The non-numismatic press often jumbles numismatic facts, but this article from the Daily Astoria (from somewhere in Oregon, I think) seems a pretty good overview of Roman coin denominations.
Understanding your Roman treasure coin starts with what may seem like its unlikely connection... to cattle.
One of the Latin words for money is “pecunia,” which originates from the Latin word for “cattle.” In Roman times, cattle provided sustenance, security and an indication of affluence. With cattle you could buy all of life’s necessities and measure your wealth compared to others both within your culture and outside of it.
But trading cattle for goods became increasingly cumbersome in the soon sprawling Roman lands. It just wasn’t practical to drive cattle great distances.
In response, crude, shapeless heavy coins were cast in bronze in the fifth century BC. Sometime during the third century BC, Roman coins began to carry images of animals, tridents and shields.
Next came the coinage that was to be the forerunner of all coinage to come. Called “aes grave” (heavy bronze), the coins were still cast, but were circular. Later, around 211 BC, Romans issued the first coins that were uniquely their own.
These are the solidus, denarius, sestarius and quinarius. At last, Roman coins as we think of them were produced - struck coinage that came to be recognized throughout the republic, and later, the empire. These coins bear the image of the emperor, legends (written script) on the obverse and reverse, and deities, personifications, military images, civic images and symbols on the reverse. Struck in bronze, silver and gold, these coins were minted throughout the empire, on and off, as it expanded and contracted throughout the centuries.
To read the complete article, see:
Roman currency: How a cow became a coin
Wayne Homren, Editor
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