Roman Republican coinage
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....

came late to 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...

compared with the rest of the Mediterranean, especially Greece and Asia Minor
Ancient Greek coinage
The history of Ancient Greek coinage can be divided into three periods, the Archaic, the Classical, and the Hellenistic. The Archaic period extends from the introduction of coinage to the Greek world in about 600 BCE until the Persian Wars in about 480 BCE...

 where coins were invented in the 7th century BC. The currency
In economics, currency refers to a generally accepted medium of exchange. These are usually the coins and banknotes of a particular government, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply...

 of central Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 was influenced by its natural resources, with 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...

 being abundant (the Etruscans were famous metal workers in bronze and iron) and 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...

 ore being scarce. The coinage of the Roman Republic started with a few silver coins apparently devised for trade with the Greek colonies in Southern Italy, and heavy cast bronze pieces for use in Central Italy.

During the Second Punic war
Punic Wars
The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 B.C.E. to 146 B.C.E. At the time, they were probably the largest wars that had ever taken place...

 a flexible system of coins in bronze, silver and (occasionally) gold was created. This system was dominated by the silver denarius
In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased until its replacement by the antoninianus...

, a denomination which remained in circulation for 450 years. The coins of the republic (especially the denarii) are of particular interest because they were produced by "mint magistrates", junior officials who choose the designs and legends. This resulted in the production of coins advertising the officials' families for political purposes; most of the messages on these coins can still be understood today.

Before coinage

Before the introduction of coinage in Italy the two important forms of value in the economy were sheep (pecus), from which the 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...

 word for money (pecunia) is derived, and irregularly-shaped pieces of bronze known as aes rude
Aes rude
Aes rude was an ingot of bronze used as a sort of proto-currency in ancient Italy during the gradual transition from bartering to the use of round coinage made from precious metals....

(rough bronze) which needed to be weighed for each transaction. It is unclear when money became commonly used, but Roman tradition recorded that pay of the army began during the siege of Veii in 406 BC and it appears that Aes rude was the currency well before this. Toward the end of the 4th century BC bronze began to be cast in flat bars which are known today, without any historical authority, as aes signatum
Aes signatum
Aes signatum consisted of cast lumps of bronze of measured quality and weight, embossed with a government stamp, used as currency in Rome and central Italy before the introduction of the aes grave in the mid 4th century BC. When exactly they were first made is uncertain...

(signed bronze). These bars were heavily leaded, of varying weights although generally on the order of five Roman pounds, and usually had a design on one and later both sides. The actual function of aes signatum has been variously interpreted; although a form of currency they were not coins since they did not adhere to a weight standard. Rome produced its own aes signatum around 300 BC which are distinguished by the inscription "ROMANOM" (of the Romans) and production continued to about the end of the first Punic war in 240 BC, overlapping some of the developments described below.

Cast bronze coinage

According to Pomponius, a lawyer who lived during the 2nd century AD, the position of tresviri monetalis was established in 289 BC
289 BC
Year 289 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Corvus and Noctua...

, but this date seems to be far too early, and if they did not come into existence during the Second Punic War, the formation of a formal college may not have occurred until some time after 200 BC The three members of this committee were officially known as the "tres viri aere argento auro flando feriundo" ("the three men responsible for casting and striking bronze, silver and gold", a lengthy title that was almost always abbreviated to III. V. A.A.A.F.F". Julius Caesar briefly raised their number to four.

According to Suidas, the mint
Mint (coin)
A mint is an industrial facility which manufactures coins for currency.The history of mints correlates closely with the history of coins. One difference is that the history of the mint is usually closely tied to the political situation of an era...

 was located in (or at least near) the temple of Juno Moneta on the Capitoline Hill
Capitoline Hill
The Capitoline Hill , between the Forum and the Campus Martius, is one of the seven hills of Rome. It was the citadel of the earliest Romans. By the 16th century, Capitolinus had become Capitolino in Italian, with the alternative Campidoglio stemming from Capitolium. The English word capitol...

. By this time Rome was familiar with coinage, as it had been introduced to Italy in the Greek colonies of Metapontum, Croton, and Sybaris before 500 BC and Neapolis ca 450 BC. Rome had conquered a large portion of central Italy, giving it large quantities of bronze, but little silver.

A system of heavy cast leaded bronze coinage was introduced; these issues are known as aes grave
Aes grave
Aes grave is a term in numismatics indicating bronze cast coins used in central Italy during the 4th and 5th centuries BC, whose value was generally indicated by signs: I for the as, S for semis and pellets for unciae...

