Roman currency

Roman currency for most of Roman history consisted of gold, silver, bronze, orichalcum and copper coinage[1] (see: Roman metallurgy). From its introduction to the Republic, during the third century BC, well into Imperial times, Roman currency saw many changes in form, denomination, and composition. A persistent feature was the inflationary debasement and replacement of coins over the centuries. Notable examples of this followed the reforms of Diocletian. This trend continued into Byzantine times.

Because of the economic power and longevity of the Roman state, Roman currency was widely used throughout western Eurasia and northern Africa from classical times into the Middle Ages. It served as a model for the currencies of the Muslim caliphates and the European states during the Middle Ages and the Modern Era. Roman currency names survive today in many countries (e.g., the Arabic dinar (from the denarius coin), the British pound and Mexican peso (both translations of the Roman libra)).

Marcus Aurelius Denarius2
Denarius of Marcus Aurelius. Caption: IMP. M. ANTONINVS AVG. TR. P. XXV.

Authority to mint coins

The manufacture of coins in the Roman culture, dating from about the 4th century BC, significantly influenced later development of coin minting in Europe. The origin of the word "mint" is ascribed to the manufacture of silver coin at Rome in 269 BC at the temple of Juno Moneta. This goddess became the personification of money, and her name was applied both to money and to its place of manufacture. Roman mints were spread widely across the Empire, and were sometimes used for propaganda purposes. The populace often learned of a new Roman Emperor when coins appeared with the new Emperor's portrait. Some of the emperors who ruled only for a short time made sure that a coin bore their image; Quietus, for example, ruled only part of the Roman Empire from 260 to 261 AD, and yet he issued two coins bearing his image. The Romans cast their larger copper coins in clay moulds carrying distinctive markings, not because they did not know about striking, but because it was not suitable for such large masses of metal.


Roman Republic: c. 500 – 27 BC

Aes Signatum
Bronze aes signatum produced by the Roman Republic after 450 BC.

Roman adoption of metallic commodity money was a late development in monetary history. Bullion bars and ingots were used as money in Mesopotamia since the 7th millennium BC; and Greeks in Asia Minor had pioneered the use of coinage (which they employed in addition to other more primitive, monetary mediums of exchange) as early as the 7th century BC.[2] Coinage proper was only introduced by the Roman Republican government c. 300 BC. The greatest city of the Magna Graecia region in southern Italy, and several other Italian cities, already had a long tradition of using coinage by this time and produced them in large quantities during the 4th century BC to pay for their wars against the inland Italian groups encroaching on their territory. For these reasons, the Romans would have certainly known about coinage systems long before their government actually introduced them.

The reason behind Rome's adoption of coinage was likely cultural. The Romans had no pressing economic need, but they wanted to emulate Greek culture; they considered the institution of minted money a significant feature of that culture. However, Roman coinage initially saw very limited use.[3]

The type of money introduced by Rome was unlike that found elsewhere in the ancient Mediterranean. It combined a number of uncommon elements. One example is the large bronze bullion, the aes signatum (Latin for struck bronze). It measured about 160 by 90 millimetres (6.3 by 3.5 in) and weighed around 1,500 to 1,600 grams (53 to 56 oz), being made out of a highly leaded tin bronze. Although similar metal currency bars had been produced in Italy and northern Etruscan areas, these had been made of Aes grave, an unrefined metal with a high iron content.[4]

Along with the aes signatum, the Roman state also issued a series of bronze and silver coins that emulated the styles of those produced in Greek cities.[5] Produced using the manner of manufacture then utilised in Greek Naples, the designs of these early coins were also heavily influenced by Greek designs.[6]

The designs on the coinage of the Republican period displayed a "solid conservatism", usually illustrating mythical scenes or personifications of various gods and goddesses.[7]

Roman Empire: 27 BC – 476 AD

In 27 BC, the Roman Republic came to an end as Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD) ascended to the throne as the first emperor. Taking autocratic power, it soon became recognized that there was a link between the emperor's sovereignty and the production of coinage.[8]Augustus reformed the composition of the coinage in 23 BC and began to regularly issue Copper, Brass, Silver, and Gold coinage.

