Front Page Titles (by Subject) § III.: Of the Roman Money. - A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts on Money
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§ III.: Of the Roman Money. - John Ramsay McCulloch, A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts on Money 
A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts on Money from the Originals of Vaughan, Cotton, Petty, Lowndes, Newton, Prior, Harris, and Others, with a Preface, Notes, and Index (London: Printed for the Political Economy Club, 1856).
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Of the Roman Money.
PLINY hath given the following historical account of the Roman coinage: “Silver was first coined at Rome in the 485th year of the City, when Q. Ogulnius and C. Fabius were Consuls, five years before the first Punic war. And the denarius was made to pass for ten pounds of copper; the quinarius, for five; and the sesterce, for two and a half. But the weight of the As was reduced in the first Punic war, when the republic, being unable to defray its expences, resolved to coin six Asses out of the pound; whereby they gained five parts, and paid their debts. The stamp of the As was a double-faced Janus on one side, and the prow of a ship on the other: on the triens and quadrans a boat. After this, when they were pressed by Hannibal, Quintus Fabius Maximus being dictator [about the year 537], the As was reduced to one ounce, and the silver denarius made to pass for 16 Asses; the quinarius, for eight; and the sesterce, for four. And the republic gained one half [upon the copper money]. But in the pay of the army, the soldier always received a silver denarius for ten Asses. The stamp of the silver money was a chariot and a pair, or a chariot and four horses; whence they were called Bigati and Quadrigati. The As was soon after reduced to half an ounce, by the Papirian Law.—What is now called the Victoriat, was coined by the Clodian Law; before which, it was imported from Illyricum as merchandize: its stamp is a Victory, whence it takes its name. The gold money was coined sixty two years after the silver, and the scruple passed for twenty sesterces, which, as the sesterce was reckoned at that time [2½ Asses], made the pound of gold worth nine hundred silver denarii* [of 16 Asses each]. It was afterward thought proper to coin forty pieces out of the pound of gold. And our Princes have, by degrees, diminished their weight to 45 in the pound.”†
Thus far Pliny, whose date of the first coinage of silver is confirmed by Livy.‡
The Denarii now remaining are of various kinds. The most ancient are the Bigati and Quadrigati, having on one side the head of a woman in a helmet, with the inscription ROMA, and the mark of the Denarius X or , and some few XVI, and a Biga or Quadriga on the other. The next to these in antiquity have the head of Roma, or some other Deity, on one side, and on the reverse, the name of the mintmaster, or mintmasters, with historical or emblematical figures. Many of these have the X or , which continued to be the mark of the Denarius long after it passed for 16 Asses; whence some have concluded that it was reduced again to ten Asses, contrary to the express testimony of Vitruvius* ; and Tacitus tells us that the mutinous legions in Pannonia demanded, to have their pay raised from ten Asses, to a Denarius. A third sort hath the head of a Consul or a General on one side, with an historical or emblematical reverse. Few, if any, of these have the mark X or upon them. These three sorts are called Consular Denarii, as having been struck during the republican government by Consuls. The Imperial Denarii have commonly the head of the reigning Emperor, with his name and titles on one side, and some emblematical figures on the reverse, with a suitable inscription.
The Romans coined their first gold money by the Scruple, as appears from Pliny’s account, which is confirmed by the coins; for he tells us the Scruple passed for twenty Sesterces, and there are gold coins now remaining with the numerals XX, and XXXX, which answer to the weight of one, and two ancient Roman Scruples. These have the head of Mars on one side, with the numeral letters denoting their value, and, on the reverse, an Eagle standing on a Thunderbolt. The latter coins of this scrupular standard are like the Denarii of the age in which they were struck; as was the gold of the different standards that succeeded it.
The Romans did not use the Denarius for a weight, as the Greeks did their Drachm; till the Greek physicians coming to Rome, and finding the two coins nearly equal, prescribed by it, as they had been accustomed to do by the Drachm in their own country. Neither did the Roman Pound depend on the weight of the Denarius, as the Greek Mina did on that of the Drachm; but the weight of the Denarius depended on the Pound.
The antient Roman Pound was divided into 12 Ounces, and the Ounce into 24 scruples.* And we learn from Celsus and Pliny, that 84 Denarii were coined out of the Pound of silver† ; therefore, if we knew the true weight of the Roman Pound, we should thence know that of the Denarius.
There are many antient Roman weights now remaining, from under an Ounce to 100 Pounds‡ ; some of them with inscriptions have the appearance of standards.
Lucas Pætus, from an antient weight of 10 Pounds, another of 4 pounds, and a third of 1 pound, inscribed EX. AVC.D.CAS. in letters of silver, besides three smaller of 3, 6, and 9 ounces, all six perfect and agreeing together, determined the antient Pound to contain 11 ounces, 10 scruples, modern Roman weight.§ But where he gives the weight of Vespasian’s Congius,? he makes ten antient Roman Pounds to weigh 9 pounds 6 ounces 10 scr. 10 gr. modern weight. The modern Roman ounce contains, like the antient, 24 scruples, the scruple 24 grains. Therefore, according to this determination, the antient Roman Pound should weigh 11 ounces, 10 scr. 15 gr. modern weight, which is equal to 5012? Troy grains, if the exact weight of the modern Roman ounce be 438 Troy grains, as Greaves reckons it. But Pætus used a steelyard, which is a very fallacious instrument.
