What Type Of Money Was Used In Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome’s money used to be in the form of metallic coins and banknotes. In the early days of Rome, trade was barter-based, with no coins existing. This lasted for almost three centuries, until the arrival of the first coins around 300 BC. These coins were made of bronze, gold, and silver. As time went on, Rome introduced more coins, including denominations such as quadrans, sestertii, asses, and denarii. The most iconic was the aureus, which was a small gold coin, the value of which ranged from 25 denarii to 40 denarii.

In ancient Rome, coins had to be physically produced, and a lot of effort was put into their design. Coins would often feature the image of the emperor, gods, or goddesses on one side, and symbols of Rome on the other. Coins were kept in money purses and stored in homes. The Roman Senate issued laws regulating the value of different coins, as they were seen as a form of political propaganda.

In the later years of Rome, it wasn’t just coins that were used for currency. Banknotes, called ‘bills of exchange’, were introduced around 15 BC. These bills of exchange were issued by the merchants and traders, and came in denominations ranging from 10 denarii to 1,000 denarii. This addition of banknotes greatly improved the efficiency of transactions, and impacted Ancient Roman culture for centuries to come.

Banking System

The banking system in Ancient Rome was quite sophisticated, with merchant banks and credit unions existing. Traders and merchants would often store their coins in these banks. Many of these banks also provided services like money lending and currency exchange. Furthermore, the banks allowed traders and merchants to pay wages to their employees, instead of having to go through the messy process of bartering.

The banking system also introduced the concept of fractional-reserve banking, in which a fraction of the deposits were kept as reserve, while the rest were lent out to traders and merchants. This allowed the money to move around the economy, and stimulated economic growth. The banking system helped Ancient Rome become one of the most prosperous empires of its time.


Rome also saw the introduction of taxes to fund its public works. Taxes were collected in the form of coins, and were used to pay for infrastructure projects, military campaigns, and other public expenditures. Taxes in Rome were progressive, meaning that the richer one grew, the more taxes one had to pay.

Taxes were collected from all Romans, from the poorest to the wealthiest. Tax collection was a major industry in Ancient Rome, and tax collectors had wide-ranging powers to collect taxes from the citizens. Taxation in Ancient Rome not only allowed the state to finance its public works, but also served as an important source of revenue for the government, which allowed the state to grow and develop.

Issuing of Imperial Deeds

When Rome began to expand, it saw the need for a form of currency that was not physical, but was instead written on a document. This led to the introduction of Imperial Deeds, which were government-issued tokens that promised the holder a certain sum of money. Imperial Deeds could be exchanged for goods and services, and could often be transferred to another person. These deeds had immense value, as they were a form of government-backed currency.

The issuing of Imperial Deeds allowed Rome to spread its influence, by giving traders and merchants access to a form of currency that was backed by the state. With these deeds, traders were able to move money around the empire, leading to increased economic activity. This system of Imperial Deeds was used until the fall of the Roman Empire.

Shopkeepers and Coinage

The coins of Ancient Rome were mainly made of bronze, gold, and silver. Shopkeepers would often test coins to make sure they were genuine. They used specific tests for each metal, such as weighing the coin, tapping it to see if it needed to be filled in, and looking for surface veins or cracks. These tests meant that shopkeepers could easily distinguish fake coins from real ones.

The coins of Ancient Rome were also influenced by politics. During the era of the Roman Empire, Coins were often seen as propaganda, with the emperor’s face being featured on them. Coins were also an easy way to spread a message, as they were easy to transport and shared. This allowed the emperor to spread his influence and build loyalty among his people.

Securing Values

Rome also used coins to ensure its values were kept. When coins were issued, they had specific values, which were seen as a representation of Rome’s social and political order. These coins were seen as a sign of status, and Roman citizens often paid huge sums of money for them. Coins were also used in rituals or ceremonies, as they were seen as symbolic of wealth and status.

Coins served as a form of political self-promotion for the citizens as well. For example, a citizen might pay a higher amount for coins with a certain emperor’s face on it, just to show that he supported that ruler. This sometimes led to an increase in the demand for coins with certain rulers’ faces on them, leading to coins being overvalued.

Coinage and Development

The coinage system of Ancient Rome helped shape the world we know today. Coins were instrumental in helping the Roman economy grow, as they allowed money to be moved around the empire easily and quickly. The introduction of banknotes also helped boost trade, as they allowed traders and merchants to easily transfer money without having to worry about collecting physical coins.

Finally, coins served as a form of political propaganda, spreading the word of the emperor. Coins would also often feature the image of gods and goddesses, which helped the Romans to develop their culture and beliefs. Ultimately, the coins and banknotes of Ancient Rome helped the empire to reach its golden age.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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