A Brief History of Roman Coinage

The Roman Empire created one of the world’s earliest most advanced coinage systems, examples of which you can purchase from Artemission.com.

Rise of a superpower

Rome was first governed by a series of Etruscan kings, until its citizens rose up to establish the Roman Republic in 510 BC. Rome then conquered large swathes of Southern Europe and North Africa to become the dominant power in the Mediterranean. The state transitioned from Republic to Empire in 23 AD with the rule of Augustus, soon becoming the wealthiest state in the ancient world.

Origins of Roman coinage  

Wealth played an enormous role in Roman society and a person’s rank depended on their wealth. The early Republic followed the example of prosperous Greek city states, and created a coinage system to denote wealth, starting roughly in the 4th Century B.C.

This system was primarily composed of copper coins in its infancy, but as Rome conquered its neighbours, it built up a store of precious metals such as gold and silver. This led to the introduction of a whole new coinage system in 211 B.C., with the first appearance of now iconic silver coins such as the ‘denarius’ and the ‘victoriatus.’  By the 1st Century B.C., Roman money had become the de facto currency of the Mediterranean world that by that time, it largely ruled.

Tool of propaganda

The nature of Rome changed as it evolved into an Empire during the reign of Julius Caesar, and its coinage system was no exception. It was during this period, under the legendary general’s direction, that the Romans first started strategically depicting images of famous faces and monuments on their coins.

The Emperors essentially turned the Roman currency system into a propaganda tool, which they could use to reinforce their authority throughout the realm they controlled. This practise would continue as Rome entered its imperial heyday, especially with the introduction of the gold ‘aureus’ coin.

Lost to History

The empire was gradually weakened by a series of internal conflicts, outside Barbarian incursions and endemic corruption. It fell to the Visigoth Odoacer in 476 A.D., and Rome’s coins couldn’t survive its demise. The production of coinage in the occupied Western Roman Empire largely ceased in 480 A.D.

However nothing is ever truly lost, and the memory of this iconic currency lingered in the consciousness of Western Europe as it entered the Dark Ages. Many examples of Roman coinage such as the sestertii and denarii have survived to this day. You can buy a wide selection of authentic roman coins from Artemission’s Roman Coins section.


Artemission.com (Atticart Ltd.) is the leading antiquities gallery online. Starting the very first internet site dealing with authentic antiquities, Artemission specialise in ancient art from Egypt, the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia, as well as Islamic Art and Ancient Coins.


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