Ancient Roman Republic Coins

Coins from the ancient Roman Republic bore witness to a unique period in history and in numismatics. For many years, Roman silver denarii were minted by minor officials who were allowed to choose the types and legends present on the coin. Given the dynamic politics present in Roman society and the relative survival of Latin as a language today, each of the many varieties of these coins tells a unique story that remains comprehensible in modernity.

The Roman Republic initially minted most of its coins out of bronze. The silver denarius, the Roman Republic's most popular coin, did not arise until later, after Rome had conquered regions rich in silver, such as Syracuse. Indeed, Rome's conquests featured prominently on the denarius: new denarii were minted after major conquests, celebrating the victory.

Oftentimes, the events depicted on Roman coins are the only way to accurately assess their age, as Roman coins typically do not include the date among their various legends. Archaeological context can also be used to help determine the dates of these coins, with many scholars assembling catalogs approximating which types of Roman Republic coins were minted during particular years.


Quick Facts

  • Coinage primarily spread in usage throughout the Roman Republic as a means to quickly and effectively pay the Roman legions, contrasting much of the rest of the ancient world, which used it to facilitate trade
  • Gold coins were incredibly scarce in the Roman Republic and were only minted for a couple of years throughout its history as an emergency supply. This changed with the rise of Julius Caeser and the Roman Empire
  • The Roman Republic operated 34 mints with branches on three different continents. Despite this range, no Roman mint was ever established in Britannia: the closest mint to that edge of the Republic was in Lugdunum, now known as Lyon, France.

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