Roman Imperial Coinage

Roman Imperial Coinage


Roman Imperial Coinage and OCRE

Roman Imperial Coinage (RIC) is the definitive corpus of coins issued under the Roman Empire. This 10-volume typology spans 460 years of Roman minting (from 31 BCE–491 CE), and its publication was itself a monumental undertaking. Begun in 1923 with a volume covering Augustus to Vitellius, the corpus was completed in 1994, ending with the emperor Zeno.

But numismatic knowledge is never crystallized. Spink releases updated volumes as necessary to reflect current research and progression in the field. In 2019, Spink released their latest addition to the RIC corpus. This updated version of RIC covers the Hadrian section of Volume II. It includes new finds, corrects old errors, and provides more detailed dating.

In response, the American Numismatic Society is updating its Online Coins of the Roman Empire (OCRE) digital corpus to reflect the new edition. This searchable database provides access to the valuable typologies published by Spink, and assembles more than 130,000 examples from the ANS collection, the Münzkabinett of the State Museum of Berlin, the British Museum, and 40 additional museums and archaeological databases. The OCRE project began in 2011 and was assisted by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The platform acts as an accessible catalog and a search tool for scholars and collectors alike.

OCRE provides more than easily accessible data: its digital nature creates a new analytical tool for researchers. The platform offers numerous options to refine searches, deepening user customization and allowing for more nuanced inquiry. The abundant samples of coinage types—drawing from three of the largest numismatic collections worldwide—create an unparalleled opportunity for die studies. OCRE’s high-resolution images make die studies easier on the eyes and permits study to occur remotely. The current OCRE update supports the ANS’ goal to offer the most contemporary resources available for numismatic study.

In addition to this digital initiative, the ANS is incorporating the updated numbering system into its own collections database. Each of the ANS’ 1,600 Hadrianic coins will be renumbered according to the new volume. The original volume’s classification system grouped similar coins together under a single number, making extensive use of subtypes (Hadrian 101a–c, for example, are identical except for slight obverse bust variations). The 2019 update moves away from subtypes and assigns each variation its own unique number. In addition, the new volume distinguishes obverse bust types with more granularity and assigns separate numbers for each bust variation. The ANS is editing its database, Mantis, to reflect this simplification of the typology.

To realize this important update, the ANS has hired a temporary assistant to incorporate the volume into OCRE and renumber their Hadrian collection. If you are an OCRE user, patron of numismatics, or passionate about digital accessibility, please consider donating to our GoFundMe page in support of this initiative.


Minting process

The equipment to make coins included casts on which liquid metal was poured in order to produce blanks (coins with no images on them). Other equipment included two die usually made of bronze. The die had the negative of the relief image to be created. The lower die usually had the image of a deity. The upper die that of a symbol of Rome. A blank was warmed in an oven. It was then placed on the lower die. Then the upper die was put above it and struck with a heavy hammer.

Initially the minting of all coins was made in the city of Rome. Later during the Empire, the minting of bronze and of some silver coins could be made at other mints at other locations. It is worth noting that all gold coins were made by only one mint situated in the city of Rome throughout the Republic and in the first few centuries of the Empire.

Coins initially featured deities. Later during the Empire they featured the heads of Emperor, noting that Caesar is the first to have started the trend of putting the head / bust of a living person on coins. Coins often had propaganda purposes.


Depreciation and Reform in Late Antiquity

By A.D. 324 Constantine was the sole emperor. Diocletian’s successors failed to keep the monetary system intact. The billon nummus became lighter and lighter, while its proportion of silver diminished. Nominal inflation reached very high levels. In A.D. 301, one pound of gold was worth 72,000 denarii. It finally stabilized at about 3,000,000,000 denarii by the end of the 4th century implying an average annual compounded inflation of 12.5%. The depreciation of the base coinage itself was far more limited: one needed 7,200 nummi to purchase one pound of gold in A.D. 301. By the end of the 4th century, over 500,000 debased nummi were needed, implying a rate of depreciation of only 5% per year. Gold became the sole anchor of a system of a deteriorating base currency. The aureus, struck at the weight of 1/60th of the Roman pound (5.4 g), was replaced under Constantine in A.D. 312 by the lightersolidus, struck at 1/72nd of a pound (4.5 g.).

