The Roman Denarius during the Empire - Moruzzi Numismatica Roma

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The Roman Denarius during the Empire

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Heir of the silver coin that Rome introduced in its monetary system in the republican era, the imperial denarius was minted reproducing on the obverse the emperor's portrait, accompanied by a legend containing names, various titles and positions that August held: so it is generally possible to date it precisely or with an approximation of few years. This currency became the most important element of the Roman economy since its introduction, until it was finally minted in the half of the third century A.D. Its purity and weight reduced slowly, especially during the imperial era; the phenomenon of the Roman economy devaluation was pervasive and caused by a wide variety of reasons, as the lack of precious metal and the scarce strictness of state finances. When the denarius was introduced in the Republican period, it contained almost pure silver weighing about 4.5 grams. These values remained fairly stable during the whole republic era, except during military and civil war periods. For the long life of this coin, was very important the Augustus currency reform, the first of the imperial period, which gave to the emperor the control of gold and silver coins mintage, while the Senate controlled only the lower values coinage. The denarius remained relatively stable until the new Nero reform in 65 A.D. which brought the denarius to 1/96 of a libra (3.41 grams), giving so new life to the Roman shaky economy. At the end of Flavian dynasty (Vespasian, Titus, Domitian), Domitian gave again to coins  the values of the Augustus reform, while Trajan reintroduced later the values of Nero reform. Another reform was carried out thanks to the Emperor Caracalla in 215. The denarius, in fact, continued its devaluation reducing its silver intrinsic value to 50%. With the decline of the empire, also the silver of this coin continued to decrease until it was minted only in silver during its last coinages. The denarius of the imperial era can perhaps be considered the most popular antiquity coin of the old world. In fact, during the imperial era, the coin arrived remarkably even beyond the vast frontiers of the empire. From not Roman Europe to Africa, from the Far East and beyond the Black Sea, the denarius brought the image of the Roman emperor beyond the borders. The coin was so recognized and appreciated also by non-Roman populations, which imitated it in their local coinage.

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