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(Zecchi) which marked the commencement of the period so glorious in the history and art of Italy.
203. The successive weights of the aureus.
The Aureus of 40 to the pound weighed gr. 8.175
— 45 — 7.266
— 50 6.540
— 60 5-450
— 72 — 4.541 The Triens of 216 — 1.513
204. The Imperial Roman gold coinage presents us with a continuous series from the time of Julius Cajsar till the fall of the Eastern Empire, with the exception of a few slight interruptions in certain ephemeral reigns. All the gold coins of Roman mintage during this very long period and even in the times of the greater decadence (see chapter XXV), are in regard to alloy more pure than the means then known would lead us to expect, their composition containing constantly about 96 % of the fine metal.
One only exception being found after the year 1000 when Alexius Comnenus struck gold coins with an alloy of copper.
205. The silver coinage always consisted of the Denarius and the Half-denarius.
But the Silver Sestertius (f,h of the Denarius ^~'it of the Aureus) which disappeared at the close of the Republic nevertheless always remained as the unit of account, and its place was taken by the bronze Sestertius as we shall see in the following pages.
The Denarius originally corresponded to J'h of a pound (gr. 3.90); but suffered a diminution as early as the time of Nero (51-68 A.D.) when it did not represent more than j|th of a pound (gr. 3.41); a little later other slight diminutions of weight were made.
Worse than this fall in weight was the fact that the metal which was quite pure at the beginning of the Empire, as it had always been during the Republic (except in the case of the legionary denarii of Marc Antony), contained alloy from 5 to 10 % as early as the time of Nero, and this amount was increased to 15 to 18 % under Trajan (98-117 A.D.), to 20 under Hadrian (117-138 A.D.), to 2^ % under Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.), to 30 % under Commodus (180-192), until it reached 50 % or even 60 % under Septimius Severus (192-^11 A.D.).
FiJ - 40. — Half-dcnarius or Silver Quinarius of Gordianus Pius.
206. During the reign of Caracalla (211-217 A.D.) a new silver coin appeared, the Double Denarius or Argentcus Antoninianus, weighing about gr. 5.45, and containing not more than 20 % of silver.
Its distinctive type is the radiated crown with which the Imperial head on the Obv. is decorated, or the crescent moon under the bust of the Empress.
But the Antoninianus very soon gradually degenerated until it did not contain more than 5 % of silver and at last was hardly to
be distinguished from bronze; its only distinction from this being a wash or facing of white metal, which moreover was not of silver but of tin.
The discredit into which this silver coinage had fallen was the result of the greed and indeed we may say of the dishonesty of the State which issued these valueless coins but refused to accept them and as early as the reign of Elagabalus (208-222 A.D.) issued a decree that the public payments of taxes should be made in gold.
207. Diocletian (2^4-305) was the first who faced the great enterprise of reforming the coinage by the reissue of a good silver Denarius with which the Neronian Denarius of 96 to the pound was revived together with the bronze coins. These Denarii received the name of Miliaraises to indicate that 1000 were worth a pound of gold. In fact under the system adopted by Diocletian in the year 301 A.D. one pound of gold was equivalent to 50 Aurei, 1000 Miliarenses, 50,000 bronze Denarii.
208. During the Byzantine Empire the issue of silver coinage was extremely rare, and besides the Miliarenses the smaller coins called siliqua (^ofa pound) were struck, then the half siliqua and afterwards the \ siliqua.
THE BRONZE COINAGE
209. The Imperial bronze coins have always been distinguished, at least in treatises which aspire to be called scientific, under the
Fig. 43. — Sestertius of Vespasian.
three classes of Great, Middle and Small Brass, or in other words Bronze of the Ist 2"J and 3rd size according to the three difierent sizes.
But such an empirical classification lacks all scientific basis, for the Imperial coinage of bronze is only to be derived from that of the Republic, and its basis is really the As, and its natural division is that of the Sestertius (4 Asses), Dupondius (2 Asses), and the As.
The coin which is commonly called Great Brass or Ai 1, is the Sestertius, while the Dupondius and the As were confounded under the denomination of Middle Brass or JE 2, on account of the similitude of their weight and size; and all the smaller coins or subdivisions of the As, theSemisses and Quadrantes, are known as Small Brass or M 3.
210. It will be well to note first of all how an initial un-observance of fact took place in the name Bronze, given to this coinage.
The coins which come under this name (which however we must adopt to distinguish them from those of gold or silver) are not really of bronze (that is to say of a metal composed of copper mixed with tin or lead as were those of the Republic) but they are either made of orichalcum (spetyaXxo?) (-?; of copper and | of zinc) commonly called latten or yellow brass or of pure copper.
This confusion of the metals brought about the confusion of the Dupondius and the As; for the first on account of its being made
of a metal of greater value was worth double that of the second which bore a similar appearance.
211. We must therefore remember that from the period of Augustus (15 B.C.) the Sestertii (of the value of 4 Asses) and the