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The denarius (, dēnāriī ) was the standard
Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter in the New Testament of the Christian Bible Roman ...
silver coin from its introduction in the
Second Punic War The Second Punic War, which lasted from 218 to 201BC, was the second of three wars fought between Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient , on the eastern side of the in what is now . Carthage was the most important trading ...
to the reign of
Gordian III Gordian III ( la, Marcus Antonius Gordianus; 20 January 225 – 11 February 244) was Roman emperor from 238 to 244. At the age of 13, he became the youngest sole Roman emperor. Gordian was the son of Antonia Gordiana and Junius Balbus who died be ...
(AD 238–244), when it was gradually replaced by the
Antoninianus (silver Silver is a chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substance consisting only of atoms that all have t ...
. It continued to be minted in very small quantities, likely for ceremonial purposes, until and through the
tetrarchy The Tetrarchy was the system instituted by Roman Emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles throughout history. Often when ...
(293–313). The word ''dēnārius'' is derived from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
''dēnī'' "containing ten", as its value was originally of 10 assēs.Its value was increased to 16 assēs in the middle of the 2nd century BC. The word for "money" descends from it in Italian (''denaro''), Slovene (''denar''), Portuguese (''dinheiro''), and Spanish (''dinero''). Its name also survives in the
dinar The dinar () is the principal currency A currency, "in circulation", from la, currens, -entis, literally meaning "running" or "traversing" in the most specific sense is money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray c ...

dinar
currency. Its symbol is represented in
Unicode Unicode, formally the Unicode Standard, is an information technology standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requireme ...

Unicode
as 𐆖 (U+10196), however it can also be represented as X̶ (capital letter X with combining long stroke overlay).


History

A predecessor of the ''denarius'' was first struck in 269 or 268 BC, five years before the
First Punic War The First Punic War (264–241 BC) was the first of three wars fought between Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus Romulus was the legendary founder and first ...
, with an average weight of 6.81 
gram The gram (alternative spelling: gramme; SI unit symbol: g) is a metric system The metric system is a that succeeded the decimalised system based on the introduced in France in the 1790s. The historical development of these systems culm ...
s, or of a
Roman pound The ancient Roman units of measurement were primarily founded on the Hellenic system, which in turn were influenced by the Egyptian system and the Mesopotamian system. The Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Ita ...
. Contact with the Greeks had prompted a need for silver coinage in addition to the bronze currency that the Romans were using at that time. This predecessor of the ''denarius'' was a Greek-styled silver coin of ''didrachm'' weight, which was struck in
Neapolis
Neapolis
and other Greek cities in southern Italy. These coins were inscribed with a legend that indicated that they were struck for Rome, but in style they closely resembled their Greek counterparts. They were rarely seen at Rome, to judge from finds and hoards, and were probably used either to buy supplies or pay soldiers. The first distinctively Roman silver coin appeared around 226 BC. Classical historians have sometimes called these coins ''heavy denarii'', but they are classified by modern numismatists as ''quadrigati'', a term which survives in one or two ancient texts and is derived from the quadriga, or four-horse chariot, on the reverse,. This, with a two-horse chariot or ''biga'' which was used as a reverse type for some early denarii, was the prototype for the most common designs used on Roman silver coins for a number of years. Rome overhauled its coinage shortly before 211 BC, and introduced the denarius alongside a short-lived denomination called the
victoriatus The victoriatus was a silver coin issued during the Roman Republic from about 221 BC to 170 BC. The obverse of the coin featured the bust of Jupiter Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in the Solar System. It is ...

victoriatus
. The denarius contained an average 4.5 grams, or of a Roman pound, of silver, and was at first tariffed at ten asses, hence its name, which means 'tenner'. It formed the backbone of Roman currency throughout the
Roman republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
and the early empire. The denarius began to undergo slow debasement toward the end of the republican period. Under the rule of
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
(27 BC to AD 14) its weight fell to 3.9 grams (a theoretical weight of of a Roman pound). It remained at nearly this weight until the time of
Nero Nero ( ; full name: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68) was the fifth . He was by the Roman emperor at the age of 13 and succeeded him to the throne. Nero seems to have been popu ...

Nero
(AD 37–68), when it was reduced to of a pound, or 3.4 grams. Debasement of the coin's silver content continued after Nero. Later Roman emperors also reduced its weight to 3 grams around the late 3rd century. The value at its introduction was 10 asses, giving the denarius its name, which translates as "containing ten". In about 141 BC, it was re-tariffed at 16 asses, to reflect the decrease in weight of the as. The denarius continued to be the main coin of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
until it was replaced by the so-called
antoninianus (silver Silver is a chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substance consisting only of atoms that all have t ...
in the early 3rd century AD. The coin was last issued, in bronze, under
Aurelian Aurelian ( la, Lucius Domitius Aurelianus; 9 September 214c. October 275) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different title ...