Iconography and design

Imperial iconography

Common Roman Coins
The most commonly used coin denominations and their relative sizes during Roman times.
Coins of the Roman Replic and Empire - from Cassell's History of England, Vol. I - anonymous author and artists
Coins of the Roman Republic and Empire - from Cassell's History of England, Vol. I - anonymous author and artists

The imagery on coins took an important step when Julius Caesar issued coins bearing his own portrait. While moneyers had earlier issued coins with portraits of ancestors, Caesar's was the first Roman coinage to feature the portrait of a living individual. The tradition continued following Caesar's assassination, although the imperators from time to time also produced coins featuring the traditional deities and personifications found on earlier coins. The image of the Roman emperor took on a special importance in the centuries that followed, because during the empire, the emperor embodied the state and its policies. The names of moneyers continued to appear on the coins until the middle of Augustus' reign. Although the duty of moneyers during the Empire is not known, since the position was not abolished, it is believed that they still had some influence over the imagery of the coins.

The main focus of the imagery during the empire was on the portrait of the emperor. Coins were an important means of disseminating this image throughout the empire. Coins often attempted to make the emperor appear god-like through associating the emperor with attributes normally seen in divinities, or emphasizing the special relationship between the emperor and a particular deity by producing a preponderance of coins depicting that deity. During his campaign against Pompey, Caesar issued a variety of types that featured images of either Venus or Aeneas, attempting to associate himself with his divine ancestors. An example of an emperor who went to an extreme in proclaiming divine status was Commodus. In 192 A.D., he issued a series of coins depicting his bust clad in a lion-skin (the usual depiction of Hercules) on the obverse, and an inscription proclaiming that he was the Roman incarnation of Hercules on the reverse. Although Commodus was excessive in his depiction of his image, this extreme case is indicative of the objective of many emperors in the exploitation of their portraits. While the emperor is by far the most frequent portrait on the obverse of coins, heirs apparent, predecessors, and other family members, such as empresses, were also featured. To aid in succession, the legitimacy of an heir was affirmed by producing coins for that successor. This was done from the time of Augustus till the end of the empire.

Featuring the portrait of an individual on a coin, which became legal in 44 BC, caused the coin to be viewed as embodying the attributes of the individual portrayed. Dio wrote that following the death of Caligula the Senate demonetized his coinage, and ordered that they be melted. Regardless of whether or not this actually occurred, it demonstrates the importance and meaning that was attached to the imagery on a coin. The philosopher Epictetus jokingly wrote: "Whose image does this sestertius carry? Trajan's? Give it to me. Nero's? Throw it away, it is unacceptable, it is rotten." Although the writer did not seriously expect people to get rid of their coins, this quotation demonstrates that the Romans attached a moral value to the images on their coins. Unlike the obverse, which during the imperial period almost always featured a portrait, the reverse was far more varied in its depiction. During the late Republic there were often political messages to the imagery, especially during the periods of civil war. However, by the middle of the Empire, although there were types that made important statements, and some that were overtly political or propagandistic in nature, the majority of the types were stock images of personifications or deities. While some images can be related to the policy or actions of a particular emperor, many of the choices seem arbitrary and the personifications and deities were so prosaic that their names were often omitted, as they were readily recognizable by their appearance and attributes alone.

It can be argued that within this backdrop of mostly indistinguishable types, exceptions would be far more pronounced. Atypical reverses are usually seen during and after periods of war, at which time emperors make various claims of liberation, subjugation, and pacification. Some of these reverse images can clearly be classified as propaganda. An example struck by emperor Philip in 244 features a legend proclaiming the establishment of peace with Persia; in truth, Rome had been forced to pay large sums in tribute to the Persians.

Although it is difficult to make accurate generalizations about reverse imagery, as this was something that varied by emperor, some trends do exist. An example is reverse types of the military emperors during the second half of the third century, where virtually all of the types were the common and standard personifications and deities. A possible explanation for the lack of originality is that these emperors were attempting to present conservative images to establish their legitimacy, something that many of these emperors lacked. Although these emperors relied on traditional reverse types, their portraits often emphasized their authority through stern gazes, and even featured the bust of the emperor clad in armor.[9]

Value and composition

Unlike most modern coins, Roman coins had (at least in the early centuries) significant intrinsic value. However, while the gold and silver issues contained precious metals, the value of a coin was slightly higher than its precious metal content, so they were not, strictly speaking, bullion. Also, over the course of time the purity and weight of the silver coins were reduced. Estimates of the value of the denarius range from 1.6 to 2.85 times its metal content, thought to equal the purchasing power of 10 modern British Pound Sterling (US$15.50) at the beginning of the Roman Empire to around 18 Pound Sterling (US$28) by its end (comparing bread, wine and meat prices) and, over the same period, around one to three days' pay for a Legionary.[10]

The coinage system that existed in Egypt until the time of Diocletian's monetary reform was a closed system based upon the heavily debased tetradrachm. Although the value of these tetradrachmas can be reckoned as being equivalent in value to the denarius, their precious metal content was always much lower. Clearly, not all coins that circulated contained precious metals, as the value of these coins was too great to be convenient for everyday purchases. A dichotomy existed between the coins with an intrinsic value and those with only a token value. This is reflected in the infrequent and inadequate production of bronze coinage during the Republic, where from the time of Sulla till the time of Augustus no bronze coins were minted at all; even during the periods when bronze coins were produced, their workmanship was sometimes very crude and of low quality.


