What did the Romans ever do for us? Well, apart from introducing central heating, sewers, the calendar and our current alphabet – and building the basis of our road network – the Roman Empire also left another lasting legacy; its coinage. More specifically, the design has influenced the way us Brits – and others – have created currency ever since. A fascinating free exhibition at the Barber Institute examines how and why UK currency looks the way it does (pick up 10p, see the Latin text and note the similarity of the Queen’s profile to that of the Roman Emperors/Gods). Examples from further afield offer a contrast, helping us to realise that many other places also see themselves as heirs to Rome. This exhibition asks us to consider the pros and cons of such a perspective. Coinage might seem trivial, but its power extends beyond just finance; think of the recent furore over the Euro, and the extent to which identity is intertwined with the pennies in your pocket. The Romans laid the foundations of modern culture in this wet, windy island; they also planted it firmly in your wallet and mindset. Something to consider as, like legionaries, we begin the inexorable march towards a coinless world.

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TS. Tel: 0121 414 7333 Sun 17 Jan – Sun 24 Apr, Mon to Fri 10am – 5pm, Sat & Sun 11am – 5pm, Exhibition Tours: Sun 20 Mar, Sun 17 Apr, 2.30pm FREE
See more: barber.org.uk

Sun 17 Jan - Sun 24 Apr
Emma Whitney
Published on:
Sun 6 Mar 2016