Aurelian
between AD 270 and 275, and in the first years of the reign of
Diocletian Diocletian (; la, Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus; born Diocles; 22 December c. 244 – 3 December 311) was from 284 to 305. Born to a family of low status in , Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become a commander of ...
. ('Denarius', in ''A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins'', by John R. Melville-Jones (1990)).


Debasement and evolution


Value, comparisons and silver content

1
gold Gold is a chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numb ...

gold
aureus The ''aureus'' ( ''aurei'', 'golden', used as a noun) was a gold coin of ancient Rome originally valued at 25 pure silver ''denarius, denarii''. The ''aureus'' was regularly issued from the 1st century BC to the beginning of the 4th century AD, w ...

aureus
= 2 gold
quinarii
quinarii
= 25 silver denarii = 50
silver Silver is a chemical element In chemistry, an element is a pure Chemical substance, substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers of protons in their atomic nucleus, nuclei. Unlike chemical compounds, chemical ele ...

silver
quinarii
quinarii
= 100
bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals (such as aluminum, manganese, nickel or zinc) and sometimes non-metals or metalloids such as arsenic, phosphorus or ...

bronze
sestertii The sestertius (plural sestertii), or sesterce (plural sesterces), was an Ancient Rome, ancient Roman Roman currency, coin. During the Roman Republic it was a small, silver coin issued only on rare occasions. During the Roman Empire it was a large ...
= 200 bronze dupondii = 400
copper Copper is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Cu (from la, cuprum) and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductility, ductile metal with very high thermal conductivity, thermal and electrical conductivity. A fre ...

copper
asses = 800 copper
semis 200px Rights are law, legal, social, or ethics, ethical principles of Liberty, freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people according to some legal system, social ...

semis
ses = 1,600 copper quadrantes It is difficult to give even rough comparative values for money from before the 20th century, as the range of products and services available for purchase was so different. During the republic (509 BC–27 BC), a legionary earned 112.5 denarii per year (0.3 denarii per day) Under
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened ...

Julius Caesar
, this was doubled to 225 denarii/yr, with soldiers having to pay for their own food and arms, while in the reign of Augustus a
Centurion A centurion (; la, centurio , . la, centuriones, label=none; grc-gre, κεντυρίων, kentyríōn, or ) was a position in the Roman army during classical antiquity, nominally the commander of a centuria, century (), a military unit of aro ...

Centurion
received at least 3,750 denarii per year, and for the highest rank, 15,000 denarii.. By the late
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
and early
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
(), a common soldier or unskilled laborer would be paid 1 denarius/day (with no tax deductions), around 300% inflation compared to the early period. Using the cost of bread as a baseline, this pay equates to around US$20 in 2013 terms. Expressed in terms of the price of silver, and assuming 0.999 purity, a
troy ounce 1 troy ounce (1.097 avoirdupois ounces, 31.1 g) coin example ( Platinum Eagle) File:1000oz.silver.bullion.bar.underneath.jpg, A Good Delivery silver bar weighing Troy weight is a system of Physical unit, units of mass that originated in 15th-ce ...
denarius had a precious metal value of around US$2.60 in 2021. At the height of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
a
sextarius The ancient Roman units of measurement were primarily founded on the Hellenic system, which in turn were influenced by the Egyptian system and the Mesopotamian system. The Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Ita ...
(546ml or about 2 1/4 cups) of ordinary wine cost roughly one
Dupondius The dupondius (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman R ...
(⅛ of a Denarius), after Diocletian's
Edict on Maximum Prices The Edict on Maximum Prices (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" o ...
were issued in AD 301, the same item cost 8 debased common denarii – 6,400% inflation. Silver content plummeted across the lifespan of the denarius. Under the Roman Empire (after
Nero Nero ( ; full name: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68) was the fifth . He was by the Roman emperor at the age of 13 and succeeded him to the throne. Nero seems to have been popu ...

Nero
) the denarius contained approximately 50
grains A grain is a small, hard, dry – with or without an attached or layer – harvested for human or animal consumption. A grain crop is a grain-producing plant. The two main types of commercial grain crops are s and . After being harvested, dry ...
, 3.24 grams, or (0.105ozt)
troy ounce 1 troy ounce (1.097 avoirdupois ounces, 31.1 g) coin example ( Platinum Eagle) File:1000oz.silver.bullion.bar.underneath.jpg, A Good Delivery silver bar weighing Troy weight is a system of Physical unit, units of mass that originated in 15th-ce ...
. The fineness of the silver content varied with political and economic circumstances. From a purity of greater than 90% silver in the 1st century AD, the denarius fell to under 60% purity by AD 200, and plummeted to 5% purity by AD 300. By the reign of
Gallienus Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus (; c. 218 – September 268) was Roman emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of ...