Decline of the antoninianus
The rapid decline in silver purity of the antoninianus

The type of coins issued changed under the coinage reform of Diocletian, the heavily debased antoninianus (double denarius) was replaced with a variety of new denominations, and a new range of imagery was introduced that attempted to convey different ideas. The new government set up by Diocletian was a tetrarchy, or rule by four, with each emperor receiving a separate territory to rule.

The new imagery includes a large, stern portrait that is representative of the emperor. This image was not meant to show the actual portrait of a particular emperor, but was instead a character that embodied the power that the emperor possessed. The reverse type was equally universal, featuring the spirit (or genius) of the Romans. The introduction of a new type of government and a new system of coinage represents an attempt by Diocletian to return peace and security to Rome, after the previous century of constant warfare and uncertainty.

Diocletian characterizes the emperor as an interchangeable authority figure by depicting him with a generalized image. He tries to emphasize unity amongst the Romans by featuring the spirit of Romans (Sutherland 254). The reverse types of coins of the late Empire emphasized general themes, and discontinued the more specific personifications depicted previously. The reverse types featured legends that proclaimed the glory of Rome, the glory of the army, victory against the "barbarians", the restoration of happy times, and the greatness of the emperor.

These general types persisted even after the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire. Muted Christian imagery, such as standards that featured Christograms (the chi-rho monogram for Jesus Christ's name in Greek) were introduced, but with a few rare exceptions, there were no explicitly Christian themes. From the time of Constantine until the "end" of the Roman Empire, coins featured indistinguishable, idealized portraits and general proclamations of greatness.

Although the denarius remained the backbone of the Roman economy from its introduction in 211 BC until it ceased to be normally minted in the middle of the third century, the purity and weight of the coin slowly, but inexorably, decreased. The problem of debasement in the Roman economy appears to be pervasive, although the severity of the debasement often paralleled the strength or weakness of the Empire. While it is not clear why debasement was such a common occurrence for the Romans, it's believed that it was caused by several factors, including a lack of precious metals and inadequacies in state finances. When introduced, the denarius contained nearly pure silver at a theoretical weight of approximately 4.5 grams.

The theoretical standard, although not usually met in practice, remained fairly stable throughout the Republic, with the notable exception of times of war. The large number of coins required to raise an army and pay for supplies often necessitated the debasement of the coinage. An example of this is the denarii that were struck by Mark Antony to pay his army during his battles against Octavian. These coins, slightly smaller in diameter than a normal denarius, were made of noticeably debased silver. The obverse features a galley and the name Antony, while the reverse features the name of the particular legion that each issue was intended for (hoard evidence shows that these coins remained in circulation over 200 years after they were minted, due to their lower silver content). The coinage of the Julio-Claudians remained stable at 4 grams of silver, until the debasement of Nero in 64, when the silver content was reduced to 3.8 grams, perhaps due to the cost of rebuilding the city after fire consumed a considerable portion of Rome.

The denarius continued to decline slowly in purity, with a notable reduction instituted by Septimius Severus. This was followed by the introduction of a double denarius piece, differentiated from the denarius by the radiate crown worn by the emperor. The coin is commonly called the antoninianus by numismatists after the emperor Caracalla, who introduced the coin in early in 215. Although nominally valued at two denarii, the antoninianus never contained more than 1.6 times the amount of silver of the denarius. The profit of minting a coin valued at two denarii, but weighing only about one and a half times as much is obvious; the reaction to these coins by the public is unknown. As the number of antoniniani minted increased, the number of denarii minted decreased, until the denarius ceased to be minted in significant quantities by the middle of the third century. Again, coinage saw its greatest debasement during times of war and uncertainty. The second half of the third century was rife with this war and uncertainty, and the silver content of the antonianus fell to only 2%, losing almost any appearance of being silver. During this time the aureus remained slightly more stable, before it too became smaller and more base (lower gold content and higher base metal content) before Diocletian's reform.

