William E. Metcalf

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211524
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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Numismatics is the study of coins and coin-like objects. The material of numismatics in the Roman Empire has chronological range of about eight centuries. Beginning in Italy in the late fourth century BCE, coinage came to be produced all around the Mediterranean basin, as far west as London and as far east as Alexandria. Until the end of the Republic, silver was coined almost continuously, copper intermittently down to the 80s BCE and hardly at all thereafter, and gold only in the Sullan and triumviral periods. As part of a reformed currency, a large orichalcum (copper + zinc) sestertius was introduced in 23 BCE. The denarius, the sestertius and its fractions (dupondius in orichalcum, as and occasionally semisses and quadrantes in copper), and a regularly produced gold aureus made up the currency of the next two-and-a-half centuries. While the denominations remained the same, their substance declined.

Keywords: Roman Empire; coins; numismatics; coinage; currency; denominations; gold

Article.  5142 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Historical Archaeology

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