The author, who has a PhD in astronomy and has been a numismatist for many years, has researched and written about these astronomical symbols on coins over a period of some 2,000 years, from circa 500 BC to 1618 AD, from the Athenian coins with the symbol of a crescent moon produced after the battle of Marathon to an illustration of a German ducat produced after the comet of 1618. This was widely seen as a harbinger of the Thirty Years War.
The rulers who produced these coins generally asserted a divine authority to do so, and used the medium of coins to claim the attention of subjects and others. Given the continuing variability in the quality of coins, which were all too often made with debased metal and thereafter clipped and sweated, these symbols might also convey indications of the coins' quality to concerned and doubtful recipients. This did not stop in the Early Modern period, it was in 1702 that silver captured in Vigo Bay was minted into English shillings and were marked by the Royal Mint with "Vigo" as a certificate of military success and monetary quality.
There is an interesting description of the various symbols used to identify the various heavenly bodies and their position within the decoration and other symbols on the coins examined. The author provides a fascinating account of the symbols which appeared on the coins produced during the struggles leading to Constantine reaching the imperial throne. There was the Chi-Rho symbol which no doubt attracted the loyalty of Christians, but also symbols of Mars of interest to pagans, and Mithraic symbols which would have been of great interest to many potential supporters in the Middle East. So while Constantine would give Christianity its all important political breakthrough, these ancient coins are vital evidence that this was a far more complex and calculating process than St Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus.
It is the accounts of the astronomical events behind the decision to mint these coins and some of the political consequences that raises this book above a well informed numismatist's interest. The account of the Solar or eighth crusade, its links to the eclipse of May 1267, and how Charles of Anjou, by then King of Sicily, sought to manipulate his brother, Louis IX of France, and how the coinage issued to pay for the crusade bore astronomical symbols, gives an insight into the various pressures of which the coins with astronomical symbols are surviving evidence. So it is not only the places where these coins were found, in hoards identified by eponymous place names, but also the message they carry that will be of interest to historians looking for archaeological evidence to support or counter written evidence of probable bias and questionable veracity.
This book is a fine example of the insights and perceptions which can be achieved by bringing together the different disciplines of astronomy and numismatics with the painstaking care that Dr Faintich has brought to his research over a 15 year period.