The decline in the silver content to the point where coins contained virtually no silver at all was countered by the monetary reform of Aurelian in 274. The standard for silver in the antonianus was set at twenty parts copper to one part silver, and the coins were noticeably marked as containing that amount (XXI in Latin or KA in Greek). Despite the reform of Aurelian, silver content continued to decline, until the monetary reform of Diocletian. In addition to establishing the tetrarchy, Diocletian devised the following system of denominations: an aureus struck at the standard of 60 to the pound, a new silver coin struck at the old Neronian standard known as the argenteus, and a new large bronze coin that contained two percent silver.

Diocletian issued an Edict on Maximum Prices in 301, which attempted to establish the legal maximum prices that could be charged for goods and services. The attempt to establish maximum prices was an exercise in futility as maximum prices were impossible to enforce. The Edict was reckoned in terms of denarii, although no such coin had been struck for over 50 years (it is believed that the bronze follis was valued at 12.5 denarii). Like earlier reforms, this too eroded and was replaced by an uncertain coinage consisting mostly of gold and bronze. The exact relationship and denomination of the bronze issues of a variety of sizes is not known, and is believed to have fluctuated heavily on the market.

The exact reason that Roman coinage sustained constant debasement is not known, but the most common theories involve inflation, trade with India, which drained silver from the Mediterranean world, and inadequacies in state finances. It is clear from papyri that the pay of the Roman soldier increased from 900 sestertii a year under Augustus to 2000 sestertii a year under Septimius Severus and the price of grain more than tripled indicating that fall in real wages and a moderate inflation occurred during this time.[11]

Another reason for debasement was lack of raw metal with which to produce coins. Italy itself contains no large or reliable mines for precious metals; therefore the precious metals for coinage had to be obtained elsewhere. The majority of the precious metals that Rome obtained during its period of expansion arrived in the form of war booty from defeated territories, and subsequent tribute and taxes by new-conquered lands. When Rome ceased to expand, the precious metals for coinage then came from newly mined silver, such as from Greece and Spain, and from melting older coins.

Without a constant influx of precious metals from an outside source, and with the expense of continual wars, it would seem reasonable that coins might be debased to increase the amount that the government could spend. A simpler possible explanation for the debasement of coinage is that it allowed the state to spend more than it had. By decreasing the amount of silver in its coins, Rome could produce more coins and "stretch" its budget. As time progressed, the trade deficit of the west, because of its buying of grain and other commodities, led to a currency drainage in Rome.


The first rows show the values of each boldface coin in the first column in relation to the coins in the following columns:

Early Republic values[12][13] (after 211 BC)
Denarius Sestertius Dupondius As Semis Triens Quadrans Quincunx Uncia
Denarius 1 4 5 10 20 30 40 24 120
Sestertius ¼ 1 5 10 6 30
Dupondius 15 45 1 2 4 6 8 4​45 24
As 110 25 ½ 1 2 3 4 2​25 12
Semis 120 15 ¼ ½ 1 2 1​15 6
Triens 130 215 16 13 23 1 1​13 45 4
Quadrans 140 110 18 ¼ ½ ¾ 1 35 3
Quincunx 124 16 524 512 56 1​23 1 5
Uncia 1120 130 124 112 16 ¼ 13 15 1
Augustan values (27 BC – 301 A.D.)
Aureus Quinarius Aureus Denarius Quinarius Sestertius Dupondius As Semis Quadrans
Aureus 1 2 25 50 100 200 400 800 1600
Quinarius Aureus ½ 1 12½ 25 50 100 200 400 800
Denarius 125 225 1 2 4 8 16 32 64
Quinarius Argenteus 150 125 ½ 1 2 4 8 16 32
Sestertius 1100 150 ¼ ½ 1 2 4 8 16
Dupondius 1200 1100 18 ¼ ½ 1 2 4 8
As 1400 1200 116 18 ¼ ½ 1 2 4
Semis 1800 1400 132 116 18 ¼ ½ 1 2
Quadrans 11600 1800 164 132 116 18 ¼ ½ 1
Diocletian values (301 – 305 A.D.)
Solidus Argenteus Nummus Radiate Laureate Denarius
Solidus 1 10 40 200 500 1000
Argenteus 110 1 4 20 50 100
Nummus 140 ¼ 1 5 12​12 25
Radiate 1200 120 15 1 2​12 5
Laureate 1500 150 225 25 1 2
Denarius 11000 1100 125 15 ½ 1
Late Empire Coin values (337 – 476 AD)
Solidus Miliarense Siliqua Follis Nummus
Solidus 1 12 24 180 7200
Miliarense 112 1 2 15 600
Siliqua 124 12 1 7​12 300
Follis 1180 115 215 1 40
Nummus 17200 1600 1300 140 1

