Coin for Eileen Joy

Substantive content will follow: I have three more Leeds posts to write and several pieces of important personal academic news. But until I have time to write all that, Eileen, I sawcatalogued this and thought of you.

Reverse of Fitzwilliam Museum, CM.1.265-1990, from the Christopher Blunt collection

As to what it actually is, well, it’s interesting in itself as it’s a Saint Edmund penny from Viking East Anglia, by a moneyer by the name of Martin (I’m afraid), and the obverse actually commemorates the East Anglian king that the Vikings had brutally executed only a few decades previously. This is one of the successes of Alfred the Great and his men, or possibly a testimony to the small number of actual settlers in the First Viking Age if you’re Peter Sawyer (and if you are, wow, I love your work); it really didn’t take very long not just for the dead king to become a saint but for that saint, and therefore obviously Christianity, to be endorsed by the kingdom or region’s most widespread token of officialdom, which is the coinage obviously. (Things were very different on the coins of York, where Alfred did not reach and where swords and things that may or may not be Torshammers share two sides of a flan with the name of St Peter, uneasily.)

So it’s an object with a historical point, but on this occasion I just transcribed the legend and thought, “Right. I know who this image is for.” Happy unbirthday!

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11 responses to “Coin for Eileen Joy

  1. The acceptance of St Oswald and Christianity in Mercia is a very similar example. Remember Oswald was killed and dismembered by pagan King Penda.

    • I see the parallel—and it hadn’t occurred to me, though it should have—but the rôle that Bede has representing both sides of that conflict to us bothers me. Penda’s paganism was clearly not the universal position of his day in Mercia, and neither were lines between pagan and Christian clearly drawn between the armies. There was presumably some admixture of religion in both Alfred’s and Guthrum’s armies too, but I would assume nothing like as much. But it sure helps Oswald’s saintly reputation to have been cut down by pagan swords, no? So a pagan army it becomes…

  2. Wow wow wow! This is SO cool, and of course the passion of Edmund is one of touchstone texts in OE studies [I have an article forthcoming on the OE legend of the Seven Sleepers that briefly mentions the Edmund legends]. Happy unbirthday, indeed! Cheers, and thanks so much, Jonathan.

  3. Aha! Does this mean you owe me a beer the next time I’m in Cambridge?

  4. Yes–hold for spirits! Incidentally, I plan to BE in Cambridge on Saturday, Jan. 15th! xo, Eileen

  5. It’s not an off-chance: I really will be there. Symposium at King’s in London on the 14th and then a pop-over to Cambridge on Saturday, then back to London on Monday. Email me as we get closer!

    • No, the chance is in my location, not yours. It rather depends what time term in Oxford starts, for reasons that have yet to be explained here, I really need to get onto that. I shall however be in touch. Incidentally, I have your address invisibly as part of the comment submission form, so I’ve removed it from your comment, save you from the spammers and so on.

  6. Ahhh, I get it now! And thanks!

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