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This is the theory, but in the practical application thereof difficulties arise because the Dupondii have almost the very samediameter and the same weight as the Asses.
There are however two means by which we may dis:inguish the one from the other.
Fig. 49. – Semis of Nero. In the first place the metal of the first is one may say yellow (orichalcum) that of the second red (copper); but if the distinction was very easy when the coins issued from the mint it is considera
bly less easy to-day through oxidation or the patina with which they are covered and which very often renders the distinction most difficult or even almost imposible.
Fig. 51. – Small bronze of Constantine.
We must then have recourse to the second means of distinction, that is to say to the crown which adorns the Imperial head, since beginning at the reign of Nero, who reorganized all the coinage of bronze, the Imperial head was radiated on the Dupondii whilst on the Asses it was either bare or laureated.
But even this rule cannot be given as absolute.
The exceptions are many and hence many are the cases in which our judgment must remain uncertain in distinguishing between the As and the Dupondius, and it was on this account that the empirical division came to be commonly adopted for that of large and Middle brass as much more convenient, and it will probably be a long time before we shall see the scientific division definitely adopted in books and catalogues.
212. The small coins which pass under the general term Small brass represent the subdivisions of the As, that is to say the Semisses and the Quadrantes. They are always rare or as it were exceptional in the beginning of the Imperial Period but less so in the reign of Nero; they cease with the reign of Caracalla (211-217 A.D.) and do not reappear until that of Trajanus Decius (249-25 i A.D.).
213. Specimens of larger dimension than usual are multiples of the common Asses, Dupondii or Sestertii, and are usually called (improperly) Medallions, information concerning which will be given hereafter (see chap XXVI).
214. Weight. The legal weight of the Imperial As is still lower than that of the Semiuncial As that is to say instead of gr. 13.50, it weighs only 12 grammes. As a rule this weight was sufficiently nearly mantained throughout the period of Senatorial Bronze coinage, that is from Augustus to Gallienus (15 B.C.—253 A.D.), except for the oscillation natural to the period and for the alteration in the metal, for the orichalcum was soon changed by the dishonesty of the State and the officers of the mint.
215. On the basis of 12 grammes for the As of copper the following table shows the theoretical weights of the Imperial bronze coinage.
Sestertius (4 Asses) gr. 48.
Quadrans (i As) > 3. Taking into account that the Sestertii and Dupondii are not of copper but of orichalcum (a metal as bas been explained of greater value) and that Asses, Semisses and Quadrantes were sometimes exceptionally made of this metal (as happened during the reign of Nero) we have the following theoretical table of weights for the coins of orichalcum,
The proportional value of the two metals stands at 7 to 12, that is the orichalcum is worth about double the copper.
But by practical experience we find, putting aside the usual diminution of weight in the coins of higher value, that we have the following weights or thereabout :
Corichalcum) 5. 13
Sestertius (orichalcum) gr. 27 i
216. ALLOY OF BRONZE. The alterations in the alloy of the bronze coinage follow the increasing debasement which has been pointed out in regard to the silver coinage. Zinc little by little was withdrawn and lead and tin took its place.
217. The Sestertius continued in use all the time that the Senatorial coinage was issued, not appearing again afterwards unless exceptionally, and ceasing to appear at the same time as the Dupondius during the reign of Diocletian aud his colleagues (between the years 295-391) when a radical change took place in the bronze at the same time as the reform in the silver coinage.
218. In place of the Sestertius and Dupondius Diocletian issued (284-305 A.D.) two new bronze coins which have been generally known under the improper names of “ Middle and Small Brass” and are only now beginning to be called perhaps more properly Follis and Centenionalis; I say perhaps because the question of such names as also of their relative values is still a matter of enquiry among the learned.
On the first mentioned coin the head of the Emperor is always laureated whilst on the second it is radiated: . Very frequently these bronze coins, especially the small ones, are silvered or tinned over in such a way as to give them the appearance of a transitional coinage between silver and bronze, hence these specimens are classified by some numismatists among the silver and by others among the bronze coins.
The evidence of the silver coating on the smaller coins is sufficiently obvious since they are held to be derived from the Antoniniani or to be a degenerate form of those coins, but the explanation
of any similar idea seems more difficult in the case of the Follis or “Middle Brass ”.
219. The coins of the third module only never have the silver coating and the Imperial head on these is always laureated; they are known as Brass Quinarii or by the Latin name Minutuli for half centenionali.
220. THE LOWER EMPIRE. At the partition of the Empire into the Western and Eastern divisions the coinage preserved the same character for some time at both Rome and Constantinople; but about the year 500 A.D. two distinct coinages arose both failing to resist the influence of the barbarians, that of Constantinople assuming a Byzantine, and that of Rome a Gothic character.
Under the Emperors Anastasius, Justinus and Justinianus I (491-566) the large bronze coins (follis) which had for so long disappeared from circulation were reintroduced, while in the Western Empire the new rulers caused but little money to be issued and that in very small coins.
Fig. 52. — Follis of Justinianus. The bronze then followed the decadence of the silver and gold coinage, for even these became utterly rude, and degenerated to such a degree as to have no clear type, ceasing to be legible or easy even to distinguish, and ending in a state of most deplorable baseness.
221. ON THE GENERAL RELATIONS OF THE METALS. The general comparative relation of the metals which has been tabulated by Mommsen is the following.
222. THE RELATIVE VALUE OF THE COINS IN THE DIVERSE EPOCHS. A chronological review of the values of the diverse coins in the three inetals during the Empire would be most interesting. But in this as indeed on several other points we are obliged to confess that the question is still sub judice, and the points in dispute are many and grave. It is therefore not possible to give a definite and complete view of the subject during the Imperial period; all we can do will be to give the table which the relative values present to us during the early period of the Empire as that which is most dependable although not undisputed, and at any rate very interesting. Bronze
223. One of the questions which has been longest the subject of debate is certainly that concerning Medallions.
Fig. 53. — Senatorial Bronze Medallion (S.C.) of Domitian. These pieces of greater size than ordinary coins, more beautiful in style, and more carefully executed, nearly always lacking the
pieces of gre