Denarius

Denarius

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In the Roman currency
Roman currency
The Roman currency during most of the Roman Republic and the western half of the Roman Empire consisted of coins including the aureus , the denarius , the sestertius , the dupondius , and the as...

 system, the denarius (plural: denarii) was a small silver coin
Silver coin
Silver coins are possibly the oldest mass produced form of coinage. Silver has been used as a coinage metal since the times of the Greeks. Their silver drachmas were popular trade coins....

 first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin
Coin
A coin is a piece of hard material that is standardized in weight, is produced in large quantities in order to facilitate trade, and primarily can be used as a legal tender token for commerce in the designated country, region, or territory....

 produced for circulation but was slowly debased
Debasement
Debasement is the practice of lowering the value of currency. It is particularly used in connection with commodity money such as gold or silver coins...

 until its replacement by the antoninianus
Antoninianus
The antoninianus was a coin used during the Roman Empire thought to have been valued at 2 denarii. It was initially silver, but was slowly debased to bronze. The coin was introduced by Caracalla in early 215 and was a silver coin similar to the denarius except that it was slightly larger and...

. The word denarius is derived from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 dēnī "containing ten", as its value was 10 asses
As (coin)
The , also assarius was a bronze, and later copper, coin used during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire.- Republican era coinage :...

; it may also be the origin of the word dinar
Dinar
The dinar is the official currency of several countries.The history of the dinar dates to the gold dinar, an early Islamic coin corresponding to the Byzantine denarius auri...

 (see that page for further discussion).

History


An early form of the denarius was first struck five years before the first Punic War, in 269 B.C. with a weight of 6.8 grams on average at the time or of a Roman pound. Contact with the Greeks prompted a need for silver coinage in addition to the bronze ases
As (coin)
The , also assarius was a bronze, and later copper, coin used during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire.- Republican era coinage :...

 the Romans were using at that time. This was a Greek-style silver coin, very similar to didrachm and drachma
Greek drachma
Drachma, pl. drachmas or drachmae was the currency used in Greece during several periods in its history:...

 struck in Metapontion and other Greek cities in Southern Italy. These coins were inscribed for Rome, but closely resemble their Greek counterparts. They were most likely used for trade purposes and seldom used in Rome.

Around 225 B.C. the first distinctively Roman silver coin appears. Classic historians often cite these coins as denarii, but they are classified by modern numismatists as quadrigatus
Quadrigatus
The quadrigatus was a medium-sized silver coin produced by the Roman Republic during the 3rd century BC. The obverse featured a young janiform bust and the reverse featured Victory driving a quadriga , giving the coin its name, with the inscription "ROMA" below.The coin weighed about 6.8 grams ,...

. The name quadrigatus
Quadrigatus
The quadrigatus was a medium-sized silver coin produced by the Roman Republic during the 3rd century BC. The obverse featured a young janiform bust and the reverse featured Victory driving a quadriga , giving the coin its name, with the inscription "ROMA" below.The coin weighed about 6.8 grams ,...

 comes from the quadriga or four-horse chariot on the reverse, which was the prototype for the most common designs used on Roman silver coins for the next 150 years.

Rome overhauled its coinage around 211 B.C. and introduced a standardized denarius alongside a short lived denomination called the victoriatus
Victoriatus
The victoriatus was a silver coin issued during the Roman Republic from about 221 BC to 170 BC. The obverse of the coin featured the bust of Jupiter and the reverse featured Victory placing a wreath upon a trophy with the inscription "ROMA" in exergue....

. This standardized denarius contained 4.5 grams on average at the time or of a Roman pound of silver. It was the backbone of Roman currency through the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 with fair consistency at this weight.

The denarius began to experience slow debasement towards the end of the Republic. Under the rule of Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 its silver content fell to 3.9 grams (a theoretical weight of of a Roman pound). It then remained at near this weight until the time of Nero
Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

, when it was reduced to of a pound, or 3.4 grams. Regular debasement of the silver began after Nero. Later Roman emperors reduced it to a weight of 3 grams around the late 3rd century.

The value at its introduction was 10 asses
As (coin)
The , also assarius was a bronze, and later copper, coin used during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire.- Republican era coinage :...

, giving the denarius its name which translates to "containing ten". In about 141 BC it was re-tariffed at 16 asses, to reflect the decrease in weight of the as
As (coin)
The , also assarius was a bronze, and later copper, coin used during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire.- Republican era coinage :...

