Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Roman Coin

Roman Legendary coins

Roman coins were first produced in the late 4th century BCE in Italy and continued to be minted for another eight centuries across the empire. Denominations and values more or less constantly changed but certain types such as the sestertii and denarii would persist and come to rank amongst the most famous coins in history.
Roman coinage, as in other societies, represented a guaranteed and widely recognized value which permitted an easy exchange of value which in turn drove both commerce and technology development as all classes could work to own coins which could be spent on all manner of goods
and services. Even more significantly, large and identical payments could now be easily made which made possible a whole new scale of commercial activity. Coins also had a function as a vehicle to spread the imagery of the ruling class as coinage was the mass media of the day and often carried likenesses of emperors and famous imperial monuments which would be the nearest most Romans ever got to see of them.
211 BCE a whole new coinage system was introduced. Appearing for the first time was the silver denarius (pl. denarii), a coin that would be the principal silver coin of Rome until the 3rd century CE. The coin was initially funded by a tax on property but then via war booty as the wars against Carthage swung in Rome's favour. The denarius was equal to 10 bronze asses (sing. as), each of which weighed 54 g. or 2 oz. There were other coins such as the silver victoriatus which was in weight equal to three quarters of a denarius, the quinarii, worth half of a denarius, and other bronze and gold coins but these were not always widely or consistently used. From c. 200 BCE only Rome now produced coins in Italy and the movement of troops ensured the wider circulation of Roman coinage.
the Severan emperors coin production began to proliferate throughout the empire. Hundreds of individual cities across the empire also minted their own coins and the forms of smaller denominations, in particular, were left to local authorities but in general all of these provincial varieties were convertible to Roman coin values. It was also probable that these various coins remained within their own geographical area as empire wide circulation was not guaranteed and although Rome-minted coinage was shipped to provinces it is more than likely that it remained there.
 The problem was the production of forged money, largely helped by the poor quality of the official coinage. There was a specific body of professionals (nummularii) who had the task of testing suspect coinage but they were overwhelmed by the flood of fake coins. The situation became even graver following the barbarian invasions of the 3rd century CE and the resulting financial pressure on the empire led to the collapse of the silver currency so that only the gold coinage and goods in kind kept the economy afloat.
Imperial period coins typically have on the obverse side a portrait of the emperor - now in sole charge of the state treasury - usually in profile wearing either a radiant crown or crown of laurel leaves, or, more rarely, a member of the imperial family. Portraits could vary from an idealized to very realistic representation depending on particular emperors, the stage of their reign and changing artistic trends. After Constantine imperial portraits became increasingly standardized and a more uniform representation of the emperor regardless of individual physical characteristics became the norm. A notable exception to using the emperor was the SC (Senatus Consulto) stamped on Augustan coppers, perhaps signifying senatorial backing. Legends now ran clockwise around the coin, always starting from the bottom left.