There, and on the shelves of private numismatists, this “comprehensive handbook” will serve as best it can.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Team of Teams

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for an Empowered World by Gen. Stanley McChrystal (US Army, Ret). With Tatum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell.  
Portfolio/Penguin, 2015.

An enjoyable, erudite read, Team of Teams by Stanley McChrystal was written by a general for generals. McChrystal takes his time to make his points. He presents cogent evidence to support his assertions, but those would be easy enough to accept on the basis of his authority. His education and experience made him an expert.  From 2003-2008 he was in charge of the Joint Special Operations Command that was responsible for defeating the insurgency of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and neutralizing its leadership, including the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In order to achieve that, McChrystal had to reconfigure the way the Army usually operated.

The transformation was radical for the military, but familiar to the private sector. Information could not be held in organizational “silos” on a need-to-know basis. The office layout, while allowing adequate personal space, had to be open so that people could talk across desks, across islands of information and authority. This was only way that the allied joint forces could defeat AQI, which was decentralized, resilient, adaptable, flexible, and driven by the media of information exchange from the cellphone to the international news website.

The coordinating theme is the balance and integration of shared consciousness and empowered execution. Shared consciousness includes the physical perceptions brought in from information assets, either directly from soldiers in the field or indirectly from informants or remote sensors. It also includes the philosophy of the mission, an agreement on doctrine and rules of engagement. Given that, empowered execution allows those closest to a problem – taking a house or killing an enemy leader—to solve it in real time.

Early on, McChrystal establishes a baseline that he returns to repeatedly throughout the book. Frederick Winslow Taylor’s efficient organization defined not just the methods of production or the layout of the office, but the fundamental doctrinal premise of a civilization for 100 years.  Taylorist thinking led to the impenetrable (but immovable) Maginot Line that aircraft flew over. The coalition forces defeated Saddam Hussein because both sides were fighting the previous war. The Iraqi insurgency demanded new habits from new learning. It was time to take everyone’s brains out of their footlockers and put them all to work thinking, discussing, planning, and criticizing.

Chapter 10 “Hands off” contrasts the experiences of Commodore Matthew Perry and Gen. Ulysses Grant. Perry was on his own, over 6,000 miles from home. He had total control and no oversight. On the other hand, Grant issued meticulously detailed orders to his generals. McChrystal’s world was a strange mix of the two. While he enjoyed complete information input from assets in the field, soldiers, helicopters, and drones, he also insisted on letting the leaders on the ground make their own decisions, knowing, of course, that they were not alone at all. 
MECE: Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive

McChrystal completed a master of science in International Relations from Salve Regina University. He has company. Maj. Gen. James W. Nuttall deputy director of the Army National Guard earned an MA at SRU. Gen. Peter Chiarelli completed an MA in national security strategy at SRU after earning an MPA from the University of Washington. After finishing a master's at Salve Regina, Gen. Anthony Zinni (USMC) earned another master's from Central Michigan University.

Perhaps making too much of his outside-the-box thinking, it is interesting to note that Gen. McChrystal recommended A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for Admiral Stavridis’s anthology, The Leader’s Bookshelf. Also, whether and to what extent such new age intuitions actually instantiated the doctrine of counter-insurgency outlined by David Galula may be putative. It may be that victory in Iraq such as it was came from doing what soldiers always do and that so-called “counter-insurgency” ultimately proved to be a failure because it could never have been a success. 


Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Next Hurricane Harvey ...

... will not be a hurricane.

"Some years ago, there was a group in the staff college of which some of you may have heard, Leavenworth Staff College. This was before our entry into World War One, and in that course it was necessary to use a number of maps and the maps available to the course were of the Alsace-Lorraine area and the Champagne in France. But a group of "young Turks" came along who wanted to reform Leavenworth. They pointed out it was perfectly silly for the American Army to be using such maps which could after all be duplicated in other areas without too much cost--they would get some area maps where the American Army just might fight a battle. So, they got, among other things, maps of the area of Leavenworth and of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and in succeeding years all the problems have been worked out on those maps. The point is, only about two years after that happened, we were fighting in Alsace-Lorraine and in the Champagne. 

"I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of "emergency" is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning." 
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Remarks at the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference
November 14, 1957

Previously on Necessary Facts
AFK: Hurricane Harvey
CERT: Community Emergency Response Team
2017 Texas Emergency Management Conference
Hurricane Tejas 2016 Exercise

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Small Ancient Coin of Teos

Although I publish some research and many book reviews on numismatics, I do not buy much material. While working as the international editor for Coin World (1999-2000), I learned that I lack the collector’s passions for rarity, perfection, and completeness. But I do participate in the hobby and attend shows and conventions. So, sometimes things come home with me, as did this diobol from Teos.

diobol 9x11 mm 0.9 grams
Similar to Kinns 95 (different magistrate)
not in SNG, BMC, etc.
The obverse shows a griffin (gryphon) and the letters THI for “of Teos” (genitive case) and A/\Y the beginning of the magistrate’s name ALYMPIOS. That name appears in the reverse along with THI and a lyre or chelys. The stringed instrument typically had a tortoise shell for the sounding board but this coin was struck weakly at the bottom. That is also why the Sigma is missing from Alympios’s name. 

The town had a good harbor, but fell into hard times after the collapse of the Ionian Revolt. Many of its natives fled to Abdera in Thrace, which is why that town also took the gryphon for its ethnic.Teos recovered somewhat during the Hellenistic era, which is when this series was issued. (Drachma and staters from archaic Teos are better known.) The coin is small, especially considering that at this time (320-294), a day’s wages for a rower on a galley or a citizen at assembly was at least a drachmon, three times as much as a diobol.

Teos happened to have been the home town of Protagoras, who lived about 150 years earlier. (Protagoras was also said to have come from Abdera, which was the home of Democritus, who was his teacher.) The poet Anacreon (582-485 BCE, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica) was a Tean. Knowing their classics well, 18th century English revelers wrote a song “To Anacreon in Heaven” the melody of which became our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The best history I found is at New Advent, the Catholic Encyclopedia Online:
Here too was the home of a body of bacchanalian artists who furnished actors for the theatres of Asia and the Archipelago. It was the beginning of the ancient theatre. In order to further commerce and the pursuit of the fine arts, Teos, after having saved the fleet of the Roman prætor Regulus from Antiochus, King of Syria, secured for its territory in 193 B.C. from Rome and a great number of Grecian cities the right of perpetual asylum, this privilege being largely due to the temple of Bacchus. During the Christian era almost nothing is known of this city. --
Searching VCoins and other sites, I compiled a file of images and citations. Mine is the only one with the ethnic and magistrate on the obverse. That worries me, so I am sending off to David Sear for attribution.