The Ancient Library

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On this page: Coinage (continued)



undue; quadrans, with the head of Her­cules, J as = 3 illicit ; sextans, with the head of Mercury, ±as = 2 uncice ; uncia, with the head of Roma, ^ as. As in the course of time the copper money became lighter, the smaller fractional coins were first struck, and afterwards all the fractions. This copper currency was calculated exclusively for the home trade, so that it was easily allowed to suffer a continuous depreciation, at first to 4, then to 2, after 217 b.c. to 1 ounce, after b.c. 89 to J an ounce, and under the Empire even to j an ounce. In 269 B.C. a silver currency was introduced, and a mint for it set up 011 the Capitoline Hill in the temple of Juno Moneta. The silver fractional coins struck according to the Athenian and Sicilian standard were the d&narius, somewhat higher in value than the

Castor and Pollux.



Attic drachma (about 9jd., figs. 8 and 9) = 10 asses of 4 ounces; the qulndrius = 5 asses ; and the sestertius = 2j asses. These coins were denoted by the marks X. V. and II. S. (or 2J) respectively (fig. 10). They all

Roma. Castor and Pollux. (10) SESTEKTIU8.

bore, on the upper side, the head of the god­dess Roma with her winged helmet, and on the reverse the two Dioscuri on horseback. In later times Diana Victoria in her two-horse chariot, and Jupiter in his four-horse chariot, successively took the place of the Dioscuri. From the middle of the 1st century there was no fixed device for the reverse side. The sestertius was the equiva­lent of the old heavy as, which although

long disused, survived as the standard of reckoning. Payments were generally made in denarii, but the account made up in sestertii, whence the word nummus (coin) was applied par excellence to the sestertius. The reduction of the copper as to 1 uncia in 217 B.C. degraded the copper money to the position of small coin, and a silver currency drove out the copper. The denarius sank at the same time to the value of about 8\d., which it maintained till the time of Nero. The denarius was reckoned as = 15 asses, the quinarius as 8, and the sestertius (about 2rf.) =4. At about the same period a temporary effort was made to introduce gold coinage. This movement was not taken up again till towards the end of the Republic, when Ceesar struck a large number of gold coins (aureus) equal in weight to J5 of the Roman pound, and in value 25 denarii or 100 sestertii (nearly 23 shillings). No regular coinage was carried on in the time of the Republic, but the necessary money was minted as occasion required. This was done in Rome at the commission of the senate under the super­intendence of certain officials entrusted with the duty. A permanent board of three persons (tres vtri mone'tdles} was at last appointed for the purpose. In the provinces money was coined by the Roman generals and governors. From the time of Augustus the emperor retained the exclusive privilege of coining gold and silver money, the copper coinage being left to the senate. The standard of the imperial coinage was the aureus of Caesar, the weight of which sank (with many variations) lower and lower as time went on, till in 312 a.d. Con-stantine fixed it at TV of a Ib. ( = between


12 and 13 shillings, fig. 11). The aureus was now called sOKdus, and was stamped at first with the Latin mark LXXII, after­wards with the Greek OB ( = 72). It con­tinued in use until the fall of the Byzantine empire. Of the silver coins of the Republic the denarius and quinarius alone held their ground under the Empire, the rest being stamped in copper. The denarius retained the value fixed 217 b.c. (about

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