The word dēnārius
is derived from the Latin dēnī
"containing ten", as its value was originally of 10 assēs
The word for "money" descends from it in Italian (denaro
), Slovene (denar
), Portuguese (dinheiro
), and Spanish (dinero
). Its name also survives in the dinar
Its symbol is represented in Unicode
as 𐆖 (U+10196), however it can also be represented as X̶ (capital letter X with combining long stroke overlay).
Starting with Nero
in AD 64, the Romans continuously debased their silver coins until, by the end of the 3rd century AD, hardly any silver was left.
A predecessor of the denarius
was first struck in 269 or 268 BC, five years before the First Punic War
with an average weight of 6.81 grams
, or 1
of a Roman pound
. Contact with the Greeks had prompted a need for silver coinage in addition to the bronze currency that the Romans were using at that time. This predecessor of the denarius
was a Greek-styled silver coin of didrachm
weight, which was struck in Neapolis
and other Greek cities in southern Italy.
These coins were inscribed with a legend that indicated that they were struck for Rome, but in style they closely resembled their Greek counterparts. They were rarely seen at Rome, to judge from finds and hoards, and were probably used either to buy supplies or pay soldiers.
The first distinctively Roman silver coin appeared around 226 BC.
Classical historians have sometimes called these coins heavy denarii
, but they are classified by modern numismatists as quadrigati
, a term which survives in one or two ancient texts and is derived from the quadriga, or four-horse chariot, on the reverse,. This, with a two-horse chariot or biga
which was used as a reverse type for some early denarii, was the prototype for the most common designs used on Roman silver coins for a number of years.
Rome overhauled its coinage shortly before 211 BC, and introduced the denarius alongside a short-lived denomination called the victoriatus
. The denarius contained an average 4.5 grams, or 1
of a Roman pound, of silver, and was at first tariffed at ten asses, hence its name, which means 'tenner'. It formed the backbone of Roman currency throughout the Roman republic
and the early empire.
The denarius began to undergo slow debasement toward the end of the republican period. Under the rule of Augustus
(27 BC to AD 14) its weight fell to 3.9 grams (a theoretical weight of 1
of a Roman pound). It remained at nearly this weight until the time of Nero
(AD 37–68), when it was reduced to 1
of a pound, or 3.4 grams. Debasement of the coin's silver content continued after Nero. Later Roman emperors also reduced its weight to 3 grams around the late 3rd century.
The value at its introduction was 10 asses
, giving the denarius its name, which translates as "containing ten". In about 141 BC, it was re-tariffed at 16 asses, to reflect the decrease in weight of the as
. The denarius continued to be the main coin of the Roman Empire
until it was replaced by the so-called antoninianus
in the early 3rd century AD. The coin was last issued, in bronze, under Aurelian
between AD 270 and 275, and in the first years of the reign of Diocletian
. ('Denarius', in A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins
, by John R. Melville-Jones (1990)).
Debasement and evolution
Value, Comparisons and silver content
Marco Sergio Silo: 116–115 BC
It is difficult to give even rough comparative values for money from before the 20th century, as the range of products and services available for purchase was so different. During the republic (509 BC–27 BC), a legionnaire earned 112.5 denarii per year (0.3 denarii per day) Under Julius Caesar
, this was doubled to 225 denarii/yr, with soldiers having to pay for their own food and arms
, while in the reign of Augustus a Centurion
received at least 3,750 denarii per year, and for the highest rank, 15,000 denarii.
By the late Roman Republic
and early Roman Empire
27 BC), a common soldier or unskilled laborer would be paid 1 denarius/day (with no tax deductions), around 300% inflation compared to the early period. Using the cost of bread as a baseline, this pay equates to around US$20 in 2013 terms.
Expressed in terms of the price of silver, and assuming 0.999 purity, a 1
⁄10 troy ounce
denarius had a precious metal value of around US$2.60 in 2021.
At the height of the Roman Empire
(546ml or about 2 1/4 cups) of ordinary wine cost roughly one Dupondius
(⅛ of a Denarius), after Diocletian's Edict on Maximum Prices
were issued in 301 AD, the same item cost 8 debased common denarii – 6,400% inflation.
Silver content plummeted across the lifespan of the denarius. Under the Roman Empire (after Nero
) the denarius contained approximately 50 grains
, 3.24 grams, or 1
(0.105ozt) troy ounce
. The fineness of the silver content varied with political and economic circumstances. From a purity of greater than 90% silver in the 1st century AD, the denarius fell to under 60% purity by AD 200, and plummeted to 5% purity by AD 300.
By the reign of Gallienus
, the antoninianus
was a copper coin with a thin silver wash.
