The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession

By Peter L. Bernstein | Go to book overview

4
The Symbol
and the Faith

As we move along, past the fall of the Roman Empire and toward the rise of new empires to the east, gold becomes even more important than it had been in earlier times, both as adornment and as money. Powers come and go, monetary systems wax and wane, new sources of gold open up, but the focus on gold is a constant that links one era to the next. Nothing else serves better for a nation seeking power.

In AD 200, when the Roman Empire was about the same age as the United States of America in AD 2000, the capital of the empire was losing its control over the outer territories, but Roman coins were still in circulation everywhere. Like the U.S. dollar, Roman money had lost purchasing power and, in some areas, the deep respect it had once deserved, but it was nevertheless the only money that circulated throughout the empire.

Then, as Rome’s European dominions succumbed to the invasions and depredations of the barbarians, Rome’s common currency vanished.

-52-

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