The merchant in the Baroque
Before our eyes, images immediately appear that we know from so many movies: White wig, daring clothes and all this against the magnificent backdrop of a mighty castle.
Few people think of merchants, and yet it was precisely these merchants who provided the flour to dust wigs and bake bread, who imported exquisite fabrics from China, and who paid part of the princely building projects with their taxes in order to finance the rest through loans.
And yet: it is the Baroque period in which every ruler becomes aware that he is dependent on the economy of his country.
So let's dive into the period after the 30 Years War. Let's see what a merchant did at that time, what goods he traded and how his role was evaluated by his contemporaries.
Traditional societies have a hierarchical organization. The position of a person, and with it his prestige, depends not on how much he possesses, but on how many goods he has given to the other members of the society.
As a rule, coins are not manufactured to provide future generations with an insight into their users’ environment, but to be recognized as a reliable currency in the largest possible geographic area. The recognition effect was important – for instance, the most successful coins from Greek antiquity, the tetradrachms introduced by the Athenians and by Alexander the Great, featured the same image for more than one and a half centuries.
The denarii of the Roman Republic, on the other hand, are a completely different matter! Here, in the excited first century BC, the coin motifs change quicker than the years. We find everything: scenes from the past, allusions to the present, images of everyday political life, buildings, people, and of course deities. The ones responsible seem to have squeezed their whole world into the small space a denarius provides for coin motifs.
The exhibition highlights the phase of the Roman Empire when it was still Republican and focused on virtues, which enabled this state to fly high later.
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