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The worth of the roman Denarius

The denarius was the standard Roman silver coin for five hundred years and formed the backbone of Roman currency throughout the Roman republic and the early empire.

The word denarius is a Latin adjective that means “of ten” or “containing ten.” As a monetary unit, the denarius was originally a silver coin valued at 10 asse.

It was introduced in the Second Punic War c. 211 BC and used until the reign of Gordian III (AD 238–244). Continuous debasement of the Denarius caused its replacement by  in the Antoninianus, or double denarius, which became the principle Roman coin by AD 238

The Denarius contained originally 4.5g silver (100 denarii would weigh about one pound), though throughout the centuries, war and economic crises precipitated weight decreases and silver debasement as a way to increase money.

The Value of the Denarius

Aureus [gold]

25 silver denarii

Antoninianus [silver]

2 silver denarii

Denarius [silver]

16 copper asses

Quinarius [silver]

8 copper asses

Follis, AE1-4

Bronze (silver wash)

Sestertius [orichalcum]

4 copper asses

Dupondius [orichalcum]

2 copper asses

As [copper]

1

Semis [brass]

1/2 as

Quadrans [copper]

1/4 copper as

 

How much was a Denarius worth?

During Julius Caesar reign in 44BC a legionary’s pay was doubled to 225 denarii per year. A centurion was earning between 3,750 denarii and 15,000 denarii

In the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire (~27BC) the daily wage for an unskilled laborer was was one denarius.

What does the Bible say about the worth a Denarius?

According to parable of the laborers in the vineyard found in the Bible Matthew 20:2, was hired at one denarius for the day. That would make and annual income of about 312 denarii a year for 6 days work week.

In the Book of Revelation, during the Third Seal: Black Horse, a choinix (“quart”) of wheat and three quarts of barley were each valued at one denarius.

What could a Roman denarius buy ?

Same as today, back then, the value of a daily wage is determined by its capacity to purchase the basic needs for daily survival. In the Roman Empire, this included wheat, oil, and wine.

Historians estimate a cost of 200 denarii a year in first century (ca. AD 75–125) Rome and 100 denarii a year outside of Rome to purchase the dietary necessities like wheat, oil, wine for a family.

Prices of goods and services

A half-liter wine = 6 -8 denarii

A tunic = 2 – 4 denarii

a cow = 100-200 denarii

a male slave = 500 denarii

a female slave = 2,000-6,000 denarii

rent apartment = 48-288 denarii/year

 

How much would a Denarius be worth today?

Depending on whether we try and draw equivalences between minimum wage, or purchase parity, it would be worth somewhere between $10 and $100.

The most expensive Denarius sold

The most expensive Denarius is a what may be the most famous ancient coin ever, the “Eid Mar” silver denarius from 42 B.C.,

In 2014 The Coin reached a record price of $517,000, including the 17.5 percent buyer’s fee.

The extremely rare gold version of the ‘EID MAR’ denarius of Brutus, probably the most famous ancient coin out there, was sold on 30 October 2020 at Roma Numismatics Auction XX for a record-breaking sum of 2.7 million pounds (approx. $2,988,360).

The circa late autumn 42 B.C. silver denarius is known as the Eid Mar or “Ides of March” coin for the Latin legend EID MAR on the reverse. The reference is to the assassination of Julius Caesar two years earlier, on March 15, 44 B.C. The coin is also famous for the image of one of the assassins, M. Junius Brutus, on the obverse.

The coin in the Goldberg auction is “boldly struck with an incredible, well defined portrait on a full broad flan with minor porosity, all lightly toned,” according to the auction house.

It was accompanied by a photo-certificate from Numismatic Guaranty Corp., which states the coin is the only example it has certified. NGC graded the coin Choice About Uncirculated, noting that its strike quality is 5/5, that surface quality is 3/5 and the coin is of Fine Style.

Below a picture of the beauty.

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