Solidus (Constantine I), A.D. 335-336. Gold, 4.4 g. Antioch (Syria) (ANS1967.153.47, bequest of Adra N. Newell).

Light miliarensis or siliqua (Constantius II), A.D. 340-350. Silver, 3 g. Thessalonica (ANS 1944.100.21208, bequest of E. T. Newell).

Silver coins from this period follow several weight standards: roughly 1/60th, 1/72nd, 1/96th, and 1/144th of the Roman pound.

Nummus (Licinius), A.D. 310-313. Billon, 4.06 g. Trier (ANS 1925.176.106, gift of J. P. Morgan, Jr.).

Nummus (Constantine I), A.D. 316. Billon, 3.10 g. Trier (ANS 1925.176.116, gift of J. P. Morgan, Jr.).

Nummus (Constantius II), A.D. 337-340. Billon, 1.12 g. Thessalonica (ANS1944.100.21221, bequest of E. T. Newell).

The weight standard by this period was about 6 times lower than at the beginning of the century, and the alloy included almost no more silver.

Multiple of a nummus (Constantius II), A.D. 350-355. Billon, 6.01 g. Thessalonica (ANS 1944.100.21267, bequest of E. T. Newell).

A monetary reform occurred in A.D. 348, as the authorities tried to restore a higher billon standard with heavier coins. This coin was most likely calledpecunia maiorina (literally, “somewhat larger money”), possibly worth 2 nummi. It was later demonetized.

Multiple of a nummus (Julian II), A.D. 361-363. Billon, 8.02 g. Nicomedia (ANS1944.100.21523, bequest of E. T. Newell).

Julian emulated the coinage of the Tetrarchy by issuing a heavier billon coin. The experienced was short-lived.

Light miliarensis or siliqua (Valens), A.D. 367-375. Silver, 1.95 g. Trier (ANS1944.100.25314, bequest of E. T. Newell).

Solidus (Valentinian II), A.D. 388-392. Gold, 4.4 g. Trier (ANS 1905.57.177, gift of Daniel Parish, Jr.).

Gold coins became more numerous after the 360s, implying that new sources of gold had been found, probably in the Balkans. Nominal inflation started to stabilize. Yet the Eastern emperor Valens and his army were annihilated at Adrianopolis in A.D. 378, signaling the end of centuries of Roman military’s tactical superiority.

Solidus (Romulus Augustulus), A.D. 475-476. Gold, 4.38 g. Rome (ANS1944.100.54897, bequest of E. T. Newell).

The collapse of the Western Empire in A.D. 476 did not prevent emperor Romulus Augustulus’ gold coinage from respecting the standards of weight and quality of his predecessors.

Roman emperors continued to rule in the East from Constantinople. Under Justinian (A.D. 527-565), important regions of the West were re-conquered. A major reform in A.D. 498 led to the introduction of a heavy bronze coin, thefollis, worth 40 old nummi. After a base coinage revaluation in A.D. 538, a gold solidus was worth 180 folles or 7,200 old nummi.

Nummus (Valentinian I), A.D. 367-375. Bronze, 2.07 g. Lugdunum (Lyons) (ANS 1944.100.25350, bequest of E. T. Newell).

From this period onward, the nummus was a plain bronze coinage.

Nummus (Valentinian III), A.D. 423-455. Bronze, 1.62 g. Rome (ANS1944.100.54874, bequest of E. T. Newell).

One gold solidus bought about 7,200 nummi, versus 150 heavier nummi from the time of Constantine I.

Nummus (Libius Severus), A.D. 461-465. Bronze, 0.96 g. Rome (ANS0000.999.24031).

About 10,000 of these coins were needed for one solidus.

Follis (Anastasius I), A.D. 498-518. Bronze, 6.87 g. Constantinople (ANS1971.257.2).

"M" means "40" in Greek and represents 40 nummi.

Follis (Justinian I), A.D. 538-539. Bronze, 22.82 g. Constantinople (ANS1944.100.14818, bequest of E. T. Newell).

The legend is still in Latin, indicating the regnal year. By that time, inflation had long been eradicated and the base coinage returned to a standard close to that of the old sestertius. The relationship 1 solidus = 40 folles is reminiscent of the 1 aureus = 100 sestertii under the early Caesars.