(heavy bronze) by numismatists. Stylistically the coins were distinctly Roman and, due to both their size and their being cast rather than struck, crude compared to the coinage elsewhere around the Mediterranean at the time. The standard coin was 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 word as referred to a coin and also to a unit of weight – in fact, as could also mean any unit – of length, area, and sometimes just the number one.

The bronze coinage was initially a fiduciary currency rather than a token currency, based on the "libral standard" where the as weighed one Roman pound (libra
Ancient Roman units of measurement
The ancient Roman units of measurement were built on the Hellenic system with Egyptian, Hebrew, and Mesopotamian influences. The Roman units were comparatively consistent and well documented.-Length:Notes...

) with fractions in units of Roman ounces (unciae
Ancient Roman units of measurement
The ancient Roman units of measurement were built on the Hellenic system with Egyptian, Hebrew, and Mesopotamian influences. The Roman units were comparatively consistent and well documented.-Length:Notes...

), with 12 unciae in a libra. The "uncia" was thus also both a weight and a coin of the weight. This changed when the weight of the aes grave was decreased to approximately 10 unciae ca 270 BC (the "light libral standard", remaining at that level until 225 BC, then suddenly to 5 unciae (the "semi-libral standard") ca. the start of the second Punic war in 218 BC, finally falling to 1.5–1 unciae around 211 BC.

In addition to the as and its fractions, multiples of the as were also produced. Fractions were much more common than asses and their multiples during the period of aes grave. By the time of the semi-libral
The libral standard compares the weight of coins to the bronze as, which originally weighed one Roman pound, but decreased over time to 1/2 pound , and further. It is often used in discussions of ancient coinage in Italy, especially Etruscan coins and Roman Republican coinage...

 standard, the smaller denominations such as the uncia and semuncia were struck rather than cast. A variety of less common denominations were minted over time; those found in Crawford (1974) are listed here.
Bronze Denominations in Crawford (1974)
Coin Mark Earliest Example Date Value (Asses) Value (Unciae)
Decussis X Cr41/1 215–212 BC 10  120
Quincussis V Cr41/2 215–212 BC 60
Tressis III Cr41/3 215–212 BC 3 36
The dupondius was a brass coin used during the Roman Empire and Roman Republic valued at 2 asses ....

II Cr41/4 215–212 BC 2 24
As (coin)
The , also assarius was a bronze, and later copper, coin used during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire.- Republican era coinage :...

I C14/1 280–276 BC 1 12
Dextans S**** Cr97/23 211–208 BC 5/6 10
The dodrans was an Ancient Roman bronze coin produced during the Roman Republic.The dodrans, valued at three-fourth of an as , was produced only twice:...

S*** Cr266/2 126 BC 3/4 9
Bes (coin)
The bes was an Ancient Roman bronze coin produced during the Roman Republic. The bes, valued at two-thirds of an as , 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....

S** Cr266/3 126 BC 2/3 8
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...

S Cr14/2 280–276 BC 1/2 6
A quincunx is a geometric pattern consisting of five points arranged in a cross, that is five coplanar points, four of them forming a square or rectangle and a fifth at its center...

***** Cr97/11 211–208 BC 5/12 5
The triens was an Ancient Roman bronze coin produced during the Roman Republic valued at one-third of an as . The most common design for the triens was the bust of Minerva and four pellets on the obverse and the prow of a galley on the reverse. It was not a common denomination and was last struck...

**** Cr14/3 280–276 BC 1/3 4
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...

*** Cr14/4 280–276 BC 1/4 3
Sextans (coin)
The sextans was an Ancient Roman bronze coin produced during the Roman Republic valued at one-sixth of an as . The most common design for the sextans was the bust of Mercury and two pellets on the obverse and the prow of a galley on the reverse...

** Cr14/5 280–276 BC 1/6 2
Uncia (coin)
The uncia was a Roman unit of length and of weight .-Republican coin:...

* Cr14/6 280–276 BC 1/12 1
A Dock landing ship or Landing ship is a form of amphibious warship designed to support amphibious operations. These amphibious assault ships transport and launch amphibious craft and vehicles with their crews and embarked personnel...

Σ Cr14/7 280–276 BC 1/24 1/2
Quartuncia   Cr38/8 217–215 BC 1/48 1/4

Introduction of Greek-style silver coinage

Greek-style struck bronze coins were produced in small quantity with the inscription ΡΩΜΑΙΩΝ around 300 BC Only a handful of examples exist today. They are believed to have been produced on behalf of Rome by Neapolis
History of Naples
The history of Naples is long and varied, beginning in the 9th-century BCE Greeks colonized many parts of south Italy. Naples was one of the latter cities founded in the Magna Graecia, founded as "Parthenope" in the sixth century B.C. It was a second-generation colony, in that it was settled by the...

