Front Page Titles (by Subject) § V.: Of the value of the ancient Greek and Roman money. - A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts on Money
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§ V.: Of the value of the ancient Greek and 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 value of the ancient Greek and Roman money.
IT does not appear that either the ancient Greeks or Romans allayed their money, but coined the metals as pure as the refiners of those times could make them: for though Pliny mentions two instances of the contrary at Rome,§ the example was not followed, till the later Emperors debased the coin: and his expression, miscentur æra falsæ monetæ, shews he thought the practice illegal.
Though the ancients had not the art of refining silver, in so great perfection as it is now practised, yet, as they mixed no base metal with it, and esteemed what they coined to be fine silver, I shall value it as such.
Sixth-two English shillings are coined out of 11 ounces 2 p. wt. Troy of fine silver, and 18 p. wt. allay. Therefore, the Troy grain of fine silver is worth ths of a Farthing. Hence the Attic Drachm of 66½ grains will be found worth a little more than Ninepence farthing; the Obole, a little more than Three half-pence; and the Chalcus, about th of a Farthing.
But, for the reduction of large sums to English money, the following numbers are more exact.
Hence the Mina expressed in Pounds Sterling and decimals of a Pound will be £3.869; the Talent £232.15.
The Romans reckoned by Asses before they coined silver, after which they kept their accounts in Sesterces. The word Sestertius is an adjective, and signifies two and a half of any substantive to which it refers. In money matters its substantive is either As, or pondus; and Sestertius As, is two Asses and a half; Sestertium pondus, two pondera and a half, or 250 Denarii.*
When the Denarius passed for ten Asses, the Sesterce of 2½ Asses was a quarter of it; and the Romans continued to keep their accounts in these Sesterces long after the Denarius passed for sixteen Asses; till, growing rich, they found it more convenient to reckon by quarters of the Denarius, which they called Nummi, and used the words Nummus and Sestertius, indifferently as synonymous terms, and sometimes both together, as Sestertius nummus; in which case, the word Sestertius, having lost its original signification, was used as a substantive; for Sestertius nummus was not two Nummi and a half, but a single Nummus of four Asses.
They called any sum under 2000 Sesterces so many Sestertii, in the masculine gender; 2000 Sesterces they called duo or bina Sestertia, in the neuter; so many quarters making 500 Denarii, which was twice the Sestertium; and they said dena, vicena, &c. Sestertia, till the sum amounted to a thousand Sestertia, which was a million of Sesterces. But, to avoid ambiguity, they did not use the neuter Sestertium in the singular number, when the whole sum amounted to no more than 1000 Sesterces, or one Sestertium.
They called a million of Sesterces Decies nummûm, or Decies Sestertiûm, for Decies centena millia nummorum, or Sestertiorum (in the masculine gender) omitting centena millia, for the sake of brevity: they likewise called the same sum Decies Sestertium (in the neuter gender), for Decies centies Sestertium, omitting Centies for the reason above-mentioned; or simply Decies, omitting centena millia Sestertiûm, or centies Sestertium; and with the numeral adverbs, Decies, Vicies, Centies, Millies, and the like, either centena millia, or centies, was always understood.
These were their most usual forms of expression, though for Bina, Dena, Vicena Sestertia, they frequently said, Bina, Dena, Vicena millia nummûm* ; and Cicero, in the passage quoted in the margin, hath used Mille Sestertia, for Decies Sestertium. But Gronovius says, that expression is not to be found elsewhere, and supposes it to be a false reading.
If the Consular Denarius contained 60 Troy grains of fine silver, it was worth somewhat more than Eightpence farthing and a half Sterling; and the As, of sixteen to the Denarius, a little more than a Halfpeny.
To reduce the ancient Sesterces of 2½ Asses, when the Denarius passed for 16, to pounds Sterling, multiply the given number by 5454, and cut off six figures on the right hand for decimals.
To reduce Nummi Sestertii, or quarters of the Denarius, to pounds sterling; if the given sum be Consular money, multiply by 8727, and cut off six figures on the right hand for decimals; but for Imperial money, diminish the said product by one eighth of itself.
For example, Cicero says, Verres had received Vicies, ducenta triginta quinqe millia, quadringentos decem & septem nummos, or 2.235.417 Sesterces: this being Consular money, multiply by 8727, and cutting off six figures from the product, £19508.484159, or £19508. 9s. 8d. will be their value in English money.
But Budæus supposes, that for Quadringenties millies, we should read Quadragies millies, which reduces it to £30.544.500, and is a much more probable sum.
If the Miliarenses of 60 in the pound were fine silver, and weighed 84 Troy grains, they were worth 46.918918. . Farthings and decimals, or almost 11 pence 3 farthings Sterling; and the Solidus passing for 12 of them, was worth a little more than 11s. 8d. 3f.
The Pound of gold was worth 864 of these Miliarenses amounting to 40537,94 Farthings and decimals, which, divided by 1000, give 40,538, or above 10 pence and half a farthing for the value of Constantine’s Miliarensis in English money.
The Constantinopolitans kept their accounts in Solidi, which are reduced to pounds sterling, by multiplying the given number by 58648, and cutting off five figures on the right hand for decimals.
[§ ]Pliny Nat. Hist. L. XXXIII. c. 3. & c. 9.
[* ]See Gronovius, De pecunia vetere, L. I. c. 4.
[* ]Suetonius in Julio, c. 38. Cicero in Verrem, L. I. § 14.