Silver denarius was centerpiece of Rome’s currency for centuries

Most famous ancient coin is silver ‘Eid Mar’ denarius
By , Coin World
Published : 08/23/16
Text Size

Editor's note: this is the second part of a story exploring some of the various coins that have "something" special about them. The original feature appears in the September monthly issue of Coin World.

Just as the Greeks had a signature silver coin, the Roman denarius (plural: denarii) was the centerpiece of the Roman currency system.

The small silver coin was first minted about 211 B.C. during the Second Punic War, and became the most common coin produced for circulation, remaining useful long after memories of the war had faded. 

Over centuries, the coin’s weight and silver content diminished until being replaced by the double denarius, called the antoninianus, early in the third century A.D.

Connect with Coin World:  

Originally worth 10 bronze asses, the denarius coins were redenominated to 16 asses in 145 B.C., a value that was fixed until the final denarii were struck in the 240s A.D. 

Early denarii feature the head of Roma, patroness of the city, on the obverse. The reverse features the Dioscuri, known individually as Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of Zeus and Leda. These young gods became widely popular as protectors in a moment of crisis, and a temple was built in their honor. 

As the decades passed, designs for the denomination made way for the political realities of a world where the moneyers (those who struck the coins) and later the rulers themselves, highlighted their own achievements, relationships, or both.

Eid Mar

The pinnacle of self-promotion via numismatic means in ancient Roman times, however, was the Eid Mar silver denarius.

The circa late autumn 42 B.C. silver denarius is known as the Eid Mar or “Ides of March” coin for the Latin legend EID MAR on the reverse. The reference is to the assassination of the megalomaniacal dictator Julius Caesar two years earlier, on March 15, 44 B.C. 

You are signed in as:null

Please sign in or join to share your thoughts on this story

No comments yet