Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ancient Roman Coins

It's well known that the Roman Empire was very advanced for its time. One of the many ways we can see this is in their monetary system. The Roman system started off in the middle third century BC and continued on to the middle third century AD. The main values were the gold coins known as aureus, the silver coins called the denarius, bronze coins called sestertius as well as dupondius, and the copper coins referred to as the As.

The Roman coins were different because they carried intrinsic value. While all were made from precious metal, they were worth more then their metal content. It's hard for archeologist to know the exact value of these coins, but they have come up with some estimates of what they were. For example: the denarius is estimated to be from 1.6 to 2.85 times its metal content value. This comes to about $13 US during the early years of the Roman Empire and increased to around $25 US by the end.

As the Roman Empire progressed, there was a split in authority for minting coins of certain metals. The silver and gold coins were only permitted to be struck in Rome itself while the bronze and copper coins could be minted by local authorities. Dio Cassius once wrote, “None of the cities should be allowed to have its own separate coinage or a system of weights and measures; they should all be required to use ares.” This is interesting, as that is the exact system we use today.

Roman imagery on their coinage fell the the committee of tresviri monetales (trio of money men), typically these were statesmen who were striving to become a senator. In the early years, symbols and other control marks were used to dictated who was responsible for coming up with the coins image. In later years, the Roman Empire changed its process and began using images of the current emperor designed to show their power and authority.

Many aspects of the Roman Coin system we have discovered from the past can be seen in our own silver coins today. To this day we still use the image of our great leaders on our coinage and intrinsic value is common in most modern coin system. Of course, this is just one area where the Romans have proven to be far more advanced then other cultures of the era.

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