The Other Coin: Intro to Roman Coins

Romans developed their coinage rather late in the 3rd century BC about 300
years after the Greeks had created an economic and artistic triumph in
coinage. Even then the early coinage was large, crude, and clumsy bronzes
with only marginal economic utility. The cast bronze bars, lumps, and finally
coins gave way to silver coinage in 269BC after the end of the Pyrrhic Wars
and control of Southern Italy gave Rome control of Greek mints and bullion
from conquest. The mint at Rome was established near the Temple of
Moneta, the goddess of warning, for it was geese that warned the Romans of
a Gaulish surprise attack in 390BC that saved the city. Moneta gave her name
to "money" and "mint." The silver denarius was born with the image of
helmeted Roma on the obverse and the mounted Dioscurii or various gods in
chariots on the reverse, which would live on as the medieval silver "penny"
and today's penny designated by d. in England. The denarius became the
means to pay a Roman soldier, who got 2 a day and a legion cost about
1,500,000 denarii a year. As the Roman army grew its conquest poured
bullion into the treasury, which issued some 100,000,000 coins a year in
Rome and many more in local, regimental, temple, and civic mints. The first
Roman to put his portrait on a provincial coin was General Flaminius who
defeated the last Greek king, Philip V. Julius Caesar was the first to put his
portrait on coins minted in Rome, and it was one of the many gestures that
suggested he would be king. The assassins of Caesar and the contenders for
his throne all minted gold coins to pay for political loyalty and troops. Silver
coins not only had paid soldiers, but also bought votes in Rome. After Caesar
there was a new gold s standard for bribes. The hundreds of tons of bullion
flooding into Rome by conquest were established by Augustus in the
following denominations:  Gold Double-Aureus, Aureus = 25 Denarii, Gold
Quinarius =12-1/2 Denarii, Silver Denarius =16 Asses, Silver Quinarius = 8
Asses, Bronze Double-Sestertius = 8 Asses, Sestertius = 4 Asses, Brass
Dupondius  = 2 Asses,  As = Base Unit (Copper or Bronze), Semis = 1/2 As ,
Bronze Quadrans = 1/4 As, Uncia = 1/12 As.  Rome allowed 100's of cities to
mint bronzes of various sizes and occasionally allowed them also to mint
silver coins. Some special client states or allied monarchs minted gold coins
as well. We will explore the world of Roman coins in the next few articles.
Numismatically yours, David Elliott