Roman Imperial Coinage - History

W elcome to the NEW version of the V irtual C atalog of R oman C oins, a Web site devoted to helping students and teachers learn more about ancient Roman coins. These pages contain images and descriptions of coins from the Early Republic through the end of the 4th century A.D. and the formal division of the Roman Empire into east and west. The Catalog provides only a sample of the thousands of Roman coin types, but it is constantly growing so please check back from time to time to view the new material.

T he site is arranged to provide easy access to coins from a particular period or to let users browse the coins however they choose. Users may also search for a particular feature on the coins, a goddess or god, an emblem, or part of an inscription. Use the Main Catalog and Search links on the left.

T he VCRC is an innovative project based on the collaboration of private coin collectors and dealers and a college professor who wants to create a useful resource for his students, other teachers and their students, and the general public. The images and initial descriptions are provided by collectors and professional numismatists, allowing us to present a more extensive database of coins that would otherwise be possible. Photo and coin quality depend on what is provided descriptions are edited to achieve a degree of consistency. Coins are usually the main Roman issues with Latin legends, but a few provincial coins are included at this time. The coin types represented depend on the material available. All photographs in the catalog are attributed to the persons who granted permission to use them. We are grateful for their willingness to share their materials with those who wish to learn about Roman coins. We also invite others to participate with us in this project. All contributors are listed on the Thanks and Credits page.

T he entries and web materials are edited by Robert W. Cape, Jr., Associate Professor of Classics, Austin College. Special thanks go to Julie Bergfeld and Molly Simpson who were crucial to the transformation of the project from static pages to dynamic database. Thanks are also due to the Cullen Fund for Teaching, which has supported the project.

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Imagery on Roman coins

The early standard denarius design had the image of the goddess Roma on one side with Castor and Pollux galloping on horseback on the reverse. Throughout the years the design altered, for example featuring the goddesses Luna and later Victoria. Bronze coins featured a ship on one side and the head of Mercury on the other. When tossing a coin to make a decision, Romans used the phrase capita aut navia or ‘heads or ships’.

While Roman coinage under the Republic featured images taken from the myths and symbols of the city, such as gods or Romulus and Remus nursing from their wolf stepmother, designs changed with the transition to Empire. Julius Caesar was the first to issue a coin with his own image and the emperors continued this tradition, though they also issued coins featuring customary deities and symbolism.

Augustus, ever the reformer, introduced brass and copper coinage and lower denominations called sestertius, dupondius and quadrans (quarters).


Where can I find and buy Roman Coins?

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Ancient Roman Coins

In 27 BC, the Roman Republic came to an end as Augustus (63 BC󈝺 AD) ascended to the throne as the first emperor. Taking autocratic power, it soon became recognized that there was a link between the emperor's sovereignty and the production of coinage.

Imperial iconography

-The most commonly used coin denominations and their relative sizes during
Roman times.

