Aureus: Difference between revisions

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[[File:Aureus Septimius Severus-193-leg XIIII GMV.jpg|thumb|300px|''Aureus'' minted in 193 by [[Septimius Severus]] to celebrate [[Legio XIV Gemina|XIV ''Gemina Martia Victrix'']], the legion that proclaimed him emperor.]]
The '''''aureus''''' (pl. '''''aurei''''' — "golden") was a [[gold coin]] of [[ancient Rome]] originally valued at 25 pure silver ''[[denarius|denarii]]''. The ''aureus'' was regularly issued from the 1st century BC to the beginning of the 4th century AD, when it was replaced by the ''[[solidus (coin)|solidus]]''. The ''aureus'' was about the same size as the ''denarius'', but heavier due to the higher [[density]] of [[gold]] (as opposed to that of [[silver]].)
 
Before the time of [[Julius Caesar]] the ''aureus'' was struck very infrequently, usually to make large payments from captured booty. Caesar struck the coin more frequentlyoften, and standardized the weight at <math>\tfrac{1}{40}</math> of a [[Roman pound]] (about 8 [[gram]]s). [[Augustus]] (r. 29 BC – 9 AD) tariffed the value of the ''[[sestertius]]'' as <math>\tfrac{1}{100}</math> of an ''aureus''. The mass of the ''aureus'' was decreased to <math>\tfrac{1}{45}</math> of a pound (7.3 g) during the reign of [[Nero]] (r. 54–68).
 
The mass of the ''aureus'' was decreased to <math>\tfrac{1}{45}</math> of a pound (7.3 g) during the reign of [[Nero]] (r. 54–68). At about the same time the purity of the silver coinage was also slightly decreased.
 
[[File:Octavian aureus circa 30 BCE.jpg|thumb|left|''Aureus'' of [[Augustus|Octavian]], c. 30 BC.]]
After the reign of [[Marcus Aurelius]] (r. 161–180) the production of ''aurei'' decreased, and the weight was further decreasedfell to <math>\tfrac{1}{50}</math> of a pound (6.5 g) by the time of [[Caracalla]] (r. 211–217). During the 3rd century, gold pieces were introduced in a variety of fractions and multiples, making it hard to determine the intended denomination of a gold coin.{{Cn|date=May 2014}}
 
The ''solidus'' was first introduced by [[Diocletian]] (r. 284–305) around 301 AD, struck at 60 to the Roman pound of pure gold (and thus weighing about 5.5 g each) and with an initial value equal to 1,000 ''denarii''. However, Diocletian's solidus was struck only in small quantities, and thus had only minimal economic effect.
The [[Solidus (coin)|solidus]] was reintroduced by [[Constantine I]] (r. 306–337) in 312 AD, permanently replacing the ''aureus'' as the gold coin of the Roman Empire. The ''solidus'' was struck at a rate of 72 to a Roman pound of pure gold, each coin weighing twenty-four Greco-Roman carats, or about 4.5 grams of gold per coin. By this time, the solidus was worth 275,000 of the increasingly debased ''denarii''.
 
However, regardless of the ''size'' or ''weight'' of the ''aureus'', the coin's purity was little affected. Analysis of the Roman ''aureus'' shows the purity level usually to have been near to 24 [[Carat (purity)|carat]] gold, so in excess of 99% pure.
 
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