Gruter hath exhibited a considerable number of ancient Roman weights.¶ Such of marble, from 1 to 10 pounds, as were intire, have neither mark nor inscription. His two heaviest weigh 9 pounds 8 ounces each, modern Roman weight, which give an antient Pound of 5081 Troy grains. Such of the rest as are supposed to be intire, make it under 5000. His lesser weights vary considerably. The Triens of Rusticus gives a pound of 5092 Troy grains; his Sextans one of 5246. Among the brass weights are two inscribed AD. AVGVST. TEMP. C.P. One of five Pounds, weighing 5 pounds 2½ ounces, makes the ancient Pound equal to 5475 Troy grains; the other is a Triens, and weighs 3 ounces, 19 scr. 4 gr. which gives 4992 Troy grains for the Roman Pound.
Fabretti blames Pætus for making the ancient Roman Pound lighter than the modern,* and produces ten ancient weights to prove the contrary. Three of them are of brass, and by their inscriptions have the appearance of public standards. One, with the mark X, weighs 10 pounds 5 oz. 14 scr. modern Roman weight, which, reduced to Troy grains, give 5500½ for the antient Pound. Another, marked V, weighs 5 pounds, 2½ oz. and gives 5475 Troy grains for the antient Pound. A third marked II, weighs 2 pounds, 1 oz. 9 scr. which makes the ancient Pound amount to 5557 Troy grains. His white marble weight hath no other inscription but the mark I, for one pound, and weighs 13 ounces, 1½ scr. equal to 5721 Troy grains. The rest of his weights are from five ounces to three scruples, and give an ancient Roman Pound from almost 5500 Troy grains to above 5780.
At the end of Eisenschmid’s preface, we find two Asses librales, one equal to 5407½ Troy grains, the other to 5315?; and a Quadrussis of 21351 Troy grains, which gives a pound of 5337¾.
According to Fabretti’s weights, the ancient Roman Pound could not weigh less than 5475 Troy grains, which is much greater than can be derived from any other evidences, as I shall shew hereafter. But, as many of the abovementioned weights have the appearance of public standards, I have thought proper, to take more particular notice of them, than writers on this subject have commonly done.
Both Villalpandus and Greaves relied on the Congius of Vespasian for the standard weight of the Roman Pound, not doubting its authenticity, though the note in Gruter says, some have suspected it.* What foundation they had for such suspicion, does not appear; but it is very difficult, to counterfeit the genuine cracks and corrosions of antiquity, in a vessel of this kind; and Greaves tells us, that while he was in Italy, there was found, among the ruins at Rome, a Semicongius in brass, of the same figure with this of Vespasian, the sides much corroded with rust. This he also measured, and found it to be half of Vespasian’s Congius.† But weights are easily counterfeited; and when the remains of antiquity were so eagerly sought after, that artists found it worth their while to counterfeit the ancient coins, others might counterfeit the weights.
The Roman Congius contained ten Pounds weight of wine.‡ Vespasian’s standard is of brass; Pætus, Villalpandus, and Greaves, have given drawings of it; and Gruter tells us, the inscription was in letters of silver.
Pætus filled this vessel to the narrow part of the neck with rain water, and weighed it with a steelyard. But this instrument is liable to great errors; therefore his weight, which wants 5½ modern Roman ounces of what Villalpandus found it, is of small authority.
Villalpandus filled it to the same height with spring water, and found it to contain just ten modern Roman pounds, which are equal to 52560 Troy grains.
Auzout, filling it likewise to the same height with spring water, weighed its contents twice; and the near agreement of its capacity deduced from his weights, with Greaves’s measure, by Millet,* is a proof of their being very near the truth.
Auzout’s greater weight was 63024 Paris grains, equal to 51699? Troy; his lesser, 62760 Paris grains, equal to 51482? Troy.† It is not said, at what time of the year either of these weights was taken; but the heat in summer, and the cold in winter, might have made a much greater difference between them.
The mean between both is 51591 Troy grains, which, divided by 10, give 5159 such grains for the weight of the ancient Roman Pound.
Fabretti insists, that this vessel ought to have been filled up to the brim‡ ; but the part above the neck seems to have been designed, either to prevent the liquor from spilling when poured out, or for a security against the diminution of the standard, which such a finishing rendered impracticable.
Several objections have been made to this Pound derived from the Congius, of which the following are the most material.
First, whereas the side of the Quadrantal containing 8 Congii, should be equal to the Roman foot; the side of a cube, containing 8 times this vessel, exceeds the most authentic measures of that foot now remaining. But, as this relation of the two standards to each other was of an ancient date, when all workmanship was probably very rude and inaccurate at Rome, we cannot wonder at such a disagreement; especially as both the shape of this vessel and the inscription shew it was not adjusted by the foot measure, but by weight.