In the final years of the 1st century BC Tincomarus
, a local ruler in southern Britain, started issuing coins that appear to have been made from melted down denarii
The coins of Eppillus
, issued around Calleva Atrebatum
around the same time, appear to have derived design elements from various denarii
such as those of Augustus
and M. Volteius
Even after the denarius
was no longer regularly issued, it continued to be used as a unit of account, and the name was applied to later Roman coins in a way that is not understood. The Arabs
who conquered large parts
of the land that once belonged to the Eastern Roman Empire issued their own gold dinar
. The lasting legacy of the denarius
can be seen in the use of "d" as the abbreviation for the British penny
It also survived in France
as the name of a coin, the denier
. The denarius also survives in the common Arabic name for a currency unit, the dinar
used from pre-Islamic times, and still used in several modern Arab nations. The major currency unit in former Principality of Serbia
, Kingdom of Serbia
and former Yugoslavia
, and it is still used in present-day Serbia
. The Macedonian
is also derived from the Roman denarius. The Italian
, the Spanish
, the Portuguese
, and the Slovene
, all meaning money, are also derived from Latin denarius
. The pre-decimal currency of the United Kingdom until 1970 of pounds, shillings and pence was abbreviated as lsd
, with "d" referring to denarius and standing for penny.
Use in the Bible
In the New Testament
, the gospels refer to the denarius as a day's wage for a common laborer (Matthew
In the Book of Revelation
, during the Third Seal: Black Horse, a choinix
("quart") of wheat and three quarts of barley were each valued at one denarius.
Bible scholar Robert H. Mounce
says the price of the wheat and barley as described in the vision appears to be ten to twelve times their normal cost in ancient times.
Revelation thus describes a condition where basic goods are sold at greatly inflated prices. Thus, the black horse rider
depicts times of deep scarcity or famine, but not of starvation. Apparently, a choinix of wheat was the daily ration of one adult. Thus, in the conditions pictured by Revelation 6
, the normal income for a working-class family would buy enough food for only one person. The less costly barley would feed three people for one day's wages.
The denarius is also mentioned in the Parable of the Good Samaritan
10:25–37). The Render unto Caesar
passage in Matthew 22:15–22 and Mark 12:13–17 uses the word (δηνάριον) to describe the coin held up by Jesus, translated in the King James Bible as "tribute penny
". It is commonly thought to be a denarius with the head of Tiberius.
Its value was increased to 16 assēs in the middle of the 2nd century BC.
- ^ Crawford, Michael H. (1974). Roman Republican Coinage, Cambridge University Press, 2 Volumes. ISBN 0-521-07492-4
- ^ David. L. Vagi. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, c. 82 BC–AD 480. II. Sydney, Ohio: Coin World.
- ^ A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, William Smith, D.C.l., LL, D., John Murray, London 1875 Pg 393, 394
- ^ Metcalf, William E. (2012). The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016: Oxford University Press. p. 300. ISBN 978-0-19-937218-8.
- ^ The Numismatic Circular, Volume 8–9, Spink & Son, 1899–1900 Piccadilly West, London
- ^ Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome, Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins. Oxford University Press, New York 1994.
- ^ As the Romans Did, Jo-Ann Shelton. Oxford University Press, New York 1998
- ^ Plutarch's Lives, Vol 2, John Langhorne, DD, William Langhorne, AM, London 1813
- ^ The New Deal in Old Rome, HJ Haskell, Alfred K Knoff New York 1939
- ^ Ancient coin collection 3Wayne G Sayles Pg 21–22
- ^ "Aurelian, Roman Imperial Coinage reference, Thumbnail Index". Wildwinds.com. Retrieved 24 August 2006.
- ^ "Aurelian Æ Denarius. Rome mint. IMP AVRELIANVS AVG, laureate, draped & cuirassed bust right". Wildwinds.com. Archived from the original on 12 June 2006. Retrieved 24 August 2006.
- ^ Kenneth W. Harl (12 July 1996). Coinage in the Roman Economy, 300 B.C. to A.D. 700. JHU Press. pp. 94–5. ISBN 978-0-8018-5291-6..
- ^ Buying Power of Ancient Coins
- ^ "XE: Convert XAG/USD. Silver to United States Dollar". www.xe.com. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
- ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-11-28. Retrieved 2015-12-01.
- ^ Katsari, Constantina (2002). "The Concept of Inflation in the Roman Empire". Retrieved 2006-12-06.
- ^ a b De Jersey, Philip (1996). Celtic Coinage in Britain. Shire Publications. pp. 29–30. ISBN 0-7478-0325-0.
- ^ Bean, Simon C (1994). "The coinage of Eppilus". The coinage of Atrebates and Regni(PDF) (Ph.D.). University of Nottingham. pp. 341–347. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
- ^ English Coinage 600–1900 by C.H.V. Sutherland 1973 ISBN 0-7134-0731-X p.10
- ^ "Matthew 20:2 NIV – He agreed to pay them a denarius". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
- ^ "Jn 12:5; NIV – "Why wasn't this perfume sold ..." Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
- ^ Revelation 6:6
- ^ The New International Commentary on the New Testament, "The Book of Revelation," p. 155)
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