See also



  1. ^ "Blanchard and Company, Inc. - The Twelve Caesars". Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  2. ^ Metcalf 2012, p. 33.
  3. ^ Burnett 1987. pp. 15–16.
  4. ^ Burnett 1987. p. 3.
  5. ^ Burnett 1987. pp. 4–5.
  6. ^ Burnett 1987. p. 16.
  7. ^ Reece 1970. p. 19.
  8. ^ Burnett 1987. p. 17.
  9. ^ "Probus". Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  10. ^ "Buying Power of Ancient Coins". Archived from the original on February 10, 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  11. ^
  12. ^ W.G. Sayles, Ancient Coin Collecting III: The Roman World-Politics and Propaganda, Iola, 1997, p. 20.
  13. ^ William Boyne, A Manual of Roman Coins: from the earliest period to the extinction of the empire, W. H. Johnston, 1865, p. 7. Available online.


  • Burnett, Andrew (1987). Coinage in the Roman World. London: Seaby. ISBN 978-0-900652-84-4.
  • Cohen, Henry, Description historiques des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire romain, Paris, 1882, 8 vols. There exists online version of this Cohen's catalogue
  • Greene, Kevin. Archaeology of the Roman Economy. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1986.
  • Howgego, Christopher. Ancient History from Coins. London: Routledge, 1995.
  • Jones, A. H. M. The Roman Economy: Studies in Ancient Economic and Administrative History. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974.
  • Melville Jones, John R., 'A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins', London, Spink 2003.
  • Metcalf, William E. (2012). The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195305746.
  • Reece, Richard (1970). Roman Coins. London: Ernest Benn Limited. ISBN 978-0-510-06151-7.
  • Salmon, E. Togo. Roman Coins and Public Life under the Empire. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press, 1999.
  • Suarez, Rasiel. The Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins. Dirty Old Books, 2005.
  • Sutherland, C. H. V. Roman Coins. New York: G. P. (Also published by Barrie and Jenkins in London in 1974 with ISBN 0-214-66808-8)
  • Van Meter, David. The Handbook of Roman Imperial Coins. Laurion Press, 1990.
  • Vecchi, Italo. Italian Cast Coinage. A descriptive catalogue of the cast coinage of Rome and Italy. London Ancient Coins, London 2013. Hard bound in quarto format, 84 pages, 92 plates. ISBN 978-0-9575784-0-1

External links

Andorran diner

The Andorran diner (ADD) is a commemorative currency issued in form of coins intended for collectors and without a legal tender value. A diner is divided into 100 cèntims. The name diner (money in Catalan) is derived from the Roman currency denarius.

The Servei d'Emissions de la Vegueria Episcopal has issued from 1977 onwards various series of diner denominated coins. Previously there were minor privately issued diner coinage (with no legal value). There have been silver, golder and bimetallic issues. The most commemorated topic is Charlemagne.The exchange rate was defined (informally) as 100 ESP (0.60 EUR) or 5 FRF (~125 ESP or 0.75 EUR) to one diner. But there is no bank or other authority where visitors to Andorra can change diners for euros. It is only an informal relation. It is not possible to buy anything with diners in Andorra. It is not possible to open an account in diners. It is only an artificial currency to produce commemorative coins.In 1998 the General Council of the Valleys issued for the first time a series of diner denominated coins to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Manual Digest.

Bes (coin)

The bes (plural bessēs) was an Ancient Roman bronze coin produced during the Roman Republic. Valued at two-thirds of an as (8 unciae), it was only produced in 126 BC by C. Cassius in combination with the dodrans, another very rare denomination which was valued at three-fourths of an as.


Caracalla (; Latin: Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus; 4 April 188 – 8 April 217), formally known as Antoninus, ruled as Roman emperor from 198 to 217 AD. He was a member of the Severan dynasty, the elder son of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna. Co-ruler with his father from 198, he continued to rule with his brother Geta, emperor from 209, after their father's death in 211. He had his brother killed later that year, and reigned afterwards as sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Caracalla's reign featured domestic instability and external invasions by the Germanic peoples.