Secondly, the same bulk of any liquor being found to weigh more in winter than in summer, we cannot determine the precise weight of the Roman Pound from the contents of this vessel, unless we knew the season of the year in which it was originally adjusted.
Thirdly, Villalpandus seems to have made his experiment carefully;* but his weight exceeds Auzout’s lesser weight by above 1000 Troy grains; though both used spring water. Now if two curious persons, who endeavoured to discover the exact weight of the antient Roman Pound, could differ so much in weighing the contents of the same vessel, can it seem improbable, that the Roman officer, to whose department the adjusting this standard might happen to belong, should differ as much from its just weight? But if he happened to be a person of accuracy, he would take care, that the standard of a measure of capacity should not fall short of its ancient dimensions, which is extremely unpopular; and, though he might endeavour to be exact, he would rather chuse to err in excess than defect. Therefore, this vessel is more likely to give too great a Roman Pound, than too small a one.
Fourthly, this vessel was by law to contain ten Pounds weight of wine; which being lighter than water, the weights above-mentioned must be too great. But probably the Romans of that unphilosophical age when this standard was first established were ignorant of this difference; and it might not be generally known, or not attended to, even in Vespasian’s time; for Remnius Fannius, who lived long after, treating of the weights of various liquids, supposes the weight of wine to be equal to that of water,
And though he afterward tells us that some wines and some waters are heavier than others, he does not say that water is in general heavier than wine. And even at this day, when the specific gravities of different liquors are so generally known, our books of Pharmacy call a wine pint of any liquor a pound. Therefore it is not improbable that this standard was adjusted by spring water in the reign of Vespasian.
But if it was really adjusted by wine, the difference may be considerable; for, according to Eisenschmid’s table of the specific gravities of various liquids,* that of pumpwater is to Burgundy wine in the proportion of 371 to 355; and Auzout’s mean weight of 5159 Troy grains diminished in this proportion, gives but 4936½ such grains for the antient Roman Pound.
All the above circumstances considered, it seems more probable that this standard should give too great a Roman Pound, than too small a one. But as nothing certain can be determined from it, we must have recourse to the coins, especially the gold, which though not so correctly sized as the Greek Philippics, are much more so than the silver Denarii.
Pliny tells us, that when the Romans first coined gold, they made the Scruple pass for 20 Sesterces.
In the tables VI. VII. and X. of the Pembroke collection, we find nine pieces, weighing 17 grains, 26½, 33½, 51½, 53, 105, 107 twice, 107½.
That this was the scrupular coin mentioned by Pliny appears from the numeral letters XX for 20 Sesterces, on the smallest, and XXX on that of 33½ grains, which should be its double; and all the rest are multiples of somewhat between 17 and 18 grains, except the second, which is a Scruple and half. What the mark ? X on that of 51½ grains denotes, I cannot tell. Savot, and Hardouin* call this figure ? a V, and say VX stood for 15; but though the Greeks often placed their numerals from right to left, I cannot find that the Romans ever did.
These nine pieces should contain 34½ Roman scruples: Their weight amounts to 608 Troy grains, which, divided by 34½, give 17 for the Scruple; whence the Roman Pound should weigh 5075.
But these pieces are too small, and too few in number, to determine this point. Mr. Duane hath that of one Scruple, in fine preservation, weighing almost 17½ grains. Mr. de la Nauze hath given the weight of the piece of 3 scruples with the mark ? X in the French king’s cabinet, which he says is exactly 64 Paris grains,† equal to 52½ Troy, and gives 17½ grains for the Scruple.
This scrupular standard seems to have continued till Sulla introduced one which Pliny hath not mentioned, on account, perhaps, of its short duration. It was probably occasioned by the rise of the value of gold; for when the scrupular standard was first established, gold was worth but about ten times its weight in silver, as I shall shew hereafter; but in Sulla’s time it was much dearer.
Cicero plainly alludes to this alteration in the coin, when, speaking of his kinsman Marius Gratidianus, he says, At that time the money was in such a fluctuating statethat no man knew what he had:* and both he and Pliny relate, that the law Gratidianus made in Sulla’s absence from Rome, for the regulation of the coin, was so popular, that statues were erected to him in every street, and incense burnt before them.† The intent of this law seems to have been, to restore the ancient standard in opposition to Sulla; for it so provoked him, that, on his return to Rome, he caused all the statues to be thrown down,‡ and Gratidianus to be cruelly butchered by the hand of Catiline.§
Three coins in the Pembroke collection bear the name of Sulla, and weigh 166, 167, and 168 grains? . Bouteroue mentions one of 204 Paris grains¶ , equal to 167? Troy. If thirty of these were coined out of the Roman Pound, the heaviest of the four pieces gives a Pound of 5040 grains.
The standard of forty in the pound, mentioned by Pliny, seems to have succeeded to this of Sulla, and continued to the establishment of the monarchy under Augustus; for Pliny says, Principes imminuere pondus; and the two heaviest pieces I can find of this standard, are, one of Pompey, in whose time it seems to have been introduced, the other of Antony and Octavius, struck after the expiration of the Triumvirate, which differ but the tenth part of a grain in weight. They are both in the British Museum, in fine preservation. The former is like coin 4 Tab. XI. of the Pembroke collection; the latter like coin 11. Tab. XII. But such as bear the name Augustus, which he assumed with the monarchy, are lighter than those of the Triumvirate.
