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

VII. The 4th century and after

Diocletian's institution of the tetrarchy, by which the empire was divided administratively between two Augusti and two Caesars, brought fundamental changes in social and economic policy; the instability of prices called for complete renewal of the monetary system. His coinage reforms took place in stages from c. 286 to c. 296. First, new aurei were struck at 60 to the pound of gold. Then, c. 293-294, new silver coins, of good purity, were struck at the revised Neronian weight of 96 to the pound of silver. Finally, c. 294-296, new copper coins appeared that were larger and intrinsically more valuable than the small debased double denarii of previous reigns. The contemporary names of these silver and copper pieces are not known. This reformed coinage was struck at a variety of mints from Londinium (London) to Alexandria, most of which coined in all three metals. Types were closely controlled in the silver and copper coinage; in the latter the almost universal type was for some years that of the "Genius Populi Romani." The obverse bore the portrait of one or other of the tetrarchs, each of whom coined with portraits of all four.

The breakdown of the tetrarchy after 306 weakened the new system. Copper was quickly and steadily lightened, and silver struck very sparingly. Gold, however, continued in good supply; and though Constantine's solidus showed a reduced weight standard, there was no shortage of gold throughout the rest of the 4th century. In time, silver coinage increased, especially after c. 350, when the miliarense (1/1,000 of a gold pound) and smaller denominations appeared. By the end of the 4th century, however, the size of copper coins had dropped very sharply, and in the 5th, until the Western Empire collapsed in AD 476, the western coinage consisted finally of gold with a little silver, struck mainly from the mints of Ravenna and Rome.

From 312, when Constantine became emperor of the West, coin types began to show new tendencies. The imperial portrait was still the dominant feature. Reverses displayed complementary themes - the glory of the army, vows for continued imperial rule, the constant struggle against barbarian pressure on the frontiers. The old variety of pagan gods - Jupiter excepted - mainly disappeared, though Sol, popular from Aurelian onward, was used, especially by Constantine. Christian emblems did little to take their place, though the Christian monogram, the Greek letters chi and rho superimposed, sometimes on a standard, began to appear with Constantine and was combined with the alpha and omega under Constantius II and Magnentius. On the whole, however, there was an unavowed truce between Christianity and paganism, only occasionally broken, as when Julian revived a range of pagan types; the full development of the Christian tradition in coinage was reserved for Byzantium.

Quelle: Carol Humphrey Vivian Sutherland in: Encyclopędia Britannica (1994-2000).



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