Novaesium, alias Neuss

Roman coins, republic and empire

von Carol Humphrey Vivian Sutherland   
I. The beginnings V. Early imperial mint policy
II. Introduction of the denarius VI. Portraits and types
III. Control and content of the coinage VII. The 4th century and after
IV. Caesar and after VIII. Literatur

II. Introduction of the denarius

Adjustment of the previously fluctuating relationship between bronze and silver was first secured by the issue c. 211 BC of the silver denarius (marked X - i.e., 10 bronze asses), together with fractional coins, also of silver (marked V - i.e., five; and IIS - i.e., 2 1/2 asses - a sesterce, or sestertius). The denarii were lighter than the quadrigati; their types were a Roma head on the obverse, with the Dioscuri (the twin deities Castor and Pollux) and ROMA on the reverse. Their production came to be confined principally to the mint of Rome. The victoriates, again lighter (their weight standard had come from Illyria), were issued until c. 150 BC, being perhaps intended for principal circulation outside Italy. The denarius, however, quickly established itself as the major currency in the central and western Mediterranean. In its eastward expansion, Rome learned to make use of local currencies - gold staters of Macedonia and silver tetradrachms of Athens or Asia. Rome was also prepared to employ Macedonian gold in the west, as was shown by the release to western markets of large quantities of gold staters after c. 150 BC. In the 2nd century BC, Roman coinage in gold was exceptional. Coinage in bronze, however, continued, but further variation in silver-bronze values was seen in two developments. The as dropped in weight to that of an uncia and then less, becoming a token currency; together with its fractions, it was now always struck and not cast. The value of the denarius in terms of bronze was altered, being revalued c. 133 at 16 instead of 10 asses; the silver quinarius (now of eight asses and with the types of the victoriate) became rare; and the silver sesterce (now equal to four asses) virtually disappeared. After c. 80 BC the striking of bronze was discontinued until the time of Caesar.

These developments mirrored the economic difficulties of the day. Reduction of the weight of the as from one to 1/2 ounce in 89 BC was accompanied temporarily by debasement of the denarius, resulting in the issue of denarii with serrated edges, intended to show that they were not plated.



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