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Medallion  

William E. Metcalf

Large medal struck normally in commemoration of an event or as a reward of merit and used here to refer to Roman pieces; for Renaissance and later periods see Medal.

In the standard study of Roman medallions, J. M. C. Toynbee struggled to distinguish them from coins on the one hand and medals on the other, while admitting that medallions share features of each. She defined medallions as monetiform (coinlike) pieces that do not correspond completely to a denomination in regular use; they were ‘struck by the Emperor for special or solemn commemoration’ and were intended as ‘individual, personal gifts, any idea of their circulation as currency being either wholly absent or, at the most, quite secondary and subordinate’. This functional definition omits mention of the high level of artistry that characterizes the pieces and constitutes the internal evidence for their status as presentation pieces. For while medallions were produced at imperial mints using the same techniques as those employed for regular coinage, they uniformly display a higher level of artistry; their larger format invited more ambitious and original compositions even when they commemorated events otherwise noted in contemporary coinage....