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The next1 crime committed against the welfare of mankind was on the part of him who was the first to coin a denarius2 of gold, a crime the author of which is equally unknown. The Roman people made no use of impressed silver even before the period of the defeat3 of King Pyrrhus. The "as" of copper weighed exactly one libra; and hence it is that we still use the terms "libella"4 and "dupondius."5 Hence it is, too, that fines and penalties are inflicted under the name of "æs grave,"6 and that the words still used in keeping accounts are "expensa,"7 "impendia,"8 and "dependere."9 Hence, too, the word "stipendium," meaning the pay of the soldiers, which is nothing more than "stipis pondera;"10 and from the same source those other words, "dispensatores"11 and "libripendes."12 It is also from this circumstance that in sales of slaves, at the present day even, the formality of using the balance is introduced.

King Servius was the first to make an impress upon copper. Before his time, according to Timæus, at Rome the raw metal only was used. The form of a sheep was the first figure impressed upon money, and to this fact it owes its name, "pecunia."13 The highest figure at which one man's property was assessed in the reign of that king was one hundred and twenty thousand asses, and consequently that amount of property was considered the standard of the first class.

Silver was not impressed with a mark until the year of the City 485, the year of the consulship of Q. Ogulnius and C. Fabius, five years before the First Punic War; at which time it was ordained that the value of the denarius should be ten libræ14 of copper, that of the quinarius five libræ, and that of the sestertius two libræ and a half. The weight, however, of the libra of copper was diminished during the First Punic War, the republic not having means to meet its expenditure: in consequence of which, an ordinance was made that the as should in future be struck of two ounces weight. By this contrivance a saving of five-sixths was effected, and the public debt was liquidated. The impression upon these copper coins was a two-faced Janus on one side, and the beak of a ship of war on the other: the triens,15 however, and the quadrans,16 bore the impression of a ship. The quadrans, too, had, previously to this, been called "teruncius," as being three unciæ17 in weight. At a later period again, when Hannibal was pressing hard upon Rome, in the dictatorship of Q. Fabius Maximus, asses of one ounce weight were struck, and it was ordained that the value of the denarius should be sixteen asses, that of the quinarius eight asses, and that of the sestertius four asses; by which last reduction of the weight of the as the republic made a clear gain of one half. Still, however, so far as the pay of the soldiers is concerned, one denarius has always been given for every ten asses. The impressions upon the coins of silver were two-horse and four-horse chariots, and hence it is that they received the names of "bigati" and "quadrigati."

Shortly after, in accordance with the Law of Papirius, asses were coined weighing half an ounce only. Livius Drusus, when18 tribune of the people, alloyed the silver with one-eighth part of copper. The coin that is known at the present day as the "victoriatus,"19 was first struck in accordance with the Clodian Law: before which period, a coin of this name was imported from Illyricum, but was only looked upon as an article of merchandize. The impression upon it is a figure of Victory, and hence its name.

The first golden coin was struck sixty-two years after that of silver, the scruple of gold being valued at twenty sesterces; a computation which gave, according to the value of the sesterce then in use, nine hundred sesterces to each libra of gold.20 In later times, again, an ordinance was made, that denarii of gold should be struck, at the rate of forty denarii21 to each libra of gold; after which period, the emperors gradually curtailed the weight of the golden denarius, until at last, in the reign of Nero, it was coined at the rate of forty-five to the libra.

1 The first crime having been committed by him who introduced the use of gold rings. See the beginning of c. 4 of this Book.

2 The golden denarius was known also as the "aureus" or "gold coin." It was worth 25 silver denarii. As to the modern value of the money used by the ancients, see the Introduction to Vol. III. The golden denarius is mentioned also in B. xxxiv. c. 17, and in B. xxxvii. c. 3.

3 A.U.C. 479.

4 Meaning, literally, the "little pound," in reference to the diminished weight of the "as."

5 Meaning "two pounds," or in other words, "two asses." See B. xxxiv. c. 2. As to the weight of the "libra," or pound, see the Introduction to Vol. III.

6 "Brasse bullion, or in masse."—Holland.

7 "Money weighed out," i.e. "expenses."

8 "Money weighed out for the payment of interest."

9 "To weigh out money for payment," i.e. "to pay."

10 "A weight of money."

11 "Weighers-out;" meaning "keepers of accounts," or "paymasters."

12 "Weighers-out" of the soldiers' wages; i.e. "paymasters."

13 From "pecus," a sheep. See B. xviii. c. 3.

14 "Pounds" or "asses."

15 The third of an "as."

16 The fourth of an "as."

17 Or ounces; being one-fourth of the "as," of one "libra" in weight. See Introduction to Vol. III.

18 A.U.C. 663.

19 The same as the quinarius, one-half of the denarius. In B. xx. c. 100, it is mentioned as a weight. See also the Introduction to Vol. III.

20 As, originally, there were 288 "scripula," or scruples, to the "libra" or pound, this would appear to give 5760 sestertii to the pound of gold, and not 900 merely. Though this apparent discrepancy has generally puzzled the commentators, the solution, as suggested by M. Parisot, in the Notes to Ajasson's Translation, appears equally simple and satisfactory. He suggests that in the "as," or "libra," of two ounces, there were 288 scruples. Now, the scruple remaining the same, when the as or libra was reduced to one ounce, it would contain but 144 of these scruples. Then, on making the as the sixteenth part of a denarius instead of the tenth, it would lose three-eighths of its value in scruples, or in other words, 54 scruples, thus making it worth but 90 scruples. Then again, as above stated, by the Papirian Law, the weight or value of the libra or as was reduced one-half, making its value in scruples only 45; or, in other words, five thirty-seconds of its original value, when worth two unciæ or ounces. This number of scruples to the libra would give, at the rate of twenty sesterces to the scruple of gold, exactly 900 sesterces to the libra of gold.

21 Or "aurei."

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