, based on the similar style and weight with Neapolis' own coinage, and used to facilitate trade in the wake of the construction of the Appian Way
Appian Way
The Appian Way was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic. It connected Rome to Brindisi, Apulia, in southeast Italy...

, started in 312 BC.
Rome entered into a war against Tarentum
History of Taranto
The history of Taranto dates back to the 8th century BC when it was founded as a Greek colony, known as Taras.-Foundation and splendour:Taranto was founded in 706 BC by Dorian immigrants as the only Spartan colony, and its origin is peculiar: the founders were Partheniae, sons of unmarried Spartan...

 in 281 BC; the Tarentines enlisted the support of Pyrrhus of Epirus
Pyrrhus of Epirus
Pyrrhus or Pyrrhos was a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic era. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians, of the royal Aeacid house , and later he became king of Epirus and Macedon . He was one of the strongest opponents of early Rome...

. It was in this context that Rome produced its first Greek-style silver didrachm (Crawford 13/1) with the head of Mars wearing a Corinthian helmet
Corinthian helmet
The Corinthian helmet originated in ancient Greece and took its name from the city-state of Corinth. It was a helmet made of bronze which in its later styles covered the entire head and neck, with slits for the eyes and mouth. A large curved projection protected the nape of the neck...

 on one side and the head of a horse with the inscription ROMANO (worn off on the example shown) and a grain ear behind. This coinage may have predated the aes grave discussed above, but was minted and used largely in Magna Graecia
Magna Graecia
Magna Græcia is the name of the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively colonized by Greek settlers; particularly the Achaean colonies of Tarentum, Crotone, and Sybaris, but also, more loosely, the cities of Cumae and Neapolis to the north...

 and Campania
Campania is a region in southern Italy. The region has a population of around 5.8 million people, making it the second-most-populous region of Italy; its total area of 13,590 km² makes it the most densely populated region in the country...

. It was clearly part of a broader trend; payment of Roman and allied troops fighting in the Pyrrhic war appears to have been crucial in spreading the use of Greek-style coinage throughout the southern Apennine areas of Italy. This issue is today thought to have been minted in Neapolis because it was minted on that weight standard (7.3 g), not that of Metapontum
Metapontum, Metapontium or Metapontion , was an important city of Magna Graecia, situated on the gulf of Tarentum, between the river Bradanus and the Casuentus . It was distant about 20 km from Heraclea and 40 from Tarentum...

, Tarentum, and other South Italian cities (which was 7.9 g at the start of the war but fell to 6.6 g during its course). This issue was thought earlier to have been minted in Metapontum because the grain-ear is the most common type on Metapontine coins and the Mars head is very similar to the head of Leucippus (a local hero, the Messenian king who re-founded Metapontum, not the philosopher
Leucippus or Leukippos was one of the earliest Greeks to develop the theory of atomism — the idea that everything is composed entirely of various imperishable, indivisible elements called atoms — which was elaborated in greater detail by his pupil and successor, Democritus...

) on an earlier coin produced there.
A number of different coins were minted in increasing volumes over the next few years, but the first silver coin now thought to have been minted in Rome itself is the Hercules/She-wolf didrachm (Crawford 20/1). The date of this issue is likely 269 BC, as the devices on this coin refer to that year's consuls Q. Ogulnius L.f A.n. Gallus and C. Fabius C.f. M.n. Pictor. Hercules, shown on the obverse with the lion skin tied around is neck and his club (shown undersized above his shoulder), was the divine patron of the Fabii. Quintus and his brother Cnaeus Ogulnius had, as curule aediles
Aedile was an office of the Roman Republic. Based in Rome, the aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings and regulation of public festivals. They also had powers to enforce public order. There were two pairs of aediles. Two aediles were from the ranks of plebeians and the other...

, prosecuted moneylenders; part of the proceeds were used to set up near the Ficus Ruminalis
Ficus Ruminalis
The Ficus Ruminalis was a wild fig tree on the Palatine Hill in ancient Rome near the Lupercal on the Palatine. This tree was said to be sacred to the goddess Rumina...

 a statue of Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus are Rome's twin founders in its traditional foundation myth, although the former is sometimes said to be the sole founder...

 being suckled by the she-wolf as shown on the reverse. Some historians believe that these coins were valued at 10 asses making them denarii, this assertion is based on the account of Pliny in the 1st century AD, where he states that the denarius was introduced in 269 BC. Most historians today, however, do not see this as a denarius, but another didrachm.

