This is the second chapter in my series on the history of money. The first one covers the Stone Age to Roman Republic.
The inventionn of coins in Lydia around 460 BCE revolutionized commerce. No longer must gold and silver be weighed out in financial transactions. Coins were minted in standard weights and the purity guanteed by the state. The use of coins spread rapidly into Greece and throughout the ancient world. Marketplaces began to spring up. No longer did people need to seek out the seller of goods when they needed something. Both buyers and sellers concentrated at the marketplace. Trading and commerce began to explode. All trade goods could be valued in coin. People then began to put prices on labor and services. The first known public brothels were in Lydia.
Money is : 1) a medium of exchange 2) a measure of account 3) a store of value
Augustus realized the importance of controlling the currency. He decreed that the minting of all gold and silver coins were to be controlled by the emperor. He let the senate control the bronze and copper coinage so that they wouldn't feel left out. Rome was one of the first civilizations to put mint marks on their coins,Greece being the first. Some mint marks had not only the city but the number or letter of the workshop within the mint. This was done so that if the purity of the coins weren't what they should be the emperor would know whose head to cut off.
In order for the engravers to get all of this on the coin they had to use abbreviations and run them all together without spaces. The engraving on the obverse reads:
IMPCAELSEPSE VPERTAVG IMP(imperator)CAE(caesar)L(Lucius)SEP(Septimius)SEV(Severus)PERT(perpetuus,meaning eternal)AVG(Augustus). On the reverse we have LEGXIIII GEM M V TRP COS which translates LEGXIIII(14th legion)GEM M V(Gemina Martia Victrix,meaning the twin legion)TRP(Tribunicia Potestate,meaning Tribune power)COS(Consul). Legionary eagle between two standards. Note the use of IIII instead of IV for the number 4. These were used interchangeably. The location on the reverse bottom below the line where TRP COS appears is called the exergue. This is where the mint marks will be on later coins.
A historical footnote on the 14th legion. This was an elite legion originally recruited by Julius Caesar. After the end of the civil war between Octavian and Marc Antony it was reinforced with men from one of Antony's disbanded legions. This is why it was called the twin legion. This legion had been in many famous battles throughout its' history. It was commanded by Septimius Severus and it was the first legion to declare for him during the civil war following the assignation of Commodus. Commodus is the bad emperor portrayed in the movie Gladiator with Russel Crowe.
Obverse: FLCLIVLIA NVSPPAVG
FL(Flavius)CL(Claudius)IVLIANVS(Julianus)PP(Pater Patriae,father of our country)AVG(Augustus)
Reverse: Julian II advancing right, dragging captive and holding trophy
VIRTVS(Virtus,virtue,bravery)EXERCITVS(Exercitus,Army)ROMANORVM(Romanorum,of the Romans)
Exergue: SIRM (Sirmium,mint mark)
The Roman alphabet didn't contain a J or U so I and V were used. The letters were all hand engraved so a lot of times it is hard to tell letters apart. The mint mark on this coin looks to me like it says STAN but is actually SIRM. R's,A's and H's are particularly difficult to tell apart as are M's and N's among others.
This one is from Emperor Avitus (455-456 CE).
Obverse: D N AVITVS PERP AVG
D N (Dominus Noster,our lord) AVITVS(Avitus) PERP(Perpetuus,eternal) AVG(Augustus)
Reverse: Cross within wreath CONOB (Rome mint) in exergue
Tremissis. Rome mint. D N ROMVLVS AVGVSTVS P F A, pearl-diademed, draped & cuirassed bust right / cross within wreath, COMOB (Rome mint) in exergue
Silver Denarii of The Twelve Caesars.
Julius Caesar Denarius. CAESAR IMP, laureate head right, lituus & simpulum behind
Augustus Denarius. Minted at Emerita, Spain, 25-23 BC, by P Carisius. IMP CAESAR AVGVST, bare head right / P CARISIVS LEG PRO PR, trophy of Celtiberian arms erected on heap of shields & lances.