Pompey’s coin weighs 128½ Troy grains, the other 128 Mr. Duane hath both these coins in fine preservation, the former weighing 126½ grains, the latter 127. Those in the Pembroke Collection weigh 125 grains each.
There are besides, in the British Museum, two of 125 grains, like c. 2, and 4 in Tab. IX. of the Pembroke collection; one of 124? like coin 3. all very little worn; and a fourth of 124? grains, like c. 4. Tab. VII. which seems to be perfect. Dr. Hunter hath two perfect gold coins, one like c. 3. Tab. VIII. weighing 125¾ grains; the other like c. 2. Table IX. which weighs 125½.
These ten coins give a mean Aureus of 126 grains.
The Pembroke collection contains forty Aurei, from Pompey to the end of the Commonwealth. One of them weighs 127 grains; two 126½; six 126; and the rest from 125½ to 123; except two of 121, which, being probably somewhat worn, or otherwise diminished, may safely be rejected. The remaining 38 added to the ten abovementioned, give a mean Aureus of 125 grains.
But considering that thirteen of the forty-eight weigh from 128½ to 126 grains, and that many of the rest are probably somewhat worn, we may fairly take 126 grains for the standard weight of this coin; and the number of pieces under 125 grains, that are vouched for perfect, will not allow it to be greater.
Bouteroue mentions two perfect Aurei of Julius Cæsar, each weighing 152 Paris grains, equal to 124[Editor: ?] Troy. And Greaves in his first Table hath marked three of Julius for perfect, which weigh 122¼, 123, and 124¼ grains.
If the Aureus of forty in the Pound weighed 126 Troy grains, the Roman Pound must weigh 5040.
The weight of this coin was gradually diminished by the Emperors, till in Pliny’s time forty-five were struck out of the Pound. He died in the reign of Titus; and the mean Aureus of Greaves’s table from Nero to that Prince, inclusive, is under 112 grains. That of the Pembroke Collection for the same period amounts to 113; but Nero’s coins (contrary to Hardouin’s reading of Pliny’s text) appear to have been heavier than those of Vespasian or Titus.
Snellius, in his book De re numaria, hath given the weights of eleven Aurei, from Nero to Commodus, which he says were all as perfect as when they came from the mint. The lightest weighed 149 Dutch grains, the heaviest 153: which answer to 110½ and 113½ Troy. The mean taken from all the eleven, is almost 112 Troy grains.
Bouteroue found the Aureus from Nero to Septimius Severus, to weigh from 133 Paris grains to 138; that is, from 109 to 113? Troy. The mean of these two weights is 111 grains.
This standard continued beyond the reign of Septimius Severus; and the Pembroke coins from Nero to that time, give a mean Aureus of almost 112 grains. But we cannot suppose all of them to be perfect. Greaves’s tables make it 113 for the same period; but four of his pieces of Hadrian and the Antonines weigh from 117¾ to 121 grains; which is an uncommon weight for that age, and might possibly proceed from an alteration of the standard, which did not continue long. Excluding these four, the rest give a mean Aureus of 112? grains.
Eisenschmid weighed a great number of such as seemed perfect to the naked eye, and found the best of them to exceed 136 Paris grains, or 111 Troy. But, upon examining them with a glass, they all appeared somehow damaged; which, says he, in so heavy a metal, might amount to the loss of a grain or two.* But the loss of less than a grain is very discernible, without the help of a glass.
Upon the whole, if the standard weight of the imperial Aureus of forty-five in the Pound, did not exceed 112 grains, the Roman Pound will weigh 5040 Troy grains, as we found it from the consular Aureus.
Alexander Severus coined pieces of one half and one third of the Aureus, called Semisses, and Tremisses* ; whence the Aureus came to be called Solidus, as being their integer.
Soon after the reign of this prince, the coinage became very irregular, till Constantine entirely new modeled it, by coining 72 Solidi of four Scruples, out of the Pound of gold† , and for the Denarius substituting the Miliarensis, of which I shall give some account hereafter.
Greaves’s second table exhibits twenty-nine of these Solidi from Constantine to Heraclius, weighing from 67½ grains to 70¾. The mean from the twenty-nine pieces is 69 grains, which, multiplied by 72, gives but 4968 grains for the weight of the Roman Pound. But if the standard weight of this coin amounted to 70 grains, the Pound will weigh 5040, agreeable to what we found it from the Aurei.
The Pembroke Collection contains 57 of these pieces from Constantine to Justinian. Five of them amount to 70 grains, and 29 to 69; the rest are lighter, even to 64 grains. But we do not know what preservation they are in. And unless the standard weight of this coin amounted to 70 Troy grains, Constantine’s Pound must have been somewhat deficient of the ancient standard.
Having thus given as compleat an account of the Roman gold, as I have been able to collect from authors of credit, and my own observation, I shall proceed to examine the evidence we have of the weight of their silver money.
