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Roman Bronze Denominations Print E-mail

Image
“ Nummularii” sketched by Marvin Tameanko from Roman Funerary monument in Landesmuseum Trier

 

(courtesy of Mark Lehman)

In the early Roman Empire, the Ae's - brass, bronze, or copper - denominations were clearly defined.  With little exception, the individual coin-denominations were easily distinguished from one other by considerations of size, metal, and design. Early numismatists, in order to streamline classification, came up with the system of description below:

(Inflation drove all these earlier denominations out of circulation in the mid-third century A.D. The classification-system of AE 1, AE 2, AE 3, & AE 4 is therefore used to describe the bronze coins of the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., the denominations of which are generally unclear, of the same approximate sizes as the coins of the early empire.)

 

"AE 1", or "First Bronze", referred to the SESTERTIUS (worth four ASSES) - the sestertius was the denomination of account, in which prices or sums were reckoned in the Republic and early Empire.  Four SESTERTII equaled one DENARIUS, a solid silver coin a little bigger than a US "Dime".  One denarius was approximately one day's pay for a common soldier or craftsman in the first century A.D.  The early sestertius was a "Crown" or "Silver Dollar" sized brass coin, golden in color when new.

AE 1 refers to a coin of 28 mm or larger. 

"AE 2", or "Second Bronze", referred to both the DUPONDIUS and similar-sized AS. The dupondius was worth half a sestertius, or two asses. The DUPONDIUS was distinguished from the AS (made of copper or bronze) by being made of golden-colored brass and having a radiate crown for male portraits, or bust-on-crescent for women.  Both the DUPONDIUS and AS were about the size of a US "Sacagawea" dollar or a little larger.

AE 2 refers to a coin between 23 mm and 27mm.

"AE 3", or "Third Bronze", referred to the SEMIS, worth one-half an AS. The semis could be made of brass, bronze or copper and could have any sort of headgear on the bust. The semis was about the size of a US "Nickel".

AE 3 refers to a coin between 18 mm and 22 mm

"AE 4", or "Fourth Bronze", referred to the QUADRANS, worth one quarter of an AS.  The quadrans was usually made of copper or bronze and seldom carried an imperial bust.  The quadrans was usually smaller than a US "Dime".

AE 4 refers to a coin 17 mm. in diameter, or smaller.

Roman Denominations 280BC - 383 AD

(courtesy of Mike Dalka)

 

 
280 BC

All denominations struck in bronze

  DENOMINATION

  VALUE

  Uncia

  Base unit of value

 Sextans

 2 Uncia

 Quadrans

 3 Uncia

 Triens

 4 Uncia

 Semis

 6 Uncia

 As

 12 Uncia

 

1 AD

  DENOMINATION

  MATERIAL

  VALUE

 Uncia

Bronze

1/12 As

 Quadrans

Bronze

1/4 As

 Semis

Orichalcum

1/2 As

  As

  Copper

  Base unit of value

 Dupondius

 Orichalcum

 2 Asses

 Sestertius

 Orichalcum

 4 Asses

 Double Sestertius

 Orichalcum

 8 Asses

 Quintarias

 Silver

 8 Asses

 Denarius

 Silver

 16 Asses

 Antoninianus †

 Bronze (infrequently, Silver)

 2 Denarii

 Quinarius

 Gold

 12 1/2 Denarii

 Aureus

 Gold

 25 Denarii

† Denomination added by Caracalla in 214 AD

 

294 AD (Diocletian's Reform)

  DENOMINATION

  MATERIAL

  VALUE

 Laureate

 Bronze

 1/5 Follis

 Radiate

 Bronze

 2/5 Follis

  Follis

  5% Silver alloy

  Base unit of value

 Half-Argenteus

 Silver

 2 1/2 Folles

 Argenteus

 Silver

 5 Folles

 Quarter-Aureus

 Gold

 30 Folles

 Quinarius

 Gold

 60 Folles

 Aureus

 Gold

 120 Folles

 

 

Roman Denominations 280BC - 383 AD (cont'd)

 

 

318 AD (Constantine's Reform)

  DENOMINATION

  MATERIAL

  VALUE

 AE4

 Bronze, under 17mm

 Unclear

 AE3

 Bronze, 17-22mm

 Unclear

 AE2

 Bronze, 21-25mm

 Unclear

 AE1

 Bronze, over25mm

 Unclear

 Light Half-Siliqua ‡

 Silver

 1/288th Roman Pound

 Heavy Half Siliqua ‡

 Silver

 ¾ Siliqua

 Light Siliqua

 Silver

 1/144 Roman Pound

  Siliqua

  Silver

  Base unit of value

 Miliarense

 Silver

 1.33 Siliquae

 Heavy Siliqua

 Silver

 1.5 Siliquae

 Heavy Miliarense

 Silver

 5.4g Silver

 Triple Miliarense

 Silver

 4 Siliquae

 1 ½ Scripulum

 Gold

 9 Siliquae

 Semissis

 Gold

 12 Siliquae (1/2 solidus)

 Solidus

 Gold

 24 Siliquae

‡ Different weights used in the provinces resulted in differing buying power between the coins despite their similarities.

 

 

Coinage additions after 347

 

AE Centenionialis = 100 old Denarii

 (Bronze, 23mm until 354, then 18mm - FEL TEMP REPARATIO series)

I
AE Centenionalis = 100 old Denarii

(Bronze, 15mm after 354 - SPES REIPVBLICAE  series)

AE Maiorina = Possibly the same as AE Centenionalis or AE1

AE Half-Centenionalis = 50 old denarii
(1% Silver)

 

  Coinage addition by Theodosius c. 383

  AU Tremissis = .33 Solidus (Gold)

 

This data was compiled from the tables at Beastcoins.com and from Roman Coin Denominations by Paul Landsberg