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Coins of Roman Britain

Coins of Roman Britain

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Published by: corinne mills on Mar 24, 2008
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Coins of Roman Britain 1st & 2nd century
Many different denomination of coins were issued for use in the Roman Empire, but only arelatively small section found their way to Britain.The sestertius was actually introduced as a silver coin at the same time as the denarius. It wasonly issued intermittently, however, until it was struck as a base-metal coin under Augustus.The Portable Antiquities Scheme website has a very good section on identifying Roman Coinagewhich you can find herehttp://www.finds.org.uk/romancoins/  
Denarius
A silver coin, of about 20mm in diameter, issued from before 200BC to about 280 AD , makingit the longest surviving denomination of the Roman Empire. During this period , the Denariuswas the only coin that could be used for paying state taxes. To give some idea of its value inpresent day terms, during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD Roman Legionaries were paid 300Denarii per year.
Sestertius
A large coin of about 30-35 mm in diameter, usually struck in orichalcum (a Roman brass typealloy) and valued at 4 to a Denarius. First issued by the Emperor Augustus in the early 1stcentury, it remained in use until the late 3rd century.
Dupondius
A coin of about 25-30 mm in diameter, also made from orichalcum and with a similar period of issue - valued at 2 to a Sestertius. From the time of Vespasian, AD69-70, the portrait of theEmperor was usually depicted wearing a "radiate" crown representing the rays of the sun.
As
A similar coin to the Dupondius both in size and period of use but struck in copper - valued at 2to a Dupondius. It is often difficult to distinguish between the two coins, particularly when foundwith the green patina common to copper alloy coins found in British Soil conditions. The As wasthe most common coin of the 1st and 2nd centuries and was extensively copied, probably by theRoman Army. When in circulation, the As would buy a haircut - so it would be worth a fewpounds at today's values.
Semis
 
Similar in size and appearance to a Denarius but struck in brass - valued at 2 to an As. Never acommon coin even when in circulation.
Coins of Roman Britain - 3rd and 4th Centuries
The coinage of the 3rd and 4th Centuries is complex and confusing.It was a time when the Roman Empire was under attack on many fronts and the economy was indecline. Many reforms of the coinage were attempted and few lasted more than a short time. Themost significant coin issues are described below:
Antoninianus
First introduced by the Emperor Caracalla in AD 214, this coin was initially struck in silver andvalued at 2 Denarii. The coin was named after Caracalla's official name - "Antoninus" andshowed the Emperor wearing the radiate crown, hence its more common name "Radiate". Whenfirst issued, this coin was about 22mm in diameter and struck in reasonably good silver (about50% fine). As the 3rd Century progressed, inflation reduced it, both in size and silver contentuntil it became a bronze coin, sometimes only 10 mm in diameter, until production finally ceasedat the end of the century. This coin was issued in vast quantities by both legitimate and usurperEmperors.Many illegal copies were produced, mainly of poor quality, hence their common name -"Barbarous Radiates"
Follis
Issued by the Emperor Diocletion in about AD 295, this was, initially, a large coin of about 25-30 mm diameter struck in bronze with a thin silver was applied. Within 20 years or so the Follishad been reduced to a small bronze coin of about 18-20 mm with no attempt at silvering.
Coins of the 4th Century
The names of the common 4th century denominations have not been recorded in history somodern terminology is used to classify the coins struck as Ae1, Ae2, Ae3 and Ae4, Ae1 beingthe largest. All these coins were struck in bronze with no silver content.
Ae1
from 25-30 mm diameter, this coin was issued by the Emperor Julian II, AD 360-363, possibly inan attempt to revive the original Follis.

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