This last and most other Roman coins were produced in small numbers until the introduction of the didrachm we refer to as the 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 quadrigatus, produced in large quantity starting around 235 BC, was named after the reverse image of Victory driving a quadriga
A quadriga is a car or chariot drawn by four horses abreast . It was raced in the Ancient Olympic Games and other contests. It is represented in profile as the chariot of gods and heroes on Greek vases and in bas-relief. The quadriga was adopted in ancient Roman chariot racing...

 and was produced for about 2 decades, becoming more and more debased (to as little as 30% silver) during the second Punic war.

As introduced

The denarius
In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 211 BC. It was the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased until its replacement by the antoninianus...

, which became the main silver coin of Rome for over four centuries, was introduced in 211 BC
211 BC
Year 211 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Maximus and Maximus...

 and produced in enormous quantity from the silver captured in the sack of Syracuse the year before. The denarius (Crawford 44/5), valued at 10 asses as indicated by the mark X and weighing about 4.5 grams (72 to a Roman pound), was introduced as part of a complex multi-metallic coinage. Also in silver was the half denarius, the 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...

 (Crawford 44/6, marked V), and the quarter denarius, the 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...

 (Crawford 44/7, marked IIS and shown on the left), all bearing a head of Roma on the obverse and a reverse of the dioscuri riding with their capes behind (a reference to their supposed assistance to Rome at the battle of Lake Regillus).

Bronze asses and their fractions (all now struck rather than cast) continued to be produced to a standard of about 55 grams; this was very quickly reduced to a sextantal standard and finally an uncial standard of roughly 32 gms. By this time, asses outnumbered their fractions, perhaps because legionary pay was increased to the point where the as could become the principal component.

In gold, there were three pieces worth 60 asses (Crawford 44/2, marked ↓X), 40 asses (Crawford 44/3, marked XXXX) and 20 asses (Crawford 44/4, marked XX). All featured Mars' head on the obverse and an eagle with outspread wings standing on a thunderbolt on the reverse. The eagle is somewhat reminiscent of the eagle that had consistently been a symbol on Ptolemaic coinage since the very beginning of the century, and it has been suggested that Ptolemy IV Philopator
Ptolemy IV Philopator
Ptolemy IV Philopator , son of Ptolemy III and Berenice II of Egypt was the fourth Pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt...

 may have provided gold for this issue to act as a counterweight to the involvement of Philip V of Macedon
Philip V of Macedon
Philip V was King of Macedon from 221 BC to 179 BC. Philip's reign was principally marked by an unsuccessful struggle with the emerging power of Rome. Philip was attractive and charismatic as a young man...

 on the side of Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...


The 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....

, another silver coin (Crawford 44/1), was also introduced in large quantity at the same time. It seems to have been quite separate from the denarius system proper as X-ray fluorescence spectrometry has shown that these were produced to entirely different standards. While an analysis of 52 early denarii, quinarii, and sestertii showed a silver concentration of 96.2 ± 1.09%, 19 victoriati from the same period have highly variable fineness ranging from 72 to 93%. Early finds of victoriati are primarily in Southern Italy and Sicily and it is thought that the victoriati with a weight of 3/4 of a denarius were used to pay non-citizens with experience of the Greek coinage system in the drachm format to which they were accustomed but with debased/overvalued coins. The quadrigatus didrachm, which had been retariffed to 15 asses (1.5 denarii), was removed from circulation almost immediately.

Evolution: weights and fineness

Over the next 40 years, the denarius slowly lost weight. The reason for this is unclear, but in the early days it may have been the ongoing pressure of the Second Punic War. Afterwards the Roman state had a debt equivalent to 25 years direct taxation on Roman citizens (~1 million denarii); these were not fully repaid until Cn Manlius Vulso returned with the spoils of Asia after the Treaty of Apamea
Treaty of Apamea
The Treaty of Apamea of 188 BC, was peace treaty between the Roman Republic and Antiochus III , ruler of the Seleucid Empire. It took place after the Romans' victories in the battle of Thermopylae , in the Battle of Magnesia , and after Roman and Rhodian naval victories over the Seleucid navy.In...