Imperial iconography

The imagery on coins took an important step when Julius Caesar issued coins bearing his own portrait. While moneyers had earlier issued coins with portraits of ancestors, Caesar’s was the first Roman coinage to feature the portrait of a living individual. The tradition continued following Caesar's assassination, although the imperators from time to time also produced coins featuring the traditional deities and personifications found on earlier coins. The image of the Roman emperor took on a special importance in the centuries that followed, because during the empire, the emperor embodied the state and its policies. The names of moneyers continued to appear upon the coins until the middle of Augustus’ reign. Although the duty of moneyers during the Empire is not known, since the position was not abolished, it is believed that they still had some influence over the imagery of the coins.
The main focus of the imagery during the empire was on the portrait of the emperor. Coins were an important means of disseminating this image throughout the empire. Coins often attempted to make the emperor appear god-like through associating the emperor with attributes normally seen in divinities, or emphasizing the special relationship between the emperor and a particular deity by producing a preponderance of coins depicting that deity. During his campaign against Pompey, Caesar issued a variety of types that featured images of either Venus or Aeneas, attempting to associate himself with his divine ancestors. An example of an emperor who went to an extreme in proclaiming divine status was Commodus. In 192, he issued a series of coins depicting his bust clad in a lion-skin (the usual depiction of Hercules) on the obverse, and an inscription proclaiming that he was the Roman incarnation of Hercules on the reverse. Although Commodus was excessive in his depiction of his image, this extreme case is indicative of the objective of many emperors in the exploitation of their portraits. While the emperor is by far the most frequent portrait on the obverse of coins, heirs apparent, predecessors, and other family members, such as empresses, were also featured. To aid in succession, the legitimacy of an heir was affirmed by producing coins for that successor. This was done from the time of Augustus till the end of the empire.
Featuring the portrait of an individual on a coin, which became legal in 44 BC, caused the coin to embody the attributes of the individual portrayed. Dio wrote that following the death of Caligula the Senate demonetized his coinage, and ordered that they be melted. Regardless of whether or not this actually occurred, it demonstrates the importance and meaning that was attached to the imagery on a coin. The philosopher Epictetus jokingly wrote: "Whose image does this sestertius carry? Trajan’s? Give it to me. Nero’s? Throw it away, it is unacceptable, it is rotten." Although the writer did not seriously expect people to get rid of their coins, this quotation demonstrates that the Romans attached a moral value to the images on their coins. Unlike the obverse, which during the imperial period almost always featured a portrait, the reverse was far more varied in its depiction. During the late Republic there were often political messages to the imagery, especially during the periods of civil war. However, by the middle of the Empire, although there were types that made important statements, and some that were overtly political or propagandistic in nature, the majority of the types were stock images of personifications or deities. While some images can be related to the policy or actions of a particular emperor, many of the choices seem arbitrary and the personifications and deities were so prosaic that their names were often omitted, as they were readily recognizable by their appearance and attributes alone.
It can be argued that within this backdrop of mostly indistinguishable types, exceptions would be far more pronounced. Atypical reverses are usually seen during and after periods of war, at which time emperors make various claims of liberation, subjugation, and pacification. Some of these reverse images can clearly be classified as propaganda. An example struck by emperor Philip in 244 features a legend proclaiming the establishment of peace with Persia in truth, Rome had been forced to pay large sums in tribute to the Persians.
Although it is difficult to make accurate generalizations about reverse imagery, as this was something that varied by emperor, some trends do exist. An example is reverse types of the military emperors during the second half of the third century, where virtually all of the types were the common and standard personifications and deities. A possible explanation for the lack of originality is that these emperors were attempting to present conservative images to establish their legitimacy, something that many of these emperors lacked. Although these emperors relied on traditional reverse types, their portraits often emphasized their authority through stern gazes , and even featured the bust of the emperor clad in armor.

Although the denarius remained the backbone of the Roman economy from its introduction in 211 BC until it ceased to be normally minted in the middle of the third century, the purity and weight of the coin slowly, but inexorably decreased. The problem of debasement in the Roman economy appears to be pervasive, although the severity of the debasement often paralleled the strength or weakness of the Empire. While it is not clear why debasement was such a common occurrence for the Romans, it's believed that it was caused by several factors, including a lack of precious metals, inadequacies in state finances, and inflation. When introduced, the denarius contained nearly pure silver at a theoretical weight of approximately 4.5 grams.

