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Roman Britain Currency

Below is a detailed article about the currency that was used by the ancient Roman empire and in Roman Britain.

What was the roman currency in Britain?



Caeser Coins used in Britain

Roman currency consisted of gold, silver, orichalcum which is a strong alloy similar to brass, and bronze. The concept of currency came into use and execution in the Roman Republic in the third century AD. However, in the long run of the Roman empire, many changes were seen in denominations, forms, and composition of the Roman currency. The introduction of the concept of coins is said to have caused inflation in the roman economic society.


Coins were also connected to the sovereign of the Roman state. The image of the Kings was engraved on the coins of the particular kingdom. According to archaeological excavations, this trend began from St Augustus. Later, Julius Caesar began putting himself on the coins until his assassination.

Roman empire currencies – Denarius

The Denarius was the standard Roman coin since the second Punic war in 211 AD. It was minted for ceremonial purposes and were few in number. It was found to be made of silver and weighed nearly 6 to 8 grams. Much of the design and other elements were inspired by Greek coinage that was used in the south of Italy by Greek states.

Silver Denarius from Roman Britain times

The design of this coin remained the same until the next 150 years. The denarius was slowly taken over by the victoriatus coin. It was lighter in weight and became the currency of the Roman republic. The coinage went through a number of iterations, wherein the weight of silver from the coins was removed from the Kings that recognized silver as a precious metal and thought it was unwise for large quantities of it to go into coin making.

Roman currency to USD

It is nearly impossible to use parameters to compare the Roman currency to the modern money used today. However, the changes in stock prices of the metals used to make the coins in Roman-era are compared and calculated today. This way we can determine the physical value of the coins today.

According to Global Security, in the 1990s, an ounce of silver would cost 300 USD. Therefore, the aureus was worth 100 USD. The silver denarius was one-fourth of the silver aureus which makes it worth 25 USD in the 1990s.

These figures can be easily compared to the prices today and the value of the ancient Roman currency in USD is determined.

Roman Empire currencies – Aureus

Aureus is a basic gold monetary unit of ancient Rome. It was called ‘nummus aureus’ which meant gold money. One Aureus was equal to 25 silver denarius. When Constantine became the emperor, in 312 AD, the aureus was replaced with ‘solidus’ as the basic monetary unit of the Romans.

Roman Empire Currency – Aureus

Ancient roman coins identification

A number of factors are considered when identifying ancient roman coins. The main points of identification are the words on the coins, the emperor, any items in the hands of the emperor, nature of the coin, the metal used, legends and marks if any. There are also identifications of any symbols used in case they belong to a deity or something supernatural.

Common Roman Coins from the British Roman Era

Strikes on the coin are also a major point of identification. Accidental strikes are determined on the coins to find the time they were used in, whether in conditions of war or peace. Broken and blocked dies on the coin also have many indications.

Roman gold coins

The Romans were certainly not the first ones to use coins as a medium of monetary transaction in everyday life. The Greeks were using coinage system 300 years before the Romans. Gold coins were the most basic coins used in the Roman era. Later they were replaced with silver and then slowly the quantity of silver began depleting from the coins. It is seen that the value of Roman coins decreased as their kingdom began to fall.

Most expensive Roman Gold Coins

Roman Gold coins are seen at museums. These coins are 1800 years old and from the empire of Marcus Aurelius and Gordon III.

How were Roman coins made?

Roman coins were majorly made out of gold and silver. At times, both these were mixed to form an alloy of gold and silver called Electrum. In the beginning, coins were mainly used as a symbol of superiority which is why they had to be polished and shiny at all times. To avoid corrosion, the coins were made of alloys.

They used apparatus like a furnace, tongs, dies and anvil bench. Metal casting and smithing began in the Roman era and was perfected over the years. Up to 1000 dies were used per year in the production of coins in the Roman era.

Roman coin finds in Britain

Roman Coin finds in Britain from the Roman Britain times

In July 2017, two metal deteriorates, found more than 3000 copper alloy coins in Lincolnshire. It is believed that they may have been buried as a part of a ceremony of some kind. They were found in a ceramic pot, buried in an oval-shaped hole. The archaeological department has confirmed the coins to be from the Roman era.

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