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It seems impossible to condense the history of Ancient Roman Imperial Coins into just a few passages. However important events should be highlighted to get a glimpse into the marvelous history of these precious coins.
The Major Denominations - Coins such as aureus, denarius, sestertius, and dupondius were utilized during the middle of the third century BC until the middle of the third century A.D. These coins are still used in territories influenced by Greek, though they already had their respective base coinage. Antoninianus or radiate is the replacement of the double denarius during the third century though it was then replaced by monetary reform of Diocletian which made denominations such as the argenteus and the follis. Roman coinage consisted mainly of the gold solidus and small bronze denominations after the reform.
Portraits of the Emperors - Julius Caesar issued coins bearing his own portrait that changed the course of coins. Ancient Roman Coins adorned with the face of Caesar are the first Roman coinage to portray the portrait of a living individual in the coin. Imperators continued this tradition after the assassination of Caesar, though the traditional deities and personifications are still mounted on the coins. The emperor represented the state and its policies, thus coins adorned by their portraits became popular. Moneysayers determined the images and designed of the coins.
The portrait of the emperor is the emphasis of the imagery during the empire. These coins exhibit emperors that possess with characteristics normally seen in divinities, or focusing the special correspondence with a certain deity. Caesar released a variety of types that featured images of either Venus or Aeneas in an endeavor to be associated with divine ancestors. Commudos went to the extreme when he released coins exhibiting his bust clad in a lion-skin that resembled Hercules.
Portraits of an emperor was the most prosaic design found on the obverse of coins, though images of heirs, predecessors, and other family members, such as empresses, are also exhibited in the coins. Romans ascribe value to the images presented in the coins. Political messages were placed in the imagery and propaganda was attached to the designs of the coins during the civil war. This imperial iconography lasted till the end of the reign of Augustus.
Ancient Roman coins had intrinsic value compared to modern coins. This coin cost greater than its precious metal content, which set it apart among bullions. For instance the cost of denarius ranges from 1.6 to 2.85 times its metal content. This coin, double the size and weight of a silver dime, is the staple in the Roman economy.
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