Gallienus
, the ''antoninianus'' was a copper coin with a thin silver wash.


Influence

In the final years of the 1st century BC
Tincomarus Tincomarus (a dithematic name form typical of insular and continental Celtic onomastics, analysable as ''tinco-'', perhaps a sort of fish f Latin ''tinca'', English ''tench''+ ''maro-'', "big") was a king of the Iron Age Belgae, Belgic tribe of ...
, a local ruler in southern Britain, started issuing coins that appear to have been made from melted down ''denarii''. The coins of
Eppillus Eppillus (Celtic The words Celt and Celtic (also Keltic) may refer to: Ethno-linguistics *Celts The Celts (, see pronunciation of ''Celt'' for different usages) are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to ...
, issued around
Calleva Atrebatum Calleva Atrebatum ("Calleva of the Atrebates") was originally an British Iron Age, Iron Age oppidum, settlement, capital of the Atrebates civitas, tribe, and subsequently a town in the Roman province of Britannia. Its ruins lie to the west of, and ...
around the same time, appear to have derived design elements from various ''denarii'' such as those of
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
and
M. Volteius ( ; ; pl. ; ; 1512, from Middle French Middle French (french: moyen français) is a historical division of the French language French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family The Indo-European languages are a la ...
. Even after the ''denarius'' was no longer regularly issued, it continued to be used as a unit of account, and the name was applied to later Roman coins in a way that is not understood. The
Arab The Arabs (singular Arab ; singular ar, عَرَبِيٌّ, : , Arabic pronunciation: , plural ar, عَرَبٌ, : , Arabic pronunciation: ) are an mainly inhabiting the . In modern usage the term refers to those who originate from an Arab co ...

Arab
s who conquered large parts of the land that once belonged to the Eastern Roman Empire issued their own
gold dinar The gold dinar ( ar, ﺩﻳﻨﺎﺭ ذهبي) is an Islamic medieval gold coin first issued in AH 77 (696–697 CE) by Caliph A caliphate ( ar, خِلَافَة, ) is an Islamic state An Islamic state is a form of gove ...
. The lasting legacy of the ''denarius'' can be seen in the use of "d" as the abbreviation for the British
penny A penny is a coin A coin is a small, flat, (usually, depending on the country or value) round piece of metal A metal (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ...

penny
until 1971. It also survived in
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
as the name of a coin, the
denier Denier may refer to: * the French form of ''denarius'' (penny) ** French denier (penny), a type of medieval coin ** Denier (unit), a unit of linear mass density of fibers ** ''Denier'', also ''Denyer'', a French and English surname (probably a me ...
. The denarius also survives in the common Arabic name for a currency unit, the ''
dinar The dinar () is the principal currency A currency, "in circulation", from la, currens, -entis, literally meaning "running" or "traversing" in the most specific sense is money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray c ...

dinar
'' used from pre-Islamic times, and still used in several modern Arab nations. The major currency unit in former
Principality of Serbia The Principality of Serbia ( sr, Кнежевина Србија, Kneževina Srbija) was a semi-independent state in the Balkans The Balkans ( ), also known as the Balkan Peninsula, are a geographic area in southeastern Europe Europe i ...
,
Kingdom of Serbia The Kingdom of Serbia ( sr-cyr, Краљевина Србија, Kraljevina Srbija) was a country located in the Balkans The Balkans ( ), also known as the Balkan Peninsula, are a geographic area in southeastern Europe Europe is a con ...
and former
Yugoslavia Yugoslavia (; sh, Jugoslavija / ; sl, Jugoslavija ; mk, Југославија ;; rup, Iugoslavia; hu, Jugoszlávia; Pannonian Rusyn Image:Novi Sad mayor office.jpg, 250px, Mayor office written in four official languages used in the ...

Yugoslavia
was ''
dinar The dinar () is the principal currency A currency, "in circulation", from la, currens, -entis, literally meaning "running" or "traversing" in the most specific sense is money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray c ...

dinar
'', and it is still used in present-day
Serbia Serbia (, ; Serbian Serbian may refer to: * someone or something related to Serbia, a country in Southeastern Europe * someone or something related to the Serbs, a South Slavic people * in both meanings, depending on the context, it may ref ...

