Holding a Piece of History: Roman Coins

I don’t usually write about this on the blog, but I am kind of fascinated with numismatics: the study of coins and money. Usually, I collect modern money from around the world, but lately, I decided to purchase coins from the ancient Roman Empire. I found some good sellers online from Ebay and Amazon.com and bought a few basic coins.

During the Roman Empire, banks did not exist. So, to save money, people often buried it in the ground. Soldiers would often bury money before they go off to war, but if they died, the money was forgotten. So, people still find buried Roman coins all over Europe, Asia Minor, North Africa, etc. Most coins are low-quality and made of Bronze (As, Dupondius, etc), while some are made of silver (Denarius, Sestertius) or even gold (Solidus). You can buy coins that are cleaned, or just buy coins as they are found in the ground and clean them yourself.

Since this was my first purchase, I bought one of each: one cleaned coin and one uncleaned coin. I wasn’t expecting to find anything valuable or in good condition, I just wanted to try it first.

This is the cleaned coin, a copper as from the time of Emperor Constantine the Great, one of his sons, or Emperor Constantius II:

Roman Bronze Coin

The front is badly worn-out, so it’s almost impossible to read, but the back is easier to read:

Roman Bronze Coin

The back seems to say in Latin PROVIDENTIAE AVGG, SMKG which means something like “In honor of the foresight of the Emperors”. The SMKG means it was minted at the ancient city of Cyzicus. Actually, it’s spelled SMKΓ, with Γ being the Greek letter for “G” (gamma).

This page provides a lot of good information about coins from this period, but since I can’t read the front (the obverse), I can’t really verify who it is. Coins by Emperor Constantine are similar to ones made by his sons, so you have to look at the name carefully, if possible. It seems similar to coins like this and this, plus on the upper-right, I think I can read “NUS” as in CONSTATINUS so I’m fairly certain it’s Emperor Constantine but I could be wrong.

But the other coin is actually more interesting to me:

Roman Dupondius Coin


Roman Dupondius Coin

The seller suggested that this might be a dupondius from Emperor Marcus Aurelius. A dupondius is a larger brass coin that was worth about 2 copper coins. It definitely feels heavier and is thicker, but the coin is pretty worn, so it’s hard to see the features. Here’s another photo (here you can see the face more easily):

Roman Dupondius Coin

and on the back is Aequitas, the Roman symbol for Justice (still used today):

Roman Dupondius Coin

When I was a teenager, I was really fascinated with ancient civilizations (later I became more interested in Asian culture), and I remember reading the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius in the library. This was the writings of Emperor Marcus Aurelius and his philosophy. It was pretty difficult to read, and I didn’t get very far, but now it’s strange to be holding a coin from his reign.

Anyhow, I can’t verify that this is really Marcus Aurelius, but I will try and clean the coin and see if I can find out more. Of course, I will update the blog if I do. 🙂

P.S. Most of the money I’ve collected are modern currency, but I have a few historical coins. I have a 1919 coin from the colony of Hong Kong, and a 1895 coin from Japan (5 yen, I think), plus money from the Republic of South Vietnam which is no longer used and money from Communist Cambodia (the Khmer Rouge). Again, nothing major, but just little bits of history.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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