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Ancient Roman currency was a complex set of coins made from a variety of different metals that carried different denominations. It was decidedly modern, with standards of minting aesthetics that are still applied today. One of the most sought-after coins of Ancient Rome was the Aureus (pl. aurei), a gold coin that originally equivalent to 25 silver denarii. The aureus was a gold coin that was the standard form of gold currency for the Roman Empire from the 1st century BC, to the latter part of the 4th century BC. Originally made in limited quantities with the same size as the denarius, the aureus was once used as a form of payment for large transactions. It was only during the reign of Gaius Julius Caesar that the minting of gold aurei became more frequent, with much of the material being used to make them coming from booty or plunder as the empire of Rome continuously expanded.
The gold aureus was an off-limits coin to other parts of the Roman Empire, which had to settle for the more commonplace silver, copper, and bronze coins that were everyman's currency at the time. It was only produced in the Caput Mundi of the Roman Empire (Rome proper) and was used chiefly by the patricians and the elite. The weight of the aureus was standardized by Caesar to be at about 8 grams total (1/40th of a Roman pound), with a value equivalent to 25 silver denarii or 1 / 100th of a sestertius.
Roman currency was notorious for its debasement, with the expanding empire's economy constantly harangued by repeated fluctuations of inflation and deflation. Despite this, the aureus remained strongly pure retaining its value until the time of its discontinuation during the reign of Constantine I.
Because the aureus was a standard coin of the realm for Rome, its use was restricted only to investments and hedge money against the effect of economic upheavals and was used in much the same way as bullion coins are today. Made of pure gold, it bore the image of various Roman rulers, and despite its limited production, it was a highly popular coin at the time. While the rest of the Roman currency experienced devaluation due to the ever-decreasing amount of precious metal used in the creation of its standard currency – the denarius – aurei only experienced minor changes in its standard weight twice (once during Nero's reign, and finally during the time of Carcalla). Smaller denominations of gold coinage were also issued throughout the span of the Roman empire, with aurei slowly becoming relegated to vaults as investment money, or as means to introduce plundered wealth to Rome's coffers. Due to its purity and rarity, aurei are highly sought after by collectors and investors as both bullion material and as a collectible coin. With Rome's economic inflation ever increasing with no end in sight due to the decline of the value of denarii, the aureus soon became the most valuable Roman coin, until it was replaced by the Solidus, another gold coin, by the latter part of the 4th century BC.
Gold Aureus - References:
Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for coinandbullionpages.com © coinandbullionpages.com 2012
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