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119. PRIMITIVE BARTER. – Barter or exchange is a natural necessity innate in the human race, and has indeed been employed by all nations from the earliest times.
From the remotest periods to the beginning of civilization all nations passed through three distinct periods in regard to their methods of barter.
The first was that of simple exchange. Whoever had too much of any given commodity gave away a part in order to obtain for it something he needed, but it was then always necessary to find some one disposed to receive what was thus offered for exchange.
The second period was that in which, in order to facilitate and enlarge the field of exchange, a commonly needed commodity was established with a fixed value; this was in some countries cattle, in others skins, grain, shells, or some such article.
The third period finally was that in which metal was adopted as such a means of exchange, as more satisfactory than the above mentioned articles, because less cumbrous, not subject to diminution, variation or deterioration, and quite easily divisible into an indefinite number of parts, all composed of a perfectly homogeneous material.
From that moment the natural law of exchange or barter entered into the domain of numismatics, and from thence we obtain the first objects for study.
120. The primitive Romans like other nations in a similar condition adopted cattle as their means of exchange. Sheep and oxen were the domestic animals chosen for this purpose, and one of the larger animals was calculated as equivalent to ten of the smaller.
Although this system of exchange cannot properly form part of the system of numismatics it may nominally, since even in comparatively recent times, about the year 300 of Rome or 454 B.C. certain laws fixed even then taxes and fines to be paid in heads of cattle, at the same time giving the equivalent in metallic money, it is however interesting to see how from these laws the terminology which we use to-day had its origin.
For example from pecus is derived the word PECVNIA; from
peculium (a little flock) PECVLIO; from peculatum (theft of cattle) the word SPECULATE (in the sense of extortion); from capita (heads of beasts) the word CAPITAL.
121. AES RUDE. — At a certain moment, impossible to determine accurately, the Roman community reached that stage which necessitated the adoption of metal, and the consequent gradual abandonment of cattle, as a means of exchange. The two periods indeed were not clearly divided, progress from one to the other
followed insensibly, and as the advantages of metal gradually became manifest, barter by means of cattle became rarer until at last it ceased altogether. Here as elsewhere local circumstances determined the choice of metal. One may almost say gold was unknown in Italy, moreover silver was a foreign import. Bronze
1. When not otherwise stated, the illustrations are of the real size.
was the metal which more naturally presented itself because abundant in the country. It was adopted from the earliest times in rough forms of most irregular shape and of the most varied dimensions, such as resulted from their rude smelting works, so that their value was determined by weight alone'.
This is the AES RUDE called also des infectum (unwrought bronze); many of these pieces are preserved in our museums varying in weight from a few grammes to a kilogramme and more. These are the pieces called raudera, rauduscula, rudera.
122. AES SIGNATUM. – With the progress of civilization and the increase of trade it became ever more troublesome to have constant need of recourse to the scales in every contract, and it was felt necessary to have the metal divided into pieces of uniform
1. For this reason the word puso both in our language and in many others is often used in the sense of value or of money or payments and similar words are still used which are derived from the Latin “ pondere ” such as to spend, to expend, to dispense, compendium, stipend, pension, &c., just as in the same way the words esteem, estimate, have their origin in the Latin “ des” (aestimare).
size, and to have a sign imprinted on them signifying the weight and thence also the value at least approximately. They began therefore to cast the metal in the following shapes, oblong, irregular, square, and oval, stamping them roughly first on one side only and then on both, with certain marks consisting in a kind of long branch furnished with lateral projections or they may be also likened to a kind of fish-bone.
Later on globes or bosses, evidently signs of weight and therefore of value, were impressed upon them. Thus we pass gradually from the rude fragments of metal to the stamped coins (from aes rude to aes signatum).
123. If these first pieces bearing a mark of value really constitute the first money of the Romans it is difficult to determine whether they are to be attributed to the authority of the State or to private enterprise.
Just as indeed among almost all nations, private coinage, that is money on which a private person, banker or merchant has stamped a mark, guaranteeing the weight and goodness of the metal preceded that issued by the authority of the State so it is most likely
or one may say almost certain that this was also the case at Rome and that these first coins were the product of private enterprise.
124. Generally the honour of having organized a regular and legal system of weights and measures is attributed to Servius Tullius handing the control of them over to the State : mensuras et pondera constituit. This being admitted as a fact supported by the authority of several writers some would also attribute to Servius Tullius the organization of the monetary system. And this is fully admissible if by that is meant the introduction of a system of the use of metal by weight for business transactions.
But if the introduction of true and proper money is meant we should not know how to determine the kind of coinage thus introduced by Servius Tullius, because all the pieces remaining to us, whether oval or quadrilateral, if judged by the art they present must be attributed to a later period.
125. AES GRAVE AES LIBRALE. — The coins of heavy bronze called Aes grave present a rough and coarse appearance; the art exhibited on them is certainly not archaic. In spite of their rude appearance they are evidently derived from Greek art.
The modelling on them is true and vigorous, and the artists who wrought them shewed themselves so clever and experienced in the difficulties of relief and perspective that one can do no less than suppose that they were brought from Greece. In fact instead of progressing with time the Art on the Republican coinage shows