Our Main Auction on May the 10th and 11th will be filled with antique Roman coins – all the way to the time before the common era.
General information about Rome
The Roman Empire, also known as Ancient Rome, was an empire, depending on the method of calculation, from 8th century (BCE) to the 5th century (CE). There have been findings of civilization around the capital of Rome all the way from 14th century (BCE). So even Rome was not built in a day! Many consider that the Roman Empire came to its end when it divided into the Eastern and Western Rome on the 5th century.
First coins in Europe were made around mid 7th century (BCE) in Greece, but it took hundreds of years before money was used in transactions all over the Europe. For example, before the common era, not even in the Roman Empire the expenses or incomes were counted.
The Romans learned about their new emperor from his portrait in the coins. Even emperor Quietus made two coins with his portrait during his reign, which lasted only about a year.
Some of the Roman coins in the auction and emperors in that time
Agrippa 63 (BCE)
Marcus Vispanius Agrippa (b. 64–62, d.12 BCE) was a Roman general, architect and statesman. He was also a close friend of the famous emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus.
Agrippa had a huge responsibility in a warfare and building Rome. He led Roman army on the battles of Philippi and Actium, victoriously, I might add. For the city of Rome he set out a campaign to repair and improve Rome, for example the sewers were cleaned and many buildings were repaired or improved. He also designed new baths, gardens and buildings, i.e. the original Pantheon. The original Pantheon was destroyed probably in the early 1st century, so the Pantheon now standing in Rome is not the one Agrippa built. For respect towards Agrippa emperor Hadrian rebuilt the Pantheon and gave all the credit to him!
The coin of Agrippa. Photo: Aki Syrjäläinen/Auction House Helander
Domitian 81–96 (CE)
Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus (51–96), better known as Domitian, was the empiror of Rome during the years 81–96. Generally speaking, he was a good emperor, but his dictatorial attitude weakened his status in the eyes of the upper class. Even though the Roman empire was a dictatorship, the emperors usually wanted the public to see the situation as a republic.
Domitian build and repaired Rome, for example the temple of Jupiter, and kept citizens happy by setting up sports competitions and circus shows. He also build a new, bigger and more decorative palace for himself, since the old one seemed to be too modest. Some historical sources may show Domitian as a cruel emperor. You have to be a little skeptical about some of those sources, since historians like Tacitus and Suetonius were known to have some issues with Domitian. Therefore, they probably wanted to show him in a bad light.
Phrase pecunia non olet (“money does not stink”) originates to Domitian´s father, empiror Vespasian, when he introduced urine tax on public toilets.
The coin of Domitian. Photo: Aki Syrjäläinen/Auction House Helander
Tetricus 270-273 (CE)
Gaius Pius Esuvius Tetricus, also known as Tetricus I, was the last emperor of the Gallic Empire during 271–274. He was an emperor just for few years, but he issued a great amount of coins. The Roman Empire defeated the Gallic Empire quite easily. One reason for this was that Germanic groups had been attacking Gallic Empire for years and weakened it. The last battle against Romans was the Battle of Châlons, in which Tetricus got captured. Some say that he surrendered to save his and his son’s life, but many believe that this was just propaganda. In any case, this was the end of the Gallic Empire. The Roman emperor pardoned Tetricus and his son, so they could live long life in Roman Empire, and they did. Later in life Tetricus became a senator