, (188 BC). The weight was officially changed from 72 to the pound (6 scruples) to 84 to the pound at that time; it remained relatively stable thereafter.
Date Weight
211 4.5 g
206 4.2 g
190–199 3.9 g
170–179 3.7 g

The silver content during republican times remained well above 90%, usually above 95% with the exception of Marcus Antonius's later coinage, especially the massive "legionary" issue of coinage of 32–31 BC just prior to the Battle of Actium
Battle of Actium
The Battle of Actium was the decisive confrontation of the Final War of the Roman Republic. It was fought between the forces of Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII. The battle took place on 2 September 31 BC, on the Ionian Sea near the city of Actium, at the Roman...

 (an example is shown on the right), rumored to be silver from Egypt provided by Cleopatra.

Evolution: silver vs bronze

By about 140 BC (the exact date is unclear) the denarius was retariffed to 16 asses, indicated by XVI on the obverse of the denarius. This appears first on the coinage marked L.IVLI (Crawford 224/1), commonly dated to 141 BC The clear marking with the number XVI was soon again replaced with an X, but often now with a horizontal bar through the centre as shown in the second example on the left (Crawford 243/1); this is often read as a monogram of XVI with all the letters superimposed. The re-tariffing is thought to have been a recognition of a relationship that had developed because of decreased as weights, both due to wear of old asses and to decreasing mint weights of newer ones. This meant that the quinarius was worth eight asses, and the sestertius four asses. The new denarius-to-as ratio lasted for hundreds of years. At about the same time the unit of account
Unit of account
A unit of account is a standard monetary unit of measurement of value/cost of goods, services, or assets. It is one of three well-known functions of money. It lends meaning to profits, losses, liability, or assets....

 changed from asses to sestertii (HS). This may well be an indicator of inflation.

The victoriatus continued to circulate well into the 2nd century BC Victoriati were later popular in places such as Cisalpine Gaul where they circulated alongside drachmae of Massalia (Marseille
Marseille , known in antiquity as Massalia , is the second largest city in France, after Paris, with a population of 852,395 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Marseille extends beyond the city limits with a population of over 1,420,000 on an area of...


Evolution: gold

The gold 60, 40, and 20 as coins were only minted for only a few years; gold in general appears to have been used only as an emergency coinage. Gold coins reappeared in 82 BC when Sulla was gathering funds for the war against Mithridates VI of Pontus
Mithridates VI of Pontus
Mithridates VI or Mithradates VI Mithradates , from Old Persian Mithradatha, "gift of Mithra"; 134 BC – 63 BC, also known as Mithradates the Great and Eupator Dionysius, was king of Pontus and Armenia Minor in northern Anatolia from about 120 BC to 63 BC...

 immediately after the financial strains of the Social war
Social War
The Allied War was a war waged from 91 to 88 BC between the Roman Republic and several of the other cities in Italy, which prior to the war had been Roman allies for centuries.-Origins:The Early Italian campaigns saw the Roman conquest of Italy...

. Those coins are commonly considered the first 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...

. Aureii were minted in large numbers by Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 in preparation for a proposed war against the Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

 and usage of the aureus continued to increase after the fall of the republic.

Coinage and political messages

Eventually a new reverse appeared, first Luna driving a biga
Biga (chariot)
The biga is the two-horse chariot as used in ancient Rome for sport, transportation, and ceremonies. Other animals may replace horses in art and occasionally for actual ceremonies. The term biga is also used by modern scholars for the similar chariots of other Indo-European cultures, particularly...

(two horse chariot) in 194–190 BC, and then Victory
Victoria (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion, Victoria was the personified goddess of victory. She is the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Nike, and was associated with Bellona. She was adapted from the Sabine agricultural goddess Vacuna and had a temple on the Palatine Hill...

 driving a biga in 157 BC – thought to refer to the final defeat of Perseus
Perseus of Macedon
Perseus was the last king of the Antigonid dynasty, who ruled the successor state in Macedon created upon the death of Alexander the Great...

 of Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

 at the battle of Pydna
Battle of Pydna
The Battle of Pydna in 168 BC between Rome and the Macedonian Antigonid dynasty saw the further ascendancy of Rome in the Hellenic/Hellenistic world and the end of the Antigonid line of kings, whose power traced back to Alexander the Great.Paul K...

 by Lucius Aemilius Paulus
Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus
Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus was a two-time consul of the Roman Republic and a noted general who conquered Macedon putting an end to the Antigonid dynasty.-Family:...

 in 168 BC. These Victory "bigati" became the most common type of denarius. Denarii were marked with special symbols (such as a star or an anchor) from very shortly after their introduction and soon monograms indicating the tresviri monetales (mint masters, often called moneyers, that were responsible for the issue) were on the coins. In some cases the symbols are "punning". The example reverse shown to the left (Crawford 187/1 showing Luna driving a biga) is one such; a shell symbol appears above the horses along with the letters "PVR" below. The shell is thought to be a murex
Murex is a genus of medium to large sized predatory tropical sea snails. These are carnivorous marine gastropod molluscs in the family Muricidae, commonly calle "murexes" or "rock snails"...

 shell; this was the source of Tyrian purple
Tyrian purple
Tyrian purple , also known as royal purple, imperial purple or imperial dye, is a purple-red natural dye, which is extracted from sea snails, and which was possibly first produced by the ancient Phoenicians...

