Coinage in Roman Imperial Policy, 31 B.C.-A.D. 68

By C. H. V. Sutherland | Go to book overview

I THE IMPERIAL COINAGE FORESHADOWED

THE coinage of the Roman Empire developed, logically and without a break, from that of the Republic. Its form, its physical content, its place in the economic and political life of the state, were dictated by those same factors which successfully and smoothly transmuted a republican into a monarchical polity. Successive principles from Augustus onwards, who maintained an absolute control over virtually every element of coinage in the Mediterranean world, brought no new theories to the exercise of this task. Their indisputable authority in the field of coinage derived with full strength from two considerations. One of these--the acceptance of the fact that coinage is the prerogative of the supreme authority of the state, by which alone it may secure and enjoy credit and currency-- had been clearly recognized ever since a central and official Roman coinage was instituted in the third century B.C. The second emerged clearly only when it was seen, at a much later date, that the supreme authority of the state might, by the wholesale abandonment of purely traditional principles such as the circumscribed delegation of imperium, the collegiate system of magistracies, and the activity of genuine popular assemblies, be vested in the personal leadership of a single supreme war-lord.

The responsibility for the production of Roman coinage had been originally centralized in a state-board of three officers, at first charged with the coinage of aes alone, and later (when silver and--in exceptional circumstances--gold coins were also required) styled tresviri aere argento auro flando feriundo, usually abbreviated into the form IIIviri a.a.a.f.f. and often, for greater convenience, IIIviri montales.1

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1
BMCRep. i, pp. lx ff. This work of Grueber's provides the fullest and most detailed survey of the coinage of the Roman Republic, but subsequent research has shown its chronology and arrangement to be faulty. H. Mattingly , E. S. G. Robinson, "The earliest coinage of Rome in modern studies", Num. Chron.5 sviii ( 1938), pp. 1 ff., have surveyed the views developed by later scholars, the chief turning point being their own These officers, during

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