Caracalla's reign became notable for the Antonine Constitution (Latin: Constitutio Antoniniana), also known as the Edict of Caracalla, which granted Roman citizenship to nearly all free men throughout the Roman Empire. The edict gave all the enfranchised men Caracalla's adopted praenomen and nomen: "Marcus Aurelius". Domestically, Caracalla became known for the construction of the Baths of Caracalla, which became the second-largest baths in Rome; for the introduction of a new Roman currency named the antoninianus, a sort of double denarius; and for the massacres he enacted against the people of Rome and elsewhere in the empire. In 216, Caracalla began a campaign against the Parthian Empire. He did not see this campaign through to completion due to his assassination by a disaffected soldier in 217. Macrinus succeeded him as emperor three days later.

The ancient sources portray Caracalla as a tyrant and as a cruel leader, an image that has survived into modernity. Dio Cassius (c. 155 – c. 235) and Herodian (c. 170 – c. 240) present Caracalla as a soldier first and as an emperor second. In the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth started the legend of Caracalla's role as the king of Britain. Later, in the 18th century, the works of French painters revived images of Caracalla due to apparent parallels between Caracalla's tyranny and that ascribed to Louis XVI of France (r. 1774–1792). Modern works continue to portray Caracalla as a psychopathic and evil ruler, painting him as one of the most tyrannical of all Roman emperors.

Carbonero el Mayor

Carbonero el Mayor is a municipality located in the province of Segovia, Castile and León, Spain. According to the 2004 census (INE), the municipality has a population of 2,469 inhabitants.

Coinage reform of Augustus

The coinage reform of Augustus refers to the reform of Roman currency undertaken by Augustus in 23 BC.

Harold Mattingly

Harold Mattingly (1884 - 26 January 1964) was a British art historian and numismatist, who specialised in the history of Ancient Rome, especially Etruscan and Roman currency.

His son, Harold B. Mattingly (1923-2015) was also a celebrated numismatist, and President of the Royal Numismatic Society 1999-2004.

Livre tournois

The livre tournois (French pronunciation: ​[livʁ tuʁnwa]), French for the "Tours pound", was:

one of numerous currencies used in France in the Middle Ages; and

a unit of account (i.e., a monetary unit used in accounting) used in France in the Middle Ages and the early modern period.


Macrinus (; Latin: Marcus Opellius Severus Macrinus Augustus; c. 165 – June 218) was Roman Emperor from April 217 to 8 June 218. He reigned jointly with his young son Diadumenianus. Macrinus was by origin a Berber from Mauretania Caesariensis. A member of the equestrian class, he became the first emperor who did not hail from the senatorial class and was the first emperor from Mauretania. Before becoming emperor, Macrinus served under Emperor Caracalla as a praetorian prefect and dealt with Rome's civil affairs. He later conspired against Caracalla and had him murdered in a bid to protect his own life, succeeding him as emperor.

Macrinus was proclaimed emperor of Rome by 11 April 217 while in the eastern provinces of the empire and was subsequently confirmed as such by the Senate; however, for the duration of his reign, he never had the opportunity to return to Rome. His predecessor's policies had left Rome's coffers empty and the empire at war with several kingdoms, including Parthia, Armenia and Dacia. As emperor, Macrinus first attempted to enact reform to bring economic and diplomatic stability to Rome. While Macrinus' diplomatic actions brought about peace with each of the individual kingdoms, the additional monetary costs and subsequent fiscal reforms generated unrest in the Roman military.

Caracalla's aunt Julia Maesa took advantage of the unrest and instigated a rebellion to have her fourteen-year-old grandson, Elagabalus, recognized as emperor. Macrinus was overthrown at the Battle of Antioch on 8 June 218 and Elagabalus proclaimed himself emperor with support from the rebelling Roman legions. Macrinus fled the battlefield and tried to reach Rome but was captured in Chalcedon and later executed in Cappadocia. He sent his son to the care of Artabanus V of Parthia, but Diadumenianus was also captured before he could reach his destination and executed. After Macrinus' death, the Senate declared him and his son enemies of Rome and had their names struck from the records and their images destroyed.

Matthew Raper

Matthew Raper (1705–1778) was a British astronomer, mathematician, and scholar in various fields. He published papers on diverse subjects, including ancient Greek coinage and Roman currency, as well as their measures and their history from Greek and Latin texts.

Raper was elected to the Royal Society on the 30th of May 1754 and was awarded the Copley Medal in 1771 for a paper "Inquiry into the Value of the ancient Greek and Roman Money." He translated Dissertation on the Gipseys from Heinrich Grellman's German original and wrote diverse papers such as "An Enquiry into the Measure of the Roman Foot" (1760) and "Observations on the Moon's Eclipse, March 17., and the Sun's Eclipse, April 1, 1764."Matthew Raper's father was also named Matthew and left him the Manor of Thorley, Hertfordshire, upon his death in 1748. Raper had an observatory on the roof of the manor house; upon his death in 1778, the manorial rights passed to his brother John Raper.