 (in Latin: purpureo) and this, along with the letters, is thought to refer to a Furius Purpureo. This type of reference to the moneyers became more and more explicit, and eventually developed into self-advertising to further the political career of the moneyers.

Families who had already had members in the Senate were more likely to have further family members elected to political office (and thus become senators). This was so much more likely that only a few consular novi homines (new men) are known to history. Advertising on coins was thus often about the moneyer's family. In the coin reverse shown on the right (Crawford 268/1b), the legend around the outside indicates that moneyer was N. Fabius Pictor. The seated individual is wearing a cuirass
A cuirass is a piece of armour, formed of a single or multiple pieces of metal or other rigid material, which covers the front of the torso...

, holding a spear in his left hand and an apex
Apex (hat)
The apex was a cap worn by the flamines and Salii at Rome. The essential part of the apex, to which alone the name properly belonged, was a pointed piece of olive-wood, the base of which was surrounded with a lock of wool...

, the characteristic hat worn by the flamines
In ancient Roman religion, a flamen was a priest assigned to one of fifteen deities with official cults during the Roman Republic. The most important three were the flamines maiores , who served the three chief Roman gods of the Archaic Triad. The remaining twelve were the flamines minores...

, in his right. At his side there is a shield inscribed QUIRIN. This is taken to refer to Q. Fabius Pictor (probably the son of Quintus Fabius Pictor
Quintus Fabius Pictor
Quintus Fabius Pictor was one of the earliest Roman historians and considered the first of the annalists. A member of the Fabii gens, he was the grandson of Gaius Fabius Pictor, a painter . He was a senator who fought against the Gauls in 225 BC, and against Carthage in the Second Punic War...

 the annalist) who was elected praetor
Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army, usually in the field, or the named commander before mustering the army; and an elected magistratus assigned varied duties...

 in 189 BC and assigned the province of Sardinia by lot (Livy 37.50.8). He was also the flamen Quirinalis
Flamen Quirinalis
In ancient Roman religion, the Flamen Quirinalis was the flamen devoted to the cult of god Quirinus. He was one of the three flamines majores, third in order of importance after the Flamen Dialis and the Flamen Martialis....

 and because of this, P. Licinius Crassus, the pontifex maximus
Pontifex Maximus
The Pontifex Maximus was the high priest of the College of Pontiffs in ancient Rome. This was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians until 254 BC, when a plebeian first occupied this post...

 of the day did not allow him to take the Sardinian office because of various taboos surrounding the flamen's person, and the need for the flamen to perform certain rites in Rome (Livy 37.51.3–7). The Sardinian praetorship was exchanged for both the urban and peregrine praetorships, and N. Fabius Pictor remained in Rome. The entire incident was part of the political manoeuvring of Scipio Africanus
Scipio Africanus
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus , also known as Scipio Africanus and Scipio the Elder, was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic...

 against his attackers, which included the Fabii.
Over time, the politics of the day became more and more visible in the coinage. In 54 BC, the first triumvirate
First Triumvirate
The First Triumvirate was the political alliance of Gaius Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Unlike the Second Triumvirate, the First Triumvirate had no official status whatsoever; its overwhelming power in the Roman Republic was strictly unofficial influence, and...

 had control of Rome, and Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

 was its preeminent member. There were rumours that Pompey was to be made dictator
A dictator is a ruler who assumes sole and absolute power but without hereditary ascension such as an absolute monarch. When other states call the head of state of a particular state a dictator, that state is called a dictatorship...

. In this context, the coin on the left (Crawford 433/2) was a powerful political message. The moneyer, Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus , often referred to as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name...

, placed on the coin two figures from Roman history that he claimed as ancestors:
    • Lucius Junius Brutus
      Lucius Junius Brutus
      Lucius Junius Brutus was the founder of the Roman Republic and traditionally one of the first consuls in 509 BC. He was claimed as an ancestor of the Roman gens Junia, including Marcus Junius Brutus, the most famous of Caesar's assassins.- Background :...

       of the Junius Gens
      Junius (gens)
      The gens Junia was one of the most celebrated families in Rome. The gens may originally have been patrician. The family was already prominent in the last days of the Roman monarchy...