. The denarius continued to be the main coin of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 until it was replaced by the antoninianus
Antoninianus
The antoninianus was a coin used during the Roman Empire thought to have been valued at 2 denarii. It was initially silver, but was slowly debased to bronze. The coin was introduced by Caracalla in early 215 and was a silver coin similar to the denarius except that it was slightly larger and...

 in the middle of the 3rd century. The last issuance for this coin seems to be bronze coins issued by Aurelian
Aurelian
Aurelian , was Roman Emperor from 270 to 275. During his reign, he defeated the Alamanni after a devastating war. He also defeated the Goths, Vandals, Juthungi, Sarmatians, and Carpi. Aurelian restored the Empire's eastern provinces after his conquest of the Palmyrene Empire in 273. The following...

 between 270 and 275 AD, and in the first years of the reign of Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

. For more details, see the article 'Denarius' in A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins by John R. Melville-Jones (1990).

Comparisons and silver content



It is problematic to give even rough comparative values for money from before the 20th century, due to vastly different types of products and of the impossibility of making an accurate price index based on vastly different spending proportions. Its purchasing power in terms of bread has been estimated at US$
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

21, from 2005, in the first century. Classical historians regularly say that in the late Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 and early Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 the daily wage for an unskilled laborer and common soldier was 1 denarius without tax, or about US$20 in bread (by comparison, a laborer earning the minimum wage in the United States
Minimum wage in the United States
, the federal minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 per hour. Some states and municipalities have set minimum wages higher than the federal level , with the highest state minimum wage being $8.67 in Washington. Some U.S. territories are exempt...

 makes US$58 for an 8-hour day, before taxes). The actual silver content of the Denarius was about 50 grains
Grain (measure)
A grain is a unit of measurement of mass that is nominally based upon the mass of a single seed of a cereal. From the Bronze Age into the Renaissance the average masses of wheat and barley grains were part of the legal definition of units of mass. However, there is no evidence of any country ever...

, or troy ounce
Troy ounce
The troy ounce is a unit of imperial measure. In the present day it is most commonly used to gauge the weight of precious metals. One troy ounce is nowadays defined as exactly 0.0311034768 kg = 31.1034768 g. There are approximately 32.1507466 troy oz in 1 kg...

 under the Empire. In June 6 2011, this corresponds to approximately US$3.62 in value if the silver were 0.999 pure (which it wasn't).

The fineness of the silver content varied with political and economic circumstances. By the reign of Gallienus
Gallienus
Gallienus was Roman Emperor with his father Valerian from 253 to 260, and alone from 260 to 268. He took control of the Empire at a time when it was undergoing great crisis...

, the antoninianus was a copper coin with a thin silver wash.

Influence


Even after the denarius was no longer regularly issued, it continued to be used as an accounting device and the name was applied to later Roman coins in a way that is not understood. The Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

s who conquered large parts
Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

 of the Roman Empire issued their own Gold dinar
Gold Dinar
The gold dinar is a gold coin first issued in 77 AH by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. The name is derived from denarius, a Roman currency...

, from which the name dinar
Dinar
The dinar is the official currency of several countries.The history of the dinar dates to the gold dinar, an early Islamic coin corresponding to the Byzantine denarius auri...

of various present-day Arab currencies is derived. The lasting legacy of the denarius can be seen in the use of "d" as the abbreviation for the British penny
Penny
A penny is a coin or a type of currency used in several English-speaking countries. It is often the smallest denomination within a currency system.-Etymology:...

 prior to 1971. It survived in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 as the name of a coin, the denier
French denier
The denier was a Frankish coin created by Charlemagne in the Early Middle Ages. It was introduced together with an accounting system in which twelve deniers equaled one sou and twenty sous equalled one livre...

. The denarius also survives in the common Arabic name for a currency unit, the dinar
Dinar
The dinar is the official currency of several countries.The history of the dinar dates to the gold dinar, an early Islamic coin corresponding to the Byzantine denarius auri...

used from pre-Islamic times, and still used in several modern Arabic-speaking nations. Currency unit in former Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

 and nowadays in Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

 is dinar
Dinar
The dinar is the official currency of several countries.The history of the dinar dates to the gold dinar, an early Islamic coin corresponding to the Byzantine denarius auri...

which also has its origins in the Latin word denarius. The Macedonian
Republic of Macedonia
Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

 currency denar is also derived from the Roman denarius. The Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 word denaro, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 word dinero, the Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 word dinheiro, the Slovene word and the Catalan
Catalan language
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...

 word diner, all meaning money, are also derived from Latin "denarius."