The theoretical standard, although not usually met in practice, remained fairly stable throughout the Republic, with the notable exception of times of war. The large number of coins required to raise an army and pay for supplies often necessitated the debasement of the coinage. An example of this is the denarii that were struck by Mark Antony to pay his army during his battles against Octavian. These coins, slightly smaller in diameter than a normal denarius, were made of noticeably debased silver. The obverse features a galley and the name Antony, while the reverse features the name of the particular legion that each issue was intended for (it is interesting to note that hoard evidence shows that these coins remained in circulation over 200 years after they were minted, due to their lower silver content). The coinage of the Julio-Claudians remained stable at 4 grams of silver, until the debasement of Nero in 64, when the silver content was reduced to 3.8 grams, perhaps due to the cost of rebuilding the city after fire consumed a considerable portion of Rome.
The denarius continued to decline slowly in purity, with a notable reduction instituted by Septimius Severus. This was followed by the introduction of a double denarius piece, differentiated from the denarius by the radiate crown worn by the emperor. The coin is commonly called the antoninianus by numismatists after the emperor Caracalla, who introduced the coin in early in 215. Although nominally valued at two denarii, the antoninianus never contained more than 1.6 times the amount of silver of the denarius. The profit of minting a coin valued at two denarii, but weighing only about one and a half times as much is obvious the reaction to these coins by the public is unknown. As the number of antoniniani minted increased, the number of denarii minted decreased, until the denarius ceased to be minted in significant quantities by the middle of the third century. Again, coinage saw its greatest debasement during times of war and uncertainty. The second half of the third century was rife with this war and uncertainty, and the silver content of the antonianus fell to only 2%, losing almost an appearance of being silver. During this time the aureus remained slightly more stable, before it too became smaller and more base before Diocletian’s reform.
The decline in the silver content to the point where coins contained virtually no silver at all was countered by the monetary reform of Aurelian in 274. The standard for silver in the antonianus was set at twenty parts copper to one part silver, and the coins were noticeably marked as containing that amount (XXI in Latin or KA in Greek). Despite the reform of Aurelian, silver content continued to decline, until the monetary reform of Diocletian. In addition to establishing the tetrarchy, Diocletian devised the following system of denominations: an aureus struck at the standard of 60 to the pound, a new silver coin struck at the old Neronian standard known as the argenteus, and a new large bronze coin that contained two percent silver.
Diocletian issued an Edict on Maximum Prices in 301, which attempted to establish the legal maximum prices that could be charged for goods and services. The attempt to establish maximum prices was an exercise in futility as maximum prices were impossible to enforce. The Edict was reckoned in terms of denarii, although no such coin had been struck for over 50 years (it is believed that the bronze follis was valued at 12.5 denarii). Like earlier reforms, this too eroded and was replaced by an uncertain coinage consisting mostly of gold and bronze. The exact relationship and denomination of the bronze issues of a variety of sizes is not known, and is believed to have fluctuated heavily on the market.
The exact reason that Roman coinage sustained constant debasement is not known, but the most common theories involve inflation, trade with India, which drained silver from the Mediterranean world, and inadequacies in state finances. It is clear from papyri that the pay of the Roman soldier increased from 900 sestertii a year under Augustus to 2000 sestertii a year under Septimius Severus and the price of grain more than tripled indicating that fall in real wages and a moderate inflation occurred during this time.
Another reason for debasement was lack of raw metal with which to produce coins. Italy itself contains no large or reliable mines for precious metals, therefore the precious metals for coinage had to be obtained elsewhere. The majority of the precious metals that Rome obtained during its period of expansion arrived in the form of war booty from defeated territories, and subsequent tribute and taxes by new-conquered lands. When Rome ceased to expand, the precious metals for coinage then came from newly mined silver, such as from Greece and Spain, and from melting older coins.
Without a constant influx of precious metals from an outside source, and with the expense of continual wars, it would seem reasonable that coins might be debased to increase the amount that the government could spend. A simpler possible explanation for the debasement of coinage is that it allowed the state to spend more than it had. By decreasing the amount of silver in its coins, Rome could produce more coins and "stretch" its budget. As time progressed the trade deficit of the west because of its buying of grain and other commodities led to a currency drainage in Rome.


Roman Imperial Coins – The Julio-Claudians History

With the assumption of the title of Augustus by Octavian in January of 27 BCE, the Roman world officially transformed into an empire that would reshape the Western world. Augustus began a dynasty – the Julio-Claudians – that, while short, had a lasting impact on the governance and monetary system, in the early empire. Augustus and his successor Tiberius (who reigned from 14 to 37 CE) enjoyed long periods of comparative stability, followed by Gaius (better known as Caligula) in 37, then Claudius in 41, and finally concluding with Nero in 54.

The coins of Augustus largely continued the system laid out during the Republic and Imperatorial periods, consisting primarily of the gold aureus and quinarius the silver denarius and quinarius, and the base metal sestertius, dupondius, as, semis, and quadrans:

1 gold aureus = 2 gold quinarii = 25 silver denarii

1 silver denarius = 2 silver quinarii = 4 bronze sestertii

1 bronze sestertius = 2 brass dupondii = 4 bronze aes = 8 bronze semis = 16 bronze quadrantes

One unusual denomination used primarily in Asia Minor is the cistophoric tetradrachm, roughly equal to about three denarii. The earliest issues under Augustus bore many different designs and styles. Later during his reign did it become more standardized with a portrait of the emperor on the obverse and reserving the reverse for a wide variety of deities, personifications, buildings, and commemorative events. One of the most famous issues is the large bronze sestertii of Nero with a bird’s eye view of the port of Ostia and another depicting the Pax Romana as symbolized by the closing of the doors of the Temple of Janus. Among the more frequently encountered Augustan bronze coins are those that depict the Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace) of Lugdunum. Other early bronzes included the names of the moneyers (tresviri monetales), though this was discontinued sometime towards the end of Augustus’ reign. Some of the members of the imperial family are also depicted, and even a close friend of Augustus, Marcus Agrippa (whose name appears on the Pantheon in Rome), was so honored with an extensive issuance of bronzes.

