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Money and currency

The Argentarius


The Argentarius was a well defined professional in the ancient Rome, as well as in other civilizations, who, depending on the period and the place, did the job of the money-changer, the early-stage banker, the money lender or the official in charge for the public auctions.

He was a real professional (he couldn't improvise  with money!) who generally didn't have a good reputation amongst his contemporaries because, in the name of wealth and personal profit, he didn't hesitate to ruin those who asked for his services. 

Money in the ancient Rome, starting from III century b.C., was in form of coins made of precious metal: silver, gold but also copper and bronze for the smaller pieces in use in the everyday life. 

Coins were issued under the strict control of the state (the Senate at first and the Empereors later) and they were produced in mints (the romans called them 'monetary workshops') placed in Rome or in the other cities  authorized to issue their own emissions.

The first roman mint it is believed was located on the Capitol hill, beside the temple dedicated to the goddess Iuno Moneta, that is 'Iuno the Admonisher' (form latin monere - to warn) because, according to the legend, during the siege of Rome by the Gauls in 392 b.C., the geese sacred to the goddess warned the roman defensors about an impending night attack, allowing them to withstand and keep the hill. As a sign of gratitude, the romans will later build a temple in honor of the goddes on the top of the Capitol hill; the proximity of the temple to the mint ended up, through time, to indentify the Moneta (money, currency) itself, originating in that wayan indissoluble relation between the goddess and the money: aedes atque officina Monetae (temple and mint of Moneta - Liv. VI 20, 13).

Production took place by means of dies, where a precious metal blank piece of metal, of the appropriate weight, was hammered into actual coins, at the end of a well defined and carefully regulated making process, both under the technical and administrative point of view. 

The most widespread, long-lasting and appreciated piece of the roman coinage was the silver Denarius, from which derives the word 'denaro', still today in use in modern-day italian language.

Roman Republic, Aes Grave, circa 216 B.C.​
As of semi-libral reduction
O/ laureated and bearded head of Ianus;
R/Prow of galley right, on top I
Reproduction made by Mos Maiorum based on a chalk model from an original piece

Coin hammering.

The cultural association Mos Maiorum guides the visitor through the history of money and the so-called pre-monetary and  reconstruct the hammering in a die of copies of an original denarius dating back to 103 b.C. (below).

Roman Republic, Q. Minucius M.f. Thermus, 103 B.C.​
O/ helmeted head of Mars left;
R/Roman soldier fighting barbarian, fallen soldier in middle, Q•TERM MF in exergue
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