      , who was made the first consul of the republic of Rome in 509 BC after he expelled Lucius Tarquinius Superbus
      Lucius Tarquinius Superbus
      Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was the legendary seventh and final King of Rome, reigning from 535 BC until the popular uprising in 509 BC that led to the establishment of the Roman Republic. He is more commonly known by his cognomen Tarquinius Superbus and was a member of the so-called Etruscan...

      , the last of the Roman kings, and
    • Gaius Servilius Ahala
      Gaius Servilius Ahala
      Gaius Servilius Structus Ahala was a 5th century BC politician of ancient Rome, considered by many later writers to have been a hero. His fame rested on the contention that he saved Rome from Spurius Maelius in 439 BC by killing him with a dagger concealed under an armpit...

      , who killed Spurius Maelius
      Spurius Maelius
      Spurius Maelius , a wealthy Roman plebeian, who during a severe famine bought up a large amount of wheat and sold it at a low price to the people.-Biography:...

       – a knight who endeared himself to the populace of Rome by providing free grain during a famine – reputedly in a bid for seeking kingship – in 439 BC. Marcus Brutus was also known as Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, as he had been adopted into the gens Servilia
      Servilia (gens)
      The gens Servilia was a patrician family at Rome. The gens was celebrated during the early ages of the Republic, and the names of few gentes appear more frequently at this period in the consular Fasti. It continued to produce men of influence in the state down to the latest times of the Republic,...

      , from which he was descended on his mother's side.

In the face of famine in 57 BC Pompey had been made a special commissioner to control the supply of grain; this included the control of all ports and trading centres for five years. There was earlier bad blood between them; Pompey had put down an earlier insurrection by Marcus Aurelius Lepidus in which Brutus's father had been involved; Pompey had had him executed. It was the opposition of Cato the Younger
Cato the Younger
Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis , commonly known as Cato the Younger to distinguish him from his great-grandfather , was a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a follower of the Stoic philosophy...

, Brutus's half brother on his adopted family's side, to Pompey's requests for land for his veterans of the war against Mithradates that gave Pompey the incentive to be part of the triumvirate. M. Brutus was clearly making a pointed, uncompromising statement of opposition to Pompey and the triumvirate while praising his ancestors.
In 44 BC, Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 was preparing for war with Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

 to avenge the defeat inflicted by the Parthians on Crassus at the Battle of Carrhae
Battle of Carrhae
The Battle of Carrhae, fought in 53 BC near the town of Carrhae, was a major battle between the Parthian Empire and the Roman Republic. The Parthian Spahbod Surena decisively defeated a Roman invasion force led by Marcus Licinius Crassus...

. To this end, an enormous variety of denarii and aureii were being minted in large numbers. The coin on the right is from January–February 44 BC. The Venus holding Victory and a sceptre on the reverse was a reference to the claim of the gens Julia
The gens Julia was one of the most ancient patrician families at Ancient Rome. Members of the gens attained the highest dignities of the state in the earliest times of the Republic. The first of the family to obtain the consulship was Gaius Julius Iulus in 489 BC...

 to descend from Aeneas
Aeneas , in Greco-Roman mythology, was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was the second cousin of King Priam of Troy, making Aeneas Priam's second cousin, once removed. The journey of Aeneas from Troy , which led to the founding a hamlet south of...

 and thus Anchises
In Greek mythology, Anchises was the son of Capys and Themiste . His major claim to fame in Greek mythology is that he was a mortal lover of the goddess Aphrodite . One version is that Aphrodite pretended to be a Phrygian princess and seduced him for nearly two weeks of lovemaking...

 and the goddess Venus
Venus (mythology)
Venus is a Roman goddess principally associated with love, beauty, sex,sexual seduction and fertility, who played a key role in many Roman religious festivals and myths...

. This was innocuous to Romans, but the obverse showing Caesar himself wearing the gold laurel wreath that the Senate had voted for him was an enormous departure from tradition and deeply offensive. While the coinage had been used to show ancestors, this is the first time that the head of a living Roman had been displayed on Roman coinage. It was widely perceived as part of a larger series of moves by Caesar to make himself king – and kings were anathema in Rome ever since the foundation of the republic. Other coins minted at the same time bore the text "DICT QVART", indicating that Caesar had been dictator for four years running. A later version (Crawford 480/10, February–March 1944) showed "DICT PERPET"; Caesar had been made dictator for life. He was assassinated, by Brutus among others, on the Ides of March
Ides of March
The Ides of March is the name of the 15th day of March in the Roman calendar, probably referring to the day of the full moon. The word Ides comes from the Latin word "Idus" and means "half division" especially in relation to a month. It is a word that was used widely in the Roman calendar...

