A Primary Source Analysis

Primary Source Analysis

Outline

The Capitoline temple dedication in the 4th Century signified the beginning of the Roman Republic that would see the introduction of constitutional rule and formal currency.[1] This revolution brought about a devolution of power from the formerly monarch based rule to a more democratic style that saw the introduction of a ruling class who were tasked with the creation and development of laws to govern the land. Power was however still concentrated in a few influential families who had a say in all that was done in Rome at the time as most of the Senate were made up with members from their families.[2] The Senate at the time concentrated the majority of its efforts to increasing their military power to ensure they had an upper hand over other city-states. With its armies, Rome started a massive expansion campaign that saw it capture the regions of Latium and central Italy and led to the creation of the treaty of Cassius between Rome and the Latin cities. This treaty subjugated the Latin states under Rome effectively making them colonies and relinquishing their rule and administration to the Romans. Rome significantly increased it military muscle and sought to expand once again, this time, targeting the regions in central and northern Italy, and Greece to the south. Rome, however, left the Greeks to continue with their systems of administration to reduce the trouble of trying to impose their rule in a culture whose fabric was nothing like their own.

Roman coin production was carried out in Italy after its conquest, and later more coin production centers were set up across the empire.[3] This continued for over eight centuries and facilitated trade through the establishment of value effectively driving business and skill development by creating a system where labor could be traded for coin, which could then be converted to commodities through trade. The introduction of coins also allowed the scaling up of transactions by facilitating the payment of identical significant sums of money. Probably the most social role coins played was the transfer of information from the capital to the masses in all of Rome. Due to the vastness of the Roman territories, it was not possible for all people to visit its national monuments and sites or see its famous rulers and generals. Coins made it possible for people from far away to see these political and imperial figures by placing them on their coins. Like any modern currency, denominations and their values fluctuated and changed from time to time, but there are some types of coins, like the sestertii and the denarii, which proved to be resilient to changing times and today sit among the most famous coins in history. Coinage was enhanced by the bounties of war that allowed the Romans to produce coins from precious metals enhancing their value.

Politicians used coins for political reasons to increase their influence and influence popular beliefs. Since coins were the best form of mass media available at the time, new rulers ensured that they had coins with their images minted during the time of their reign as a way of immortalizing themselves in the fabric of the Empire. They also served as great propaganda tools as they spread the word of changes in government and power.[4] Rulers also minted their coins to pay soldiers and ensure their loyalty and allegiance while soldiers enhanced the circulation of the Roman currency through their constant movements throughout the land. Rome’s conquests led to the establishment of silver as the principle minting material after the acquisition of the Macedonian silver mines and by the first century BC, Roman coins were so mainstream, as far as across the Mediterranean, that they had no further need to mark coins as Roman during minting. By the time of Caesar’s death, there were so many different factions producing currency and each wanted to maintain their power which led to serious fighting. A standard Roman coinage was established however after the Octavian’s emerged victoriously.

The Roman Empire developed an intricate social and economic system that ensured its continuity through taxation, which also led to the stratification of their society and the emergence of different social classes.[5] Trouble, however, started when poor economic practices led emperors to mint more money to cover their budgetary deficits, which resulted in massive value losses o the currencies and leading to the collapse of the silver coins.[6] To increase the quantity of coins produced, some emperors resorted to lowering the precious metal constituents of their coins and effectively opened their coinage system to counterfeiters and lowering the sovereignty of their currency. The situation worsened with the 3rd Century barbarian invasions that put the Empire under intense financial pressure and the economy at near collapse with the only mediums of exchange being gold coins or barter. Roman coinage and indeed its financial system underwent serious reforms during the reign of Aurelian. He instituted reforms many of which outlasted the Roman Empire itself like the new gold coin the solidus with an assured gold content of 60%.

 

Bibliography

Dunstan, William E. 2011. Ancient Rome. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Haynes, Ian P. n.d. Blood of the Provinces: The Roman auxilia and the making of provincial Society from Augustus to the Severans.

Horsnæs, Helle W. n.d. Crossing boundaries an analysis of Roman coins in Danish contexts. Copenhagen: ˜Theœ National Museum of Denmark.

Mackay, Christopher S. 2007. Ancient Rome: a military and political history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mackay, Christopher S. 2009. The breakdown of the Roman Republic: from oligarchy to the empire. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Raaflaub, Kurt A. 2008. Social Struggles in Archaic Rome New Perspectives on the Conflict of the Orders, 2nd, Expanded and Updated Edition. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

[1] William Dunstan, Ancient Rome, (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011).

 

[2] Christopher Mackay, The breakdown of the Roman Republic: From oligarchy to the empire. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

 

[3] Christopher Mackay, Ancient Rome: A military and political history, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

 

[4] Helle Horsnæs, Crossing boundaries an analysis of Roman coins in Danish contexts. (Copenhagen: ˜Theœ National Museum of Denmark).

 

[5] Kurt Raaflaub, Social Struggles in Archaic Rome New Perspectives on the Conflict of the Orders, 2nd, Expanded and Updated Edition, (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

 

[6] Ian Haynes, Blood of the Provinces: The Roman auxilia and the making of provincial Society from Augustus to the Severans.

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