The Consular silver is so unequal, that the Romans must have been very negligent in sizing their pieces. Villalpandus tells us, that weighing many Denarii of the same form, inscription, and apparent magnitude, and so like to each other, that they seem to have been struck, not only in the same age, but even on the same day, he found them to differ in weight, 5, 9, or 10 grains from each other.*
There is a piece in the Pembroke Collection, Coin 2. P. 3. Tab. 18, with the head of Roma, and X, the mark of the Denarius, on one side, on the other Castor and Pollux, with ROMA in the exergue, which weighs 81 grains. Another with the like impress on each side, and V. the mark of the Quinarius behind the head, which weighs 33 grains. A third in the same page hath the mark XVI. behind the head of Roma, a biga on the reverse, with ROMA in the exergue, which weighs but 54 grains. As these pieces seem to be exhibited chiefly on account of their uncommon weight, we must suppose the lightest to be perfect.
In the British Museum is a coin like the tenth in P. 3. Tab. 2. of the Pembroke Collection, which weighs above 73 grains. Another like the second in P. 3. Tab. 18. which weighs 66½ grains; and a third, which seems perfect in all respects, with the head of Roma and X on one side, on the other a Quadriga with the inscription CN.GE, which weighs but 55 grains.
It is difficult to account for these differences in the weight of the same coin, especially as Pliny seems to have been ignorant of such inequalities; for he tells us of an Eastern King, that wonderfully admired the justice of the Romans in coining all their Denarii of the same weight, though the impresses shewed them to be the money of different Emperors.* Perhaps the King only admired the invention of coining, which was not known in his country; but Pliny, who tells the story, certainly supposed all the Denarii were of equal weight.
Perhaps the heavy pieces of 73 and 81 grains were struck at the mint for private persons, to give away in presents on Birth-days, and New-years, as was the custom at Rome; and some of them may be modern forgeries: but the light pieces of 54 and 55 grains, must have been owing to the negligence or roguery of the coiners; though some of these too may be counterfeits.
The following Table exhibits the weights of forty-six of the fairest Denarii in the British Museum. Such of them as are marked with two dots, are a little worn, though very little. The Bigati and Quadrigati are distinguished by the letters B. and Q.
The mean weight of the Denarius from all these pieces is 60,95 Troy grains; therefore, had all of them been perfect, it might have exceeded 61 grains. But the mean from the twenty-one that are so, amounts but to 60,92. Either of them comes very near to what Eisenschmid found it by the like method; though he rejected some pieces for no other reason but because he thought them too light.
But a mean from pieces so unequally sized is not to be relied on. And it may be questioned whether those of above 63 grains ever passed as common coin. Greaves, who had examined many hundred Denarii Consulares, says the best amounted to 62 grains; but had he met with any of 63, or even of 62½, it cannot be doubted that he would have mentioned them in support of his Denarius of 62 grains from the Congius. Therefore the pieces of 63 grains and upward must be very uncommon, whereas they make above a seventh part of the number in this table.
Hence I conclude, that the mean derived from this table is of very small authority.
But if we take 5040 Troy grains for the weight of the Roman Pound, as determined from the Gold coins; the scruple will weigh 17½ grains; the Consular Aureus, 126; the Imperial Aureus, 112; and the Solidus, 70: all which are probable weights of the several coins; and the Consular Denarius of 84 in the Pound will weigh just 60 Troy grains.
And this must be very near its true standard weight; for were we to add only half a grain to it, the Consular Aureus would exceed 127 grains, which is certainly too great a weight for that coin.
Though Pliny gives no particular account of any alteration in the weight of the Denarius, it was undoubtedly diminished by the Emperors as well as the Aureus, though by what degrees is uncertain; for Galen tells us, that the writers on weights and measures differed in the number of Drachms [Denarii] they assigned to the Ounce; most of them making it to contain 7½, some but 7, and others 8.* The later writers make it contain 8 Denarii, of 3 scruples each.†
Greaves “found by examining many Imperial Denarii, that from Augustus’s time to Vespasian they continually almost decreased, till, from being the seventh part of the Roman Ounce, they came now to be the eighth part: and therefore 96 were coined out of the Roman Libra, whereas before, under the Consuls, 84. From Vespasian to Alex. Severus, as far as he had observed, the Silver continued at a kind of stay in respect of weight, excepting only such coins as upon some extraordinary occasion, both then, and in the first Emperors time, were stamped, either in honour of the Prince, or of the Empress and Augusta familia, or else in memory of some eminent action. These last most usually were equal to the Denarii Consulares, and many of them had these characters EX. S. C, or else S. P. Q. R. Under Severus and Gordianus, the Denarii began to recover their primitive weight, but most commonly with a notable debasement, and mixture of allay.”* Eisenschmid hath given the like account of the Imperial Denarius, and says he found its weight from Nero to Sep. Severus, to be to the Consular Denarius in the proportion of 7 to 8.†
Having determined the weight of the ancient Roman Pound from the gold coins, to be 5040 Troy grains, it seems requisite to say something concerning the heavy weights exhibited by Gruter and Fabretti, which are irreconcileable to every other evidence.