Tiberius Denarius. TI CAESAR DIVI F AVG F AVGVSTVS, laureate head right / TR POT XVI, IMP VII in ex, Tiberius riding quadriga right, holding branch & eagle tipped sceptre.
Caligula and Agrippina Senior denarius. C CAESAR AVG GERM P M TR POT, Laureate head right / AGRIPPINA MAT C CAES AVG, draped bust right, hair in plait behind.
Claudius Denarius. Rome mint, 41-42 AD. TI CLAVD CAESAR AVG GERM P M TR P, laureate head right / EX • S C / OB•CIVES / SERVATOS, three lines in wreath of oak leaves
Nero Denarius. NERO CAESAR AVGVSTVS, laureate head right
Galba denarius. Spanish Mint, 68 AD, IMP GALBA, laureate bust right, globe at point / HISPANIA, draped Hispania standing left, holding corn ears and poppy, round shield and two vertical spears.
Otho 69 CE
Otho Denarius. Rome Mint. IMP M OTHO CAESAR AVG TR P, bewigged head right / SECVRITAS P R, Securitas standing left, holding wreath & scepter.
Vitellius Denarius. Spanish mint. A VITELLIVS IMP GERMAN (counterclockwise), laureate head right, globe at point / FIDES EXERCITVM above & below clasped hands.
Vespasian Denarius. 69-70 AD. IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG, laureate head right / Captive Jewess seated right, hands tied before, trophy of captured arms behind, IVDAEA in ex.
Titus, as Caesar,Denarius. 72-73 AD. T CAES IMP VESP PON TR POT, laureate head right / NEP RED, Neptune standing right, foot on globe, holding acrostolium & sceptre
Domitian 81 CE - 96 CE
Domitian Denarius. CAESAR AVG F DOMITIANVS, laureate head right / COS V, She-wolf and twins left, boat below.
For a woman to have her head on a coin was very rare. Emperors usually struck memorial coins for their mothers after their death,but for a living woman to have her head on a coin like the emperor did was unheard of. These women wielded some serious power.
It is no coincidence that they were all named Julia. Roman names had three parts,the middle name was the clan or gens. Julius Caesars' full name was Gaius Julius Caesar.
Julia Domna, Septimius Severus & Caracalla Denarius. Struck 201 AD. Draped bust of Domna right / AETERNIT IMPERI, laureate, draped & cuirassed bust of Septimius right vis à vis laureate, draped & cuirassed bust of Caracalla left.
Julia Maesa Denarius. Antioch mint, 218-220 AD. IVLIA MAESA AVG, draped bust right / IVNO, Juno standing left, holding patera and sceptre; peacock at feet left.
Julia Mamaea,quinarius 230 AD. IVLIA MAMAEA AVG, diademed, draped bust right / FELICITAS PVBLICA, Felicitas seated left, holding caduceus and cornucopiae.
Julia Soaemias Denarius. 220 AD. IVLIA SOAEMIAS AVGVSTA, draped bust right / IVNO REGINA, Juno standing right, holding scepter & palladium.
Julia Paula,quinarius, 219-220 AD. IVLIA PAVLA AVG, diademed, draped bust right / CONCORDIA, Concordia seated left, holding patera and resting left arm on chair; star in upper left field.
Diva Julia Titi Cistophoric Tetradrachm of Ephesus mint. IVLIA AVGVSTA DIVI TIT F, draped bust right / VESTA, Vesta seated left, holding palladium & scepter.
I think that the reverses of Roman coins are much more interesting than the obverse.
Coins below are from my collection
IMP CONSTANTINVS P F AVG
It's difficult to get a handle on just what kind of man Constantine was. On the one hand he was the first Christian emperor. On the other hand he had his wife locked in a sauna and cooked alive. There is some question of how serious he was about being a Christian.
I have a few ancient Roman artifacts to compliment my coin collection. Below are a couple of iron arrowheads.
Next up...Ancient Greece.