The Mediterranean was the economic focal point of the Roman Empire, the greatest imperial cities were located along the seacoast and ships could cross the waters in a fraction of the time.

The Roman Empire was based on an unprecedented vast network of roads, and a very large fleet of ships, which enabled the Romans to trade with various parts of the world, as well as a new form of infrastructure that went beyond the borders of the main cities to include foreign colonies.

The Roman Empire currently resembles its American counterpart in that its currency also controls the global economy through the widespread acceptance of Roman gold globally.

The role of coins in historical research

Ancient currencies are considered one of the most important tools that reveal the features of ancient history after it has been forgotten by time. They measure its economic status, and determine its cultural and intellectual features, as they are extremely important documents due to their honesty and lack of distortion of the facts.

Thus, coins are included among the most important areas of interest to archaeological researchers, as they are an important material artifact that helps historians in their historical and archaeological research, through which the titles of rulers and princes are revealed, and the date and place of minting, which made coins and money an important means and source for writing and correcting history.

Humans have long used currency as a means of exchange, a method of payment, a standard of value, a store of wealth and a unit of account.

Money quickly became an instrument of political control. Taxes could be levied to support the elite and armies could be mobilized.

However, money may also act as a stabilizing force that promotes peaceful exchanges of goods, information and services within and between groups.

The history of currency dates back to ancient civilizations, where goods such as shells, salt, and livestock served as means of exchange. With the advent of coins in ancient Greece and Rome, standardized units of currency emerged, facilitating trade across vast empires.

The emergence of the barter system

From the very beginnings of human evolution until paleolithic period, the economy was in a self-sufficient state, and people obtained all necessary goods and services through their work or activities. For example, if a person needed a weapon to hunt prey, he had to make it himself.

This period lasted until the middle of the Stone Ages, but it soon changed with the increase in goods needed by humans and the diversification of the activities practiced to produce these goods, it became difficult for a single individual to produce all the goods he needed by himself, so he contented himself with producing one commercial activity, leaving other individuals in order to specialize in other commercial activities, and with this period between different commercial activities, what is called barter was born.

With the increase in the needs of ancient man, a new type of economic relations began to appear, man had to use barter if he needed some goods that he could not independently produce, this change represented a major economic leap forward and accelerated human development.

The barter system is the oldest method of trade and dates back to approximately 6000 years BC, that is, long before the invention of cash currency, where individuals used to trade services and products in exchange for other items, that is, the process of exchanging goods between two or more parties without the use of money.

But the goods exchanged must be of value to the parties involved. For example: “Butter can be exchanged for bread, or the blacksmith who makes agricultural implements for the peasant can be compensated for the equivalent of the work done by the products of agriculture'.

Disadvantages of the barter system

Although the barter system filled many gaps in primitive human trade for a long period of time, it also had major shortcomings, as it was not easy to find similar wages at the same time, and it was also impossible to divide some goods, and others were quick to decompose or spoilage, such as fruit, meat, etc., and for this reason there was a need for a change that would mimic and meet the requirements of the wheel of development in societies.


With the advancement of human civilization and the discovery of metals such as gold, silver, copper and bronze, commodity money was transformed into metal money. It was minted and used as an alternative currency for barter, due to its ease of handling and the possibility of easily verifying its quantity. This was the main form of money throughout most of recorded history.

Although Roman coinage soon diverged from Greek conventions, its origins were similar. Rome, founded in the 8th century bc, had no true coinage until the 3rd. Roman historians later attributed coinage unhesitatingly to the much earlier regal period.

In the year 269 BC, the Romans began using coins and began minting their own silver coins with their symbols and images of their gods, emperors, and kings. After them, the Byzantines continued to mint the silver dirham and the gold dinar.

Development of Roman coinage

Copper base

The Greeks made their coins from silver, while the Romans used copper because of its abundant availability. They made tools, utensils, statues, and jewelry from it, and used it as a symbol of their nationalism.

In principle, the Romans dealt with large pieces of copper from which, when necessary, the amount required by the deal they were concluding was deducted. These pieces were known as As rude, but they found the work difficult, so they made it easier by preparing for dealing pieces with a fixed estimated weight ranging between four and five pounds, which were called As Signatum.

The members of the Greek community in Rome who were active in navigation and trade exchanged pieces of Greek silver money among themselves, or between themselves and between Greece and foreign countries, or from the money they minted for themselves in customary situations to satisfy their interests in trade.

The Romans sought help from members of this community in the fifth century BC, and they laid the foundation for the first monetary system known to the Romans.

This system was based on considering the ace as a unit of money, and its weight as a libra, and it is divided into small pieces, including the semis, the triens, the quadrans, the sextans, and the twelfths piece, which is the unica ounce. All of these pieces were struck from copper. They engraved images of their gods on it.