Those with inscriptions are not older than the reign of Augustus; but neither his coins, nor those of his successors, will by any means answer to such standards.
Fabretti’s mean pound of 5500 Troy grains, exceeds Auzout’s mean Pound from the Congius by above three fourths of the antient Roman Ounce, though that vessel is greater than can be derived from the greatest probable measure of the antient Roman foot.
The weight of spring-water contained in the cube of half that foot (which was the legal measure of the Congius) is thus determined.
According to Eisenschmid’s Table of specific gravities,‡ a cubic Paris inch of spring-water should weigh 374 Paris grains in winter, when liquors are heaviest. Therefore the cube of half the Paris foot (or 216 cubic Paris inches) must weigh 80784 such grains.
The greatest probable measure of the antient Roman foot, does not exceed 974 such parts as the Paris foot contains 1065.§
And as the cube of the Paris foot, is to the cube of the Roman foot, so are 80784 Paris grains, to 61725½ such grains, the weight of the spring-water contained in the cube of half the Roman foot.
But 61725½ Paris grains, are equal to 50634 Troy; therefore the Roman Pound, according to this calculation, should weigh 5063 Troy grains, exceeding that derived from the coins, but by 23 such grains.
If, on the other hand, we take Fabretti’s Pound of 5500 Troy grains (equal to 6704¾ Paris) and reckon the weight of a cubic Paris inch of spring-water 374 Paris grains (as before), a Congius of ten such Pounds will require a Roman foot of 1001 such parts as the Paris foot contains 1065; which exceeds any probable measure of that foot.
Thus these heavy weights neither agree with the Roman money nor with the Congius; which is a circumstance not easily to be accounted for, as the authorities for the larger Pound are indisputable, and we do not know that the Romans used two weights like our Troy and Averdepoids.
The Denarius continued to be the current silver money of the Empire, till Constantine substituted the Miliarensis in its stead.
The price of gold had been increasing a considerable time before his reign, which made a new regulation of the money necessary. For this purpose, Constantine divided the Pound of gold into seventy-two solidi,* which was a more commodious number than either 40 or 45, as it divided the Ounce and half Ounce without a fraction. He likewise altered the weight of the silver coin, and fixed the price of the Pound of gold at 1000 pieces of his new silver, which were thence called Miliarenses.† This he seems to have done in imitation of the ancient coinage; for when the Aureus of forty in the Pound passed for 25 Denarii, the Pound of gold passed for 1000.
But it was attended with this inconvenience, that his Solidus could not be exchanged for its true value in silver; for 1000 divided by 72 is 13; but it passed for 14,* which was more than it was worth, and made two prices of gold at the same time; one the legal price of 1000 Miliarenses for the Pound; the other, the current price, of 14 for the Solidus. which must have occasioned disputes in the payment of small sums.
To remedy this inconvenience, it was thought proper to alter the weight of the silver money, and having fixt the price of the Pound of silver at five Solidi,† to coin 60 pieces out of it‡ ; which retained the name Miliarenses, though the Pound of Gold was worth but 864.
A scholiast on the Basilics tells us, that “One Siliqua [of gold] is worth 12 Folles [of copper], or half a Miliarensis: therefore 12 Siliquas are half a Solidus, for the whole Solidus is worth 12 Miliarenses, or 24 Siliquas.”§ The Roman Pound contained 1728 Siliquas,? therefore there were 72 of these Solidi in the Pound; and each of them being worth 12 Miliarenses, the Pound of silver, which was valued at 5 Solidi, must have contained 60 Miliarenses.
How many Miliarenses Constantine coined out of the Pound of silver is no where said; but if the price of Gold was nearly the same in his reign, as when 5 Solidi were worth a Pound of silver, the Pound must have been worth 14 Pounds of silver; and 1000 divided by 14, gives 69 for the number of Miliarenses coined out of the Pound. Therefore it is probable Constantine’s number was either 69 or 70. If the former, each piece should weigh 73 Troy grains; if the latter, 72.
Eisenschmid found the larger silver of Constantine to come up to 90 Paris grains, or 73 Troy; but the smaller (which should be its half) seldom amounted to 40 Paris grains, or 32? Troy; which leaves it uncertain whether 69 or 70 of these Miliarenses were coined out of the Pound. If 69, the proportion of gold to silver was almost 14½ to 1; if 70, 14 to 1.
In the Glossæ nomicæ, quoted by Gronovius and others, we have an attempt to settle the exchange between the two Miliarenses and the Solidus. The Glossographer, giving an account of the different sums called Folles, says, “There is likewise another Follis, consisting of the smaller silver which was paid to the soldiers, and thence called Miliarenses, each of which is worth 1¾ Siliquas [of gold], and the Follis contains 125, which makes 218 Siliquas and 9 nummi; or 109 of the Miliarenses now current and 9 nummi; which are worth 9 Solidi, 1 Miliarensis, and 9 nummi, and the Purse of 125 pieces of this lesser silver, was called a Follis.”*
This Gloss appears to come from a different hand from that before quoted, by the absurd etymology here given of the word ???????????; and the author did not understand his subject. For the Miliarensis of 60 in the Pound, was undoubtedly worth 2 Siliquas of gold, and if Constantine’s was worth 1¾ when this Glossographer wrote, the two coins must have been in the proportion of 8 to 7, and the exchange made in smaller numbers without fractions; for 7 Solidi being worth 84 of the new Miliarenses, would exchange for 96 of Constantine’s.