A moneyer is a private individual who is officially permitted to mint money. Usually the rights to coin money are bestowed as a concession by a state or government. Moneyers have a long tradition, dating back at least to ancient Greece. They became most prominent in the Roman Republic, and continued into the Empire.

Moneyers were not limited to the ancient world. When European coinage was revived during the Middle Ages, moneyers again were trusted to create currency on behalf of kings and potentates. For a large part of that era, virtually all coins in circulation were silver pennies, and these often bore the name or other identification of the moneyer.


Montségur (Languedocien: Montsegur) is a commune in the Ariège department in southwestern France.

It is famous for its fortification, the Château de Montségur, that was built on the "pog" (mountain) on the ruins of one of the last strongholds of the Cathars. The present fortress on the site, though described as one of the "Cathar castles," is from a later period. It has been listed as a historic site by the French Ministry of Culture since 1862. According to the book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Montségur was the location of a mythical treasure related to the Holy Grail, which was promptly smuggled away before the Cathar surrender.


Publius Helvius Pertinax (; Latin: Publius Helvius Pertinax Augustus; 1 August 126 – 28 March 193) was a Roman military leader and Roman Emperor for the first three months of 193. He succeeded Commodus to become the first emperor during the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors.

Born the son of a freed slave, Pertinax became an officer in the army. He fought in the Roman–Parthian War of 161–166, where his success led him to be promoted to higher-ranking positions in both the military and political spheres, leading to him achieving the rank of provincial governor and urban prefect. He was a member of the Roman Senate, serving at the same time as the historian Cassius Dio.

Following the death of Commodus, Pertinax was acclaimed emperor. He attempted to institute several reform measures, although the short length of his time as emperor prevented the success of those attempts. One of those reforms, the restoration of discipline among the Praetorian Guards, led to conflict that eventually culminated in Pertinax's assassination by the Guard on 28 March 193. After his death, the Praetorians auctioned off the imperial title, which was won by the wealthy senator Didius Julianus, whose reign would end on 1 June 193.Pertinax would be deified by the successor of Julianus, Septimius Severus. His historical reputation has largely been a positive one, in line with the assessment of Dio.

Roman abacus

The Ancient Romans developed the Roman hand abacus, a portable, but less capable, base-10 version of earlier abacuses like those used by the Greeks and Babylonians. It was the first portable calculating device for engineers, merchants and presumably tax collectors. It greatly reduced the time needed to perform the basic operations of arithmetic using Roman numerals.

As Karl Menninger says on page 315 of his book, "For more extensive and complicated calculations, such as those involved in Roman land surveys, there was, in addition to the hand abacus, a true reckoning board with unattached counters or pebbles. The Etruscan cameo and the Greek predecessors, such as the Salamis Tablet and the Darius Vase, gives us a good idea of what it must have been like, although no actual specimens of the true Roman counting board are known to be extant. But language, the most reliable and conservative guardian of a past culture, has come to our rescue once more. Above all, it has preserved the fact of the unattached counters so faithfully that we can discern this more clearly than if we possessed an actual counting board. What the Greeks called psephoi, the Romans called calculi. The Latin word calx means 'pebble' or 'gravel stone'; calculi are thus little stones (used as counters)."

Both the Roman abacus and the Chinese suanpan have been used since ancient times. With one bead above and four below the bar, the systematic configuration of the Roman abacus is coincident to the modern Japanese soroban, although the soroban is historically derived from the suanpan.

Roman commerce

The commerce of the Roman Empire was a major sector of the Roman economy during the early Republic and throughout most of the imperial period. Fashions and trends in historiography and in popular culture have tended to neglect the economic basis of the empire in favor of the lingua franca of Latin and the exploits of the Roman legions. The language and the legions were supported by trade while being at the same time part of its backbone. Romans were businessmen and the longevity of their empire was due to their commercial trade.

Whereas in theory members of the Roman Senate and their sons were restricted when engaging in trade, the members of the Equestrian order were involved in businesses, despite their upper class values that laid the emphasis on military pursuits and leisure activities. Plebeians and freedmen held shop or manned stalls at markets, while vast quantities of slaves did most of the hard work. The slaves were themselves also the subject of commercial transactions. Probably due to their high proportion in society (compared to that in Classical Greece), and the reality of runaways; as well as, the Servile Wars and minor uprisings, they gave a distinct flavor to Roman commerce.