While earlier Republican coins could be reasonably well-dated due to who was identified as consul on the coins since they served only a two-year term, with the imperial era, the assumption of specific titles by the emperor and their often annual renewals now serve as a way of dating coins. In addition to the main imperial title of Augustus (AVG on the coins), the primary datable titles involve the consulship (COS), the assumption of the tribunician powers (TRP or TRPOT), and the title of imperator (IMP). Other useful titles for dating purposes include pater patriae (PP), pontifex maximus (PM), and notably Caesar (CAES), all of which were assumed only once. This complex regnal dating system began under Augustus and Tiberius and persisted through to the third century and can be used with some degree of precision. Most reference works on Roman coins include charts on how to use these titles for dating. Most bronze coins will also have the (sometimes quite large) letters SC for Senatus Consulto, indicating that while the coining of precious metals was generally administered by the emperor, the bronze coins were under senatorial jurisdiction.
The principal mint throughout much of the empire in the first and second centuries CE was Rome. Other mints coining strictly imperial types (as versus purely local issues) were also opened. The widespread use of mintmarks to differentiate between each mint would not be standardized for another two and a half centuries, making attribution to a specific mint rather challenging and primarily based on design types, style, and hoard finds. Some of the principal mints include: Lugdunum, Ephesus, Pergamum, Emerita, Nemausus, and Caesarea Cappadociae. In addition, there may have also been several unidentified Spanish, Gallic, and Balkan mints, and at least one traveling military mint in Italy.


Roman Imperial Coinage - History

Roman coinage provides a major resource for the historian and the archaeologist. A primary requirement is the provision of a standard typology on which both can rely. The Roman Provincial Coinage initiative complements the now complete series of Roman Imperial Coinage , and will result in the provision of a standard treatment of all Roman coinage. The material is relevant to a wide range of taught courses under both Classics and Archaeology, at both a graduate and undergraduate level. It is also a vital resource for the international research community and other interested parties.

The publication of Roman Provincial Coinage vol 1 (44 BC&ndashAD 69) in 1992 marked the start of this international initiative, which will comprise ten volumes in all. Roman Provincial Coinage is published by British Museum Press and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and is under the general editorship of Andrew Burnett (British Museum), Michel Amandry (Bibliothèque nationale de France), Chris Howgego (Ashmolean Museum), and Jerome Mairat (Ashmolean Museum). The online publication is based in the Heberden Coin Room of the Ashmolean Museum, which is part of the University of Oxford.

The aim of the project is to produce a standard typology of the provincial coinage of the Roman Empire. Coins are mass-produced objects, so that from the historical point of view it does not make sense to confine consideration to the collection in any one museum. The project is based on the ten most important and accessible collections in the world (the 'core collections'), and on all published material. This represents the first systematic treatment of the civic coinage at the height of the Roman empire, and will have great importance for the study of cultural, religious, political, economic, and administrative history at both a local and an imperial level.


Feudalism

Since the military and the imperial guard were absolutely essential, taxpayers had to be compelled to produce their pay. Workers had to be tied to their land. To escape the burden of tax, some small landowners sold themselves into enslavement, since those in bondage didn't have to pay tax and freedom from taxes was more desirable than personal liberty.

In the early days of the Roman Republic, debt-bondage (nexum) was acceptable. Nexum, Cornell argues, was better than being sold into foreign enslavement or death. It is possible that centuries later, during the Empire, the same sentiments prevailed.

Since the Empire wasn't making money from its enslaved people, Emperor Valens (ca. 368) made it illegal to sell oneself into bondage. Small landowners becoming feudal serfs is one of the several economic conditions responsible for the fall of Rome.


Watch the video: Ελληνική ιστορία - Ρωμαϊκή περίοδος 27. 476