But this Follis of 125 Miliarenses, seems to have been intended for a more correct adjustment of Constantine’s silver to his gold than 14 Miliarenses for the Solidus; for it was the true value of 9 Solidi, which, at the rate of 14 for the Solidus, should have exchanged for 126, which was one more than they were worth. And nine was the least number of Solidi that could be exchanged for their true value in Constantine’s silver; which this glossographer seems not to have known. For the Roman Pound containing 1728 Siliquas, Constantine’s Miliarensis was worth but the thousandth part of them, or 1, which multiplied by 125 make just 216 Siliquas without a fraction, which were equal to 9 Solidi. Or, supposing the proportion of Gold to silver the same when the new Miliarenses were coined, as when the old ones were, 1000 of the latter and 864 of the former, being each worth a Pound of gold; divide both numbers by 8, and we shall have 125 of the old, worth 108 of the new, which passed for 9 Solidi.
Having mentionod the Follis, I shall endeavour to explain what it was. The word is Latin, and it anciently signified a little bag, or purse; whence it afterward came to be used for a sum of money, and very different sums were called by that name. Thus, the Scholiast on the Basilics mentions a Follis which was worth but the 24th part of the Miliarensis; the Glossæ nomicæ, one of 125 Miliarenses, and another of 250 Denarii (which was the ancient Sestertium); and three different sums, of 8, 4, and 2 pound of gold, were each called a Follis.*
The Glossographer last quoted makes 9 Nummi equal to ¾ of a Siliqua; for 1¾ multiplied by 125, is 218¾, which he calls 218 Siliquas, and 9 nummi. Therefore 12 nummi were equal to a Siliqua; but the scholiast on the Basilics makes 12 Folles equal to a Siliqua; consequently this Nummus and the scholiast’s Follis are the same.
The Scholiast tells us, the Miliarensis was equal to 24 Folles of copper, therefore the Ounce of silver containing 5 Miliarenses of 60 in the pound, was worth 120 such Folles.
The Glossographer, describing a Follis of 250 Denarii, says, it was equal to 312 Pounds, 6 Ounces of copper* . The Denarius of that age was the eighth part of an Ounce, therefore an ounce of silver must have been worth 120 Ounces of copper.
But according to the Scholiast, the Ounce of silver was worth so many Folles; therefore the Scholiast’s Follis was an Ounce of copper. And this Follis being equal to the Glossographer’s Nummus, that Nummus was likewise an Ounce of copper.
By a Rescript of Arcadius and Honorius in the Theodosian Code, the treasury was empowered to receive a Solidus for 25 Pounds of copper,† which sets the price of that metal at the 125th part of its weight in silver. But the same Rescript in Justinian’s Code‡ for XXV libris æris, hath XX libris æris. Both cannot be right, perhaps neither; and the true reading may be XXIV libris æris, agreeable to these commentators.
Eisenschmid found Constantine’s copper money to weigh a quarter of a Roman Ounce;* therefore the Scholiast’s Follis, and the Glossographer’s Nummus contained four of them, as the ancient Nummus contained four Asses; but whereas the Denarius formerly passed for four Nummi, it now passed for 15, and the writers of this age say it passed for 60 Asses.†
[* ]The common reading is sestertios DCCCC, which I shall consider hereafter.
[† ]Plin. Nat. Hist. L. XXXIII. c. 3. In most editions of Pliny before Hardouin, the numbers 40 and 45, are thus written X. XL. M. and X. XLV. M. whence Agricola and Snellius have supposed the M. after the former number, to be a mistake of the transcriber for II. and that after the latter for III. But Hardouin in his note on this passage hath shewn the M. in both places, to be superfluous. In the last clause, I read minutissimè vero not minutissimè Nero.
[‡ ]See the epitome of L. XV.
[* ]Vitruvius, L. III. c. 1. So likewise Volusius Mætianus. Taciti Annal. L. 1. § 17. & 26.
[* ]Varro de Re Rustica, L. I. c. 10. Collumella, L. V. c. 1. and Volusius Mæcianus.
[† ]Celsus de Medicina, L. V. c. 17. Pliny, Nat. Hist. L. XXXIII. c. 9.
[‡ ]See Thes. Antiq. Roman. Vol. XI. col. 1661.
[§ ]Thes. Antiq. Roman. Vol. XI. col. 1619.
[? ]Ibid. col. 1635.
[¶ ]Gruter’s Inscriptions, p. ccxxi.
[* ]Fabretti Inscript. p. 523.
[* ]Gruter’s Inscriptions, p. ccxxiii.
[† ]Greaves, p. 92. in a note.
[‡ ]Festus de verb signif. v. publica pondera
[* ]See Philosoph. Trans. Vol. LI. p. 790.