Serbia
. The
Macedonian Macedonian most often refers to someone or something from or related to Macedonia (disambiguation), Macedonia. Macedonian may specifically refer to: People Modern * Macedonians (ethnic group), the South Slavic ethnic group primarily associated w ...
currency ''
denar The dinar () is the principal currency unit in several countries near the Mediterranean Sea, and its historical use is even more widespread. The modern dinar's historical antecedents are the gold dinar, the main coin of the medieval Islamic emp ...
'' is also derived from the Roman denarius. The
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
word ''denaro'', the
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
word ''dinero'', the
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
word ''dinheiro'', and the
Slovene Slovene or Slovenian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Slovenia, a country in Central Europe * Slovene language, a South Slavic language mainly spoken in Slovenia * Slovenes, an ethno-linguistic group mainly living in Slovenia * Sla ...
word ', all meaning money, are also derived from Latin ''denarius''. The pre-decimal currency of the United Kingdom until 1970 of pounds, shillings and pence was abbreviated as
lsd Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also known colloquially as acid, is a psychedelic drug Psychedelics are a class of hallucinogenic drugs A hallucinogen is a psychoactive agent that often or ordinarily causes hallucinations A ...
, with "d" referring to denarius and standing for penny.


Use in the Bible

In the
New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus, as ...

New Testament
, the gospels refer to the denarius as a day's wage for a common laborer ( Matthew 20:2,
John John is a common English name and surname: * John (given name) John is a common English name and surname: * John (given name) * John (surname), including a list of people who have the name John John may also refer to: New Testament Works ...
12:5). In the
Book of Revelation The Book of Revelation (also called the Apocalypse of John, Revelation to John or Revelation from Jesus Christ) is the final book of the New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; ...
, during the Third Seal: Black Horse, a ("quart") of wheat and three quarts of barley were each valued at one denarius. Bible scholar Robert H. Mounce says the price of the wheat and barley as described in the vision appears to be ten to twelve times their normal cost in ancient times.The New International Commentary on the New Testament, "The Book of Revelation," p. 155) Revelation thus describes a condition where basic goods are sold at greatly inflated prices. Thus, the depicts times of deep scarcity or famine, but not of starvation. Apparently, a choinix of wheat was the daily ration of one adult. Thus, in the conditions pictured by
Revelation 6 Revelation 6 is the sixth chapter of the Book of Revelation The Book of Revelation (also called the Apocalypse of John, Revelation to John or Revelation from Jesus Christ) is the final book of the New Testament The New Testament grc, ...
, the normal income for a working-class family would buy enough food for only one person. The less costly barley would feed three people for one day's wages. The denarius is also mentioned in the Parable of the Good Samaritan ( Luke 10:25–37). The
Render unto Caesar "Render unto Caesar" is the beginning of a phrase attributed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels, which reads in full, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" (). This phrase has become a widely quo ...
passage in Matthew 22:15–22 and Mark 12:13–17 uses the word (δηνάριον) to describe the coin held up by Jesus, translated in the King James Bible as " tribute penny". It is commonly thought to be a denarius with the head of Tiberius.


See also

* Denarius of L. Censorinus, for the detailed description of a specific Roman denarius *
Dupondius The dupondius (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman R ...
*
French denier Image:Denier Charlemagne1.jpg, Denier of Charlemagne. AD 768–814. 21mm, 1.19 g, Toulouse mint. The denier ( la, denarius; . d.) or penny was a medieval coin which takes its name from the Frankish empire, Frankish coin first issued in the la ...
*
Gold Dinar The gold dinar ( ar, ﺩﻳﻨﺎﺭ ذهبي) is an Islamic medieval gold coin first issued in AH 77 (696–697 CE) by Caliph A caliphate ( ar, خِلَافَة, ) is an Islamic state {{Infobox war faction , name ...
*
Macedonian denar The Macedonian denar ( mk, денар; paucal: denari / денари; sign: den, code: MKD) is the currency of North Macedonia North Macedonia, ; sq, Maqedonia e Veriut, (Macedonia until February 2019), officially the Republic of North ...
*
Sestertius The sestertius (plural sestertii), or sesterce (plural sesterces), was an ancient Roman In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collaps ...
*
Solidus (coin) The solidus (Latin 'solid';  solidi), nomisma ( grc-gre, νόμισμα, ''nómisma'',  'coin'), or bezant was a highly pure gold coin issued in the Late Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire. Constantine I, Constantine introduced the coin ...
* Tribute penny


Notes


References


External links


Denarius
* ttp://coins.about.com/od/coinsglossary/g/denarius_define.htm Denarius – A Roman soldier's daily pay {{Authority control Coins of ancient Rome Coins in the Bible New Testament Latin words and phrases Numismatics Silver coins