How did roman money work?

bob bobato

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Could someone explain to me what ancient roman money coins were, how much they were worth and how much things cost? And how much money would an average person make?
 

Elrohir

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Assuming you don't mind Wikipedia links. As this isn't anything controversial, I don't see a problem.

An average days work for an unskilled laborer or soldier in the Roman army was one silver denarius. A denarius was worth ten asses, if you can believe the name. Twenty-five denarius, or 250 asses, made one gold aureus. A sesterce was a very common coin, worth about one-fourth of a denarius, or two and one half asses. A dupondius was worth two asses, or one half of a sesterce, or one eighth of a denarius.

See more here. I hope that helped some.
 

1889

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I didn't know currency was that common until the 13th century. Was barter mostly a thing of the past by the time of the Roman Empire?
 

bob bobato

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Assuming you don't mind Wikipedia links. As this isn't anything controversial, I don't see a problem.

An average days work for an unskilled laborer or soldier in the Roman army was one silver denarius. A denarius was worth ten asses, if you can believe the name. Twenty-five denarius, or 250 asses, made one gold aureus.
So an unskilled worker made about 25 auri(?) a year? That doesn't seem like a lot.
 

Knight-Dragon

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You'll also have to consider which period of the Roman imperium we want to talk about. IIRC the coinage was continually being debased by the emperors, to finance their army and various projects. So towards the end, the real value had dropped significantly and there was continual massive inflation. The Romans didn't really have anything like a central bank, in the modern sense.
 

Adler17

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Weel I once read a book, about 15-20 years ago, that a DM was worth one Sesterz (about). That means an unskilled labourer would get 4 DM a day, making it 2.500 DM a year (DM in the value of 1985).
However according to my sources the average soldier under Domitian got 300 Denarii= 12 Aurii (=1.250 DM).
So it would be nice to see the prices of the goods.

Adler
 

Atticus

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So an unskilled worker made about 25 auri(?) a year? That doesn't seem like a lot.

Aurei, and 365/25 =14.6, not 25. It's impossible to say is it a lot by just the numbers, and you have to consider also what standards were back then. Maybe more inofrmative would be to ask how much there were hungry and homeless people. At least at the end of the republic in the city of Rome free grain was given to some tens of thousands of the poorest people.
 

bob bobato

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[/I][/I][/I]
Aurei, and 365/25 =14.6, not 25.

Im sure it does. For some reson I devided 625 by 25:confused: , even though I meant to devide 300 by 25 (taking religious holidays).

I read a book from the 1950`s that said how much things cost, but the the only roman price it used was for bath house admission (4 quadrans, I think). Instead it used then american equivalents. I think it said a year of school would cost 3$ and food in a inn some amount of cents (3-4, i think)
 

Plotinus

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I didn't know currency was that common until the 13th century. Was barter mostly a thing of the past by the time of the Roman Empire?

There's a very interesting discussion of the purpose of currency in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Normally one would think that currency is supposed to replace bartering, but Aristotle thinks it developed to make it easier: you could assign a numerical value to each item, and that would allow everyone to agree on (say) how many chickens there were to the cow.

In answer to your question, though, bartering actually came back in the third century, when the Roman currency effectively collapsed throughout most of the western empire. Rampant inflation and ridiculous corruption, together with the debasing of the material of the coins themselves, made official coins virtually valueless. Trade between regions also ground to a halt during this period. So people used locally minted, illegal coins of inferior quality for much of that time, or simply gave up on currency as a bad idea and went back to arguing about the relative values of cows and chickens. You don't really need currency when you're only dealing with local producers. Now Diocletian's reforms at the end of the third century, which included the licensing of many new offical mints, helped to restore the value of the denarius; the suppression of the Germanic barbarians and various usurpers from within the empire also restored inter-regional trade during this period. However, this was really papering over the cracks. The local economies that had developed during this time, together with the loss of respect for imperial currency, never really went away. When the empire really crumbled in the fifth century, currency crumbled with it, and everyone went back to bartering for centuries. Only in the early Middle Ages did currency regain the importance it had last had at the height of the Roman empire. And only in the later Middle Ages did inter-regional trade really pick up pace again, which helped to undermine the feudal system that had, in part, developed as a result of the local economies that had appeared when the denarius went into free-fall.

The problem of how to restore the Roman economy will be one of the challenges facing the player in my Britannia! scenario - assuming I ever get around to finishing it!
 

Elrohir

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There's a very interesting discussion of the purpose of currency in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Normally one would think that currency is supposed to replace bartering, but Aristotle thinks it developed to make it easier: you could assign a numerical value to each item, and that would allow everyone to agree on (say) how many chickens there were to the cow.
But what if my chickens are fatter and tastier than yours? :crazyeye:
 

7ronin

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So it would be nice to see the prices of the goods.
Adler

1st century AD Prices
1 loaf bread 1 dupondius (=2 As ; in Rome)
1 sextarius wine (~0.5 liter) 1 - 5 as
1 sextarius fine wine up to 30 as
a bath at a public bath 1/4 as
1 tunika (clothing) 15 sestertii
1 donkey 500 sestertii
1 slave 2000 sestertii = 500 denarii (up to 1500)
1 female slave 2000 - 6000 denarii
1 plot of land (size?) 1000 sestertii = 250 denarii
 
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