Teachers Information Sheet: Roman Coins
Why do archaeologists think Roman coins are important?
- Roman coins are quite helpful for dating other finds in the same stratus or layer but can be misleading as Roman coins were used for a considerable time after they were minted.
- Because coins can tell us about changing economic and political conditions of the empire. We can find out who was emperor, and about inflation and the prices of goods.
- Because we can find out about the circulation of money. This may tell us where people settled, and the extent of trade and communication in the Roman world.
- The Romans were not the first to bring coinage to this country. It was in use by the Celts especially in the South East. One such coin known as a stater (50BC – 50AD) from the Corieltauvi tribe is on display at Middlewich Library, found in Warmingham.
- The Roman coins are sometimes likened to newspapers in the sense that the emperors publicised their victories on their coinage. They were also an attempt to inspire confidence with slogans such as Roman security’, ‘good health’ and ‘virtue’. A famous example is Felix Tempus Reparatia which means ‘restoration of good time’ or ‘happy days are here again’.
- Coins had to be mass-produced to satisfy the demands of the people throughout the empire. At the mints where the coins were made, molten metal was poured into moulds, producing a number of blanks at a time. These were then placed between two dies, which were hit with a heavy hammer. Around 20,000 coins could be struck from a single die.
The system of Roman currency was:
1 gold Aureus = 25 Denarii
1 silver Denarius = 4 Sestertii
1 brass Sestertius = 2 Dupondii
1 brass Dupondius = 2 Asses
1 copper Ass = 2 Semisses
1 copper Semis = 2 copper Quadrantes
Roman Soldiers pay
There is evidence to suggest that, at various times in the late 1st/early 2nd centuries both types of soldier were associated with Middlewich although not necessarily permanently stationed there.
1. Legionaries (Late 1st/ Early 2nd centuries only)
Basic pay = 300 Denarii a year paid in 4 instalments of 74 denarii (Stipendia) in January, April, July and October. However of each stipend 62 denarii were withheld to cover stoppages and debts of food, clothing and arms and to put some in the legion’s savings bank for retirement. The remainder (13 denarii) was given to the soldier as pocket money.
Additional = Occasionally the state gave soldiers special bounties to commemorate things like the accession of a new emperor.
Payment in kind = In later times, when the cost of inflation made for difficulties, the state increasingly augmented pay with payment in kind (e.g. corn, salt, land etc.)
2. Auxiliaries (late 1st/Early 2nd centuries only)
Basic infantry pay = 100 denarii a year. As with the legionaries, broken down into stipends, with stoppages, savings etc. plus occasional bounties.
Basic pay for soldiers in part-mounted regiments = 150 denarii a year
However, cavalry units described as CIVIVM ROMANORVM (Roman Citizens) were specially favoured. This is relevant to Middlewich because the ALA CLASSIANA was such a unit, (as recorded on the Middlewich diploma on display at Middlewich Library)
Their basic pay = 200 denarii a year (i.e. 4 stipends of 50 denarii etc.)
Minerva who is depicted on one of the coins was taken up by the Celts. She metamorphoses into Britannia later and was on the British penny (written as 1d) up to decimalisation in 1971.