Introducing silver

These copper coins were not suitable for handling, despite their refinement and reduced size, because copper is a cheap metal, the merchant must carry an animal to make a moderate payment, or load a cart to pay a large sum. It was necessary to take silver money to facilitate transactions.

It was very difficult for the Greeks to deal with the Romans with this silver money. Because replacing them with Roman copper coins was extremely difficult; Due to the Romans' ignorance of the ratio of the value of silver to the value of copper in exchange.

The Greeks worked to overcome this difficulty by minting  a silver coin in 335 BC, which they called Roma or Romano. They wrote on it the equivalent amount of copper currency to reduce the burden of transporting copper and save counting and calculation.

This currency was popular in the Roman countries, not as an official currency, but rather as a customary currency dictated by need, and the government did not recognize any legal existence for it, but it was the first step in the Romans accepting the silver currency, which they were forced to acquire under duress from economic circumstances, and when they found themselves surrounded by nations that did not want to deal with copper in trade, they minted their own silver coin, known as the denarius.

Inflating money in the war with Cartagena


It happened in the first years of the war with Cartagena; To increase the expenses of the soldiers, and to provide them with supplies and ammunition, as evidenced by the fact that the Romans did not only reduce the weight of the copper ace, but also minted a new silver coin called the Quadrigatus, making it in circulation equivalent to a dinar and a half dinar.

Then they quickly reduced its weight to half in the following year, and called it Victoritatus to be optimistic that it would achieve victory and end the war. Moreover, it has been proven by all historians that the Senate had met in a hurry when Hannibal began to accelerate his advance on Rome.

When the Romans' silver resources were depleted due to the naval blockade imposed by Carthage on their shores; The Roman senate ordered the minting of a copper coin with a silver coating, which would take the place of silver coins in circulation.

The Romans were very interested in these new pieces. Because of their extreme patriotism, which made them consider owning these pieces a sacred national obligation.

When those wars ended, and Rome was granted leadership over all the Roman countries because of its victory, it began working as hard as it could to address the war crisis and its impact on money. So it recovered the bad money, and issued in its place good money in precise systems that elevated the country’s sophistication when it became a great empire, and declined with it during eras of dissolution and decline.

Minting and standard 

There were many minting houses, and each region had its own minting house. Rome restricted minting to a central house in which it organized it, and created branches in those regions whose work was mostly limited to distributing the money minted by the central house that was built in the Temple of Juno Moneta, and from the name of this temple it was derived. Most European languages ​​have the word for money.

Money matters are referred to The Roman Senate. He is the one who entrusts the chief judge to supervise the minting process, so The Senate places his logo on the coins so that imitators fear counterfeiting them.

The Roman legate in the colonies was prohibited from minting any money except with a special permission from the council, otherwise he would be considered a rebellious traitor, and he would be sentenced to death.

However, it was permissible for the commander of the Roman armies to mint coins without permission from the council if necessity required him to mint them, and since Egypt enjoyed a system similar to the system of autonomy unlike other colonies, it remained for a long time permitted to mint the coins that Alexandria minted, without it completely adhering to Roman conditions.

The Romans, just as the Greeks forbade drawing any of their greats on coins while he was alive, until Julius Caesar broke with that doctrine, just as Alexander did in the Greeks. Then after Caesar came his successors, and they painted their pictures on coins. Some of them painted themselves and their spouses, and some of them also painted their relatives and friends. These drawings were useful in conveying their images to us and helping us understand many incidents of their history.

Gold coins


As for the first official coin minted by the Romans, it was the Sulla coin, which was minted in the year 81 BC. It was called the Aureus, and made its weight equivalent to 10.95 grams today, but only a very small amount of it was minted. Therefore, it did not spread in transactions, but rather the rich and private people kept it in their coffers.

Although the weight of Roman gold coins was reduced in many cases, their standard remained between 22 and 23 carats, and therefore their counterfeiting was easy to judge by the color of the piece, or when it was treated with solutions, or by breaking it to ensure its authenticity.

Therefore, gold coins remained a subject of respect and desire at all times, especially when bad silver coins became widespread.

Julius Caesar adjusts the monetary system

Caesar had defects in the Roman monetary system, Roman trade increased and their kingdom grew to the point where relying on copper and silver was no longer sufficient. There must be an important change in money, to be consistent with the economic situation that the Romans reached during the days of Julius Caesar, who had no sooner defeated his enemies at home and abroad than he directed his concern to completing the shortcomings in the Roman money system.

He abolished the distinction between the two values ​​of the dinar, and reduced the weight of the golden Oreos to a weight now equivalent to 8.34 grams, then he minted large quantities of it and took them out to deal with them. It spread among the Romans and countries related to them in politics and trade.