Value



The gold aureus
Aureus
The aureus was a gold coin of ancient Rome valued at 25 silver denarii. The aureus was regularly issued from the 1st century BC to the beginning of the 4th century, when it was replaced by the solidus...

seems to have been a "currency of account," a denomination not commonly seen in daily transactions due to its high value. Numismatists think that the aureus was used to pay bonuses to the legions at the accession of new emperors. It was valued at 25 denarii.

1 gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

 aureus
Aureus
The aureus was a gold coin of ancient Rome valued at 25 silver denarii. The aureus was regularly issued from the 1st century BC to the beginning of the 4th century, when it was replaced by the solidus...

 = 2 gold quinarii
Quinarius
thumb|right|A quinariusThe quinarius was a small silver Roman coin valued at half a denarius.The quinarius was struck for a few years, along with the silver sestertius, following the introduction of the denarius in 211 BC. At this time the quinarius was valued at 5 asses...

 = 25 silver denarii = 50 silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 quinarii
Quinarius
thumb|right|A quinariusThe quinarius was a small silver Roman coin valued at half a denarius.The quinarius was struck for a few years, along with the silver sestertius, following the introduction of the denarius in 211 BC. At this time the quinarius was valued at 5 asses...

 = 100 bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 sestertii
Sestertius
The sestertius, or sesterce, was an ancient Roman coin. During the Roman Republic it was a small, silver coin issued only on rare occasions...

 = 200 bronze dupondii
Dupondius
The dupondius was a brass coin used during the Roman Empire and Roman Republic valued at 2 asses ....

 = 400 copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 as
As (coin)
The , also assarius was a bronze, and later copper, coin used during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire.- Republican era coinage :...

 = 800 copper semis
Semis
The semis was small Roman bronze coin that was valued at half an as. During the Roman Republic, the semis was distinguished by an 'S' or 6 dots...

ses = 1600 copper quadrans
Quadrans
The quadrans was a low-value Roman bronze coin worth one quarter of an as. The quadrans was issued from the beginning of cast bronze coins during the Roman Republic with three pellets representing three unciae as a mark of value...



The Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 refers to the denarius as a day's wage for a common laborer (Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 20:2 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=47&chapter=20&verse=2&version=31&context=verse; John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

 12:5 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jn%2012:5;&version=31;).The value of the denarius is referred to, though perhaps not literally, in the Bible at Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

 6:6: "And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, 'A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius [Latin Vulgate: bilibris tritici denario et tres bilibres hordei denario, δηναρίου in the original Greek]; and do not damage the oil and the wine.'"

See also


  • As (coin)
    As (coin)
    The , also assarius was a bronze, and later copper, coin used during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire.- Republican era coinage :...

  • Denarius of L. Censorinus, for the detailed description of a specific Roman denarius
  • Dinar
    Dinar
    The dinar is the official currency of several countries.The history of the dinar dates to the gold dinar, an early Islamic coin corresponding to the Byzantine denarius auri...

  • Dupondius
    Dupondius
    The dupondius was a brass coin used during the Roman Empire and Roman Republic valued at 2 asses ....

  • French denier
    French denier
    The denier was a Frankish coin created by Charlemagne in the Early Middle Ages. It was introduced together with an accounting system in which twelve deniers equaled one sou and twenty sous equalled one livre...

  • Gold Dinar
    Gold Dinar
    The gold dinar is a gold coin first issued in 77 AH by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. The name is derived from denarius, a Roman currency...

  • Greek drachma
    Greek drachma
    Drachma, pl. drachmas or drachmae was the currency used in Greece during several periods in its history:...

  • Macedonian denar
    Macedonian denar
    The denar is the currency of the Republic of Macedonia. It is subdivided into 100 deni . The name denar comes from the name of the ancient Roman monetary unit, the denarius...

  • Roman currency
    Roman currency
    The Roman currency during most of the Roman Republic and the western half of the Roman Empire consisted of coins including the aureus , the denarius , the sestertius , the dupondius , and the as...

  • Sestertius
    Sestertius
    The sestertius, or sesterce, was an ancient Roman coin. During the Roman Republic it was a small, silver coin issued only on rare occasions...

  • Solidus (coin)
    Solidus (coin)
    The solidus was originally a gold coin issued by the Romans, and a weight measure for gold more generally, corresponding to 4.5 grams.-Roman and Byzantine coinage:...

  • Tribute penny
    Tribute penny
    The tribute penny was the coin that was shown to Jesus when he made his famous speech "Render unto Caesar..." The phrase comes from the King James Version of the gospel account: Jesus is asked, "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" and he replies, "bring me a penny, that I may see it"...


External links