The intricate, complex, and extensive accounting of Roman trade was conducted with counting boards and the Roman abacus. The abacus, using Roman numerals, was ideally suited to the counting of Roman currency and tallying of Roman measures.


SPQR (Latin: Senātus Populusque Rōmānus, "The Roman Senate and People", or more freely as "The Senate and People of Rome"; Classical Latin: [sɛˈnaː.tʊs pɔpʊˈlʊs.kᶣɛ roːˈmaː.nʊs]) refers to the government of the ancient Roman Republic. It appears on Roman currency, at the end of documents made public by inscription in stone or metal, and in dedications of monuments and public works.

The phrase commonly appears in the Roman political, legal, and historical literature, such as the speeches of Cicero and Ab Urbe Condita Libri ("Books from the Founding of the City") of Livy.


The tremissis or tremis (Greek: τριμίσιον, trimision) was a small solid gold coin of Late Antiquity. Its name, meaning "a third of a unit", formed by analogy with semissis (half of a unit), indicated its value relative to the solidus. It was introduced into Roman currency in the 380s by the Emperor Theodosius I and initially weighed 8 siliquae (equivalent to 1.52 grams).Roman tremisses continued to be commonly minted into the reign of Leo III (717–741), but thereafter they were only rarely struck in the east of the empire, probably only for ceremonial uses, until the reign of Basil I (867–886), after which they disappeared. Nevertheless, the coin continued in common use in the Sicilian theme until the fall of Syracuse in 878. The trachy, introduced in the 11th century, was equivalent in value to the old tremissis. Although it was not made of gold, it was one third of the standard golden hyperpyron. It was not, however, called tremissis.Outside of the Roman empire, tremisses were minted by the Anglo-Saxons, Burgundians, Franks, Frisians, Lombards, Ostrogoths, Suevi and Visigoths between the 5th and 8th centuries. The word tremissis was borrowed into Old English as thrymsa.In Frankish sources, the tremissis is sometimes called a triens, a term likewise meaning "a third", which originally referred to a bronze coin worth a third of an as. The historian and bishop Gregory of Tours calls the Frankish tremissis a trians or treans. The German form dremise is also attested. In French historiography the term tiers (third) or tiers de sou (third of a solidus) is often used. The French, in general, prefer to call the coin of the Merovingian kings a triens (but avoiding the plural form trientes), while British scholarship prefers tremissis.

Triumvir Monetalis

A Triumvir Monetalis was one of three moneyers appointed in Ancient Rome to oversee the minting of coins.

Tyrian shekel

Tyrian shekels, tetradrachms, or tetradrachmas were coins of Tyre, which in the Roman Empire took on an unusual role as the medium of payment for the Temple tax in Jerusalem, and subsequently gained notoriety as a likely mode of payment for Judas Iscariot.

In the latest standard, which was also the one used for the temple tax, the coins bore the likeness of the Phoenician god Melqart or Baal, accepted as the Olympian Herakles by the Greeks and derided as Beelzebub by Jews in the time of the Seleucids, wearing the laurel reflecting his role in the Tyrian games and the ancient Olympic Games.

They also bore the Greek inscription "ΤΥΡΟΥ ΙΕΡΑΣ ΚΑΙ ΑΣΥΛΟΥ" (Tyrou hieras kai asylou, "of Tyre the holy [city] and [city] of refuge"). The coins were the size of a modern Israeli half-shekel and were issued by Tyre, in that form, between 126 BC and 56 AD. Earlier Tyrian coins with the value of a tetradrachm, bearing various inscriptions and images, had been issued beginning in the latter half of the fifth century B.C.After the Roman Empire closed down the mint in Tyre, the Roman authorities allowed the Jewish rabbanim to continue minting Tyrian shekels in Palestine, but with the requirement that the coins should continue to bear the same image and text to avoid objections that the Jews were given autonomy. They were replaced by First Jewish Revolt coinage in 66 AD.

The Tyrian shekel were considered tetradrachms by the Greeks, as they weighed four Athenian drachmas, about 14 grams, more than earlier 11-gram shekels but regarded as equivalent for religious duties at that time. Because Roman coinage was only 80% silver, the purer (94% or more) Tyrian shekels were required to pay the temple tax in Jerusalem.

The money changers referenced in the New Testament Gospels (Matt. 21:12 and parallels) exchanged Tyrian shekels for common Roman currency.

Uncia (coin)

The uncia (Latin, "twelfth part") was a Roman currency worth 1/12 of an as.

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