, 44 BC
The assassination could not revive the republic. Two years later, just prior to the Battle of Philippi, Brutus produced a coin (Crawford 508/3, modern forgery shown to the left) celebrating the freeing of the republic from Caesar's tyranny. The reverse showed two daggers flanking a pileus (a cap used in the ceremony freeing slaves) and the legend "EID MAR". On the obverse, Brutus, the "noblest Roman", had placed his own head. The republic survived, by convention more than reality, until Octavian, Caesar's nephew and heir was declared 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...

 in 27 BC.

Sources of evidence

The dates on all the coins mentioned above can not be known with absolute certainty. Sometimes particular coins can be linked to a well defined event in history, e.g. the "dict perpet" denarii of Caesar can be dated very closely to his assassination, but this is rarely the case. Much dating of the coinage is based on evidence from coin hoards. The hoarding of coins, especially by burial, was a "banking system" often used in ancient times, particularly in times of crisis; hoarding during the civil war between Caesar and Pompey was so extensive that it resulted in a liquidity crisis
Liquidity crisis
In financial economics, liquidity is a catch-all term that may refer to several different yet closely related concepts. Among other things, it may refer to Asset Market liquidity In financial economics, liquidity is a catch-all term that may refer to several different yet closely related...

. Hoards can present evidence in several ways
  • The location of the hoard can speak to where the coins in question circulated.
  • The archaeological context of a coin hoard can set an approximate date for the production of the coinage. As an example, excavations of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus uncovered coins beneath the temple; the date the temple was built is known and so a terminus ante quem for the period of their production can be deduced.
  • The differential wear of coins in a hoard can be used to establish a relative chronology. Coins that had circulated longer prior to burial should show more wear.
  • The composition of the hoard in terms of coin types can speak to what sorts of coins circulated in the same place at the same time and their relative abundance. From this, relative chronologies can sometimes be extracted.
  • Comparison of multiple coin hoards can help to establish relative chronologies; if a series of coins is well represented in one large coin hoard and some are missing from a second large hoard, it is likely that they were minted after that hoard was buried.

Despite all of this, the evidence remains unclear. In this case, numismatic scholars attempt to make their best estimate of the absolute and relative chronology. In English, the current standard work is Crawford 1974 which built on and superseded the work of Sydenham 1952, Grueber 1910, Babelon 1886, and Mommsen 1850. The chronology used by this article and the identification of coins by the label Crawford xx/yy (or Crxx/yy) identifies a particular item in that catalogue. There is however newer evidence, particularly in the period 170–149 BC, where analysis of the recently discovered Mesagne hoard has led to the alternate chronologies of Hersh & Walker 1984, and Harlan 1995. An alternate naming of the coinage of the form "gens ##" (e.g. "Fabia 11" for the 11th coin minted by a moneyer of the gens Fabia; i.e. Cr268/1) is also sometimes still used. This was devised by Babelon and used by Grueber, Sydenham, and many newer books.

See also

  • List of historical currencies
  • 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...

  • 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...

  • Roman provincial coins
    Roman provincial coins
    Roman Provincial coins are coins that were minted in the Roman Empire by civic authorities rather than by Imperial authorities. Often these coins were a continuation of the original currency system that existed prior to the arrival or conquest by the Romans....

  • Roman Republican moneyers

Further reading

  • Collectors price guides:
    • Fernández Molina, José & Fernández Carrera, Manuel & Calico Estivill, Xavier (2002). A Guide to the Denarii of the Roman Republic to Augustus, ISBN 84-607-5776-5
    • Sear, David R. (2000). Roman Coins and their Values; The Millennium edition. Volume I, The Republic and the Twelve Caesars. Spink ISBN 1-902040-35-X

  • Politics, economics, and coinage:
    • Crawford, Michael H. (1985). Coinage and Money under the Roman Republic, Methuen & Co. ISBN 0-416-12300-7
    • Harlan, Michael (1996). Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins 63 BC-49 BC, Seaby. ISBN 0713476729
    • Sear, David R. (1998). The History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators 49–27 B.C., Spink & Son. ISBN 0-907605-98-2

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.