Page images

B.C., regulating the issue of the coinage, the crime of adulterating the money is threatened with death.? . On the conquest of Athens by Macedon, at the end of the fourth century B.C., the autonomous Athenian coinage was largely superseded by the Macedonian regal issues, and did not recover its position until late in the next century. It was renewed in a different form, with none of the old archaism, of which the occasion was past. The coins of the new style exemplify the thin flat fabric of the period, and although the types of Athena and the owl are preserved, their arrangement is much more complicated. The new head of Athena is a copy from the colossal ivory and gold statue which Pheidias made, and on the reverse of the coins the owl and olive spray are accompanied by many new devices, of which the most remarkable are the names, symbols, and monograms of the monetary magistrates ; eminent personages sometimes figure in this place. On the coins exhibited (No. 29; fig. 71) one of the officials is Antiochos, who was afterwards Epiphanes, king of Syria. The circulation of the new coinage was even greater than that of the old, and it went on until the beginning of the Roman Empire.

In the interval between the old and new coinages, when the Athenian money was scanty, the currency was supplied by the regal issues of the Macedonian kings and their successors. Macedon was not properly a Greek country, and it was governed by a monarchy which, under Philip II. and his son Alexander the Great, extended its dominion by conquest, not only over the isolated Greek cities, but over the ancient empire of Persia. The opportunity was thus provided for a universal coinage, and it was realised in the gold and silver issues of Philip and Alexander (Nos. 30, 31; fig. 7n-9). The acquisition of the Thracian gold-mines gave Philip the means for an abundant coinage of gold, the first considerable Greek issue of the kind, which contributed in no small measure to his political success. The style of these coins of Philip is not different from that of other Greek money, except that they are inscribed with a personal name—of Philip-instead of the name of a whole people, and the types, a horse and jockey and a twohorse chariot, are also personal, as they commemorate the racing successes of the king. The fine heads on the obverse, however, are still divine, that of Zeus appearing on the silver and the young Apollo on the gold, for the idea of representing a living personage

Michel, Recucil des inscr. grecques, No. 8.

on a coin was still distant. Of this money the gold especially was struck in enormous quantities, and the types were imitated more and more crudely as time went on in Gaul and Britain. The coinage of Alexander was even more widely spread. His types were more orthodox than those of Philip: the head of Athena and a Victory on the gold, and the head of young Herakles, wrapped in the lion-skin, with a figure of Zeus enthroned, on the silver staters, although in the head of Herakles there is some suggestion of the features of Alexander. These coins were struck all over the world which Alexander conquered, and lasted after his death as the money of his successors and of independent cities, in some cases even for two centuries, but the kings who divided his great empire modified the type by introducing real portraits of Alexander, as a deified hero, and later of themselves, as living deities, so that the representation of a ruler's head on coins, which is still practised to-day, owes its origin to the religious character of Greek coin-types. The regularity of the Greek coinage which Alexander established was only temporary, and his influence was fast disappearing when the subjection of the world by the Romans in the first century B.C. merged all provincial issues in the complete uniformity of the Imperial mint. Roman Coins.-As gold in the Asiatic

Fig. 8.—A ES SIGNATUM coastlands and silver in European Greece,

(No. 32). 1:3. so in Italy the native medium of exchange was copper. In the earliest times the raw metal was circulated in broken knobs of indefinite weight (aes rude), which required in all transactions the use of scales. The rude metal was afterwards superseded by cast ingots of an oblong shape, which bore a device to indicate their purpose as money (aes signatum). Yet the weights were still irregular, and no mark of value accompanied the types, so that the pieces were not strictly coins. A survival of this primitive currency is seen in the large ingot which has on one side a tripod and on the other an anchor (No. 32; fig. 8). This piece belongs to a later period, when the lighter coined money was already in use, and must probably be regarded as intended for religious or ceremonial purposes, in which the


ancient traditions were preserved. Such were the transactions of marriage (cf. p. 29) or sale of property (per aes et libram), or dedications to the gods. The first coinage of Rome was less massive than this, but being entirely of copper, was still inconveniently large and cumbrous (aes grave). The Roman of the fourth century B.C., when he found it necessary to transport any considerable sum, took his money about with him in a waggon. The use of copper for a token currency, as in Greece, was not possible without a superior coinage of gold or silver to secure its value.

A typical series of the Roman heavy copper money is exhibited (No. 33; fig. 9). The system is based on the pound of twelve


Fig. 9.—AES GRAVE (No. 33). As, SEMIS, QUADRANS, AND UNCIA. 1: 2. ounces, and the denominations of the various pieces are distinguished by the heads or obverse types, and by the marks of value which they bear. The series consists of the As, or pound (1), the half, Semis (S), the third, Triens, of four ounces (....), the quarter, Quadrans, of three ounces (...), the sixth, Sextans, of two ounces (. ), and the Uncia, or ounce, the lower unit( : ). Each of these is further differentiated by the obverse head. The as has the double head of Janus, the god of beginnings, whose coin opened the series of money as his month begins the year. The semis has the head of Jupiter, wearing a laurel wreath; the triens, Minerva armed; the quadrans, Hercules in the lion-skin; the sextans, Mercury, the messenger, with wings in his cap; and the uncia, a head of Bellona, the goddess of battle. All the reverses have a common type, the prow of a ship. This device

? Livy, iv. 60.

[graphic][graphic][merged small][merged small][graphic][graphic][subsumed][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][merged small]

may mark the date of the introduction of the Roman coinage, which coincided with Rome's first essays on the sea, in the middle of the fourth century before Christ. It remained as the reverse type of the copper money all through the Republic; and even in later times, when a coin was tossed, the choice of sides was “ heads or ships."

The heavy bronze coinage of the city of Rome was only one among many similar currencies of the central Italian states. As the Romans conquered the neighbouring territories, where there existed local weight-systems, which, in the interests of commerce, it was well to preserve, instead of imposing their own money, they inaugurated subordinate issues at the dependent mints. On this principle it was natural that when the march of Roman conquest came upon the peoples of South Italy, where a silver currency had been long ago introduced by the Greek colonists, a local issue for those parts was instituted as a subsidiary coinage. To this class of Roman money belongs the silver stater or didrachm with Campanian types (the head of Mars and the bust of a horse) which was struck by the Romans-as the legend ROMANO(rum) shews-in Capua for the use of the Campanian district (No. 34; fig. 10a). The commerce of the city of Rome did not yet need a silver currency, but with the extension of power and territory the old copper pieces were inadequate, and in the year 268 B.C. a silver coinage was begun at Rome itself. At the same time thè Campanian mint was closed, and the heavy copper coins, being subordinated to the silver unit, were issued as tokenmoney in a reduced and more convenient size.

The first Roman silver coinage bears the types of the goddess Roma, wearing a winged helmet, and on the reverse the patron deities of trade and commerce, Castor and Pollux, the Heavenly Twins or Dioscuri (No. 35; fig. 1061). They are armed with spears and ride on horseback, with their stars above their heads. These types occur on all three denominations of the earliest silver, the Denarius (marked x), which was worth 10 asses; its half, the Quinarius (V); and the Sestertius (118) of 21 asses, which became the unit in reckoning accounts. The two smallest silver pieces were not always struck; but the denarius, with the reduced copper for small denominations, remained in use during the period of the Republic at Rome and long into the Empire. Although both series had a great variety of types, the fabric and general appearance were unaltered.

Macr. Sat. i. 7, 22.

« PreviousContinue »