[† ]Divers ouvrages de Mathematique & de Physique par Mess. de l’Academie Royale, Paris, 1693, in folio. p. 366, 371.
[‡ ]Fabretti Inscript, p. 527.
[* ]See Greaves, p. 92.
[* ]Eisenschmid, p. 174, 175.
[* ]Savot. P. III. c. 7. Hardouin’s note on Pliny. This piece is 3 Roman Scruples, which valued at 60 Sesterces of 2[Editor: ?] Asses to the Sesterce, was worth 150 Asses, or 9 silver Denarii and 6 Asses, wanting but 2 Asses of 9½ Denarii. Now in Ptolomy’s geographical tables, where the degree is divided unciatim, after the Roman manner; this character ? stands for one half; therefore being placed before the X (as on the coin) it might denote 9½, as I before the X stands for 9. But Mr. Duane hath a gold coin with the same mark, and of the same impression as this, which weighs but 45½ grains, though it seems to be perfect.
[† ]Memoires de l’Academie des Inscriptions, Vol. XXX. p. 359.
[* ]Cicero de Officiis, L. III. § 20.
[† ]Cicero, ibid. Pliny, Nat. Hist. L. XXXIII. c. 9.
[‡ ]Pliny, L. XXXIV. c. 6.
[§ ]Seneca de Ira, L. III. c. 18.
[? ]Tab. VIII.
[¶ ]Recherches curieuses des monnoyes de France. Paris, 1666. in folio.
[* ]Eisenschmid, p. 34.
[* ]Lampridius, in Alex. Severo.
[† ]Siquis solidos appendere voluerit, auri cocti VI solidos quaternorum scrupulorum, nostris vultibus figuratos, adpendat pro singulis unciis, XII. pro duabus: eadem ratio servanda & si materiam quis inferat, ut solidos dedisse videatur. Cod. Theod. de Ponderatoribus, § 1. Again, Illud autem cautionis adjicimus, ut quotiescunque certa summa solidorum pro tituli quantitate debetur, & auri massa transmittitur, in LXXII solidos libra feratur accepta. Cod. Justin. L. X. Tit. 70. de Susceptoribus, § 5.
[* ]Cum plures Denarios appenderemus ejusdem formæ, inscriptionis, & penè magnitudinis, atque ita similes, ut non solum eodem tempore, sed eodem prorsus die, percussos fuisse conjiceres, tamen cos deprehendimus quinis, novenis, aut denis granis pondere a se invicem distare. Villalp. De apparatu urbis & templi, p. 357. Ten Roman grains are equal to about 7? Troy.
[* ]Pliny, Nat. Hist. L. VI. c. 22.
[* ]Galen, de med. comp. sec. genera, L. III. c. 3.
[† ]Rhemnius Fannius, Cleopatra, Dioscorides, &c.
[* ]Greaves, p. 113.
[† ]Eisenschmid, p. 33.
[‡ ]Eisenschmid, p. 175.
[§ ]See the Discourse on the Roman Foot, Phil. Trans. Vol. LI.
[* ]See the Theod. and Justinian Codes quoted in p. 562.
[† ]Glossæ nomicæ, quoted by Gronovius, L. IV. c. 16. de pecunia vetere.
[* ]See the preceding note.
[† ]Jubemus ut pro argenti summa quam quis thesauris fuerit illaturus, inferendi auri accipiat facultatem, ita ut pro singulis libris argenti, quinos Solidos inferat. Cod. Theod. De argenti pretio, & Cod. Justin. L. X. Tit. 76.
[‡ ]Cum publica celebrantur officia, sit sportulis nummus argenteus,—nec majorum argenteum nummum fas sit expendere, quam qui formari solet, cum argenti libra una in argenteas sexaginta dividitur. Cod. Theod. De expensis ludorum.
[§ ]??? ????????? ??? ?? ?? ???????? ??????? ???? ??, ???? ??????????? ?? ?????· ?? ???? ?? ??????? ???? ??????????? ?????· ?? ?? ???????? ??????? ???? ?????????? ??, ???? ??????? ??’. Schol. in L. XXIII. ??????????, apud Gronov. L. IV. c. 16. De pecunia vetere.
[? ]See Rhemnius Fannius, and others.
[* ]Glossæ nomicæ apud Gronov. L. IV. c. 16.
[* ]See the Glossæ nomicæ, quoted by Gronovius near the end of c. 16. of L. IV.
[* ]?????? ??????? ????, ?????????? ??? ?????????· ????? ?? ??????? ???????? ??????????, ????’ ???? ?????? ???, ??? ??????? ??, ?? ???????? ??????? ???????? ?????? ? ??? ??????? ??. Glossæ nomicæ, apud Gronov. L. IV. c. 16.
[† ]Æris pretia quæ a provincialibus postulantur, ita excipi volumus, ut pro XXV. libris æris, Solidus a possessore reddatur. Cod. Theodos. de collatione æris.
[‡ ]Cod. Justin. L. X. Tit. 29.
[* ]Eisenschmid, p. 141.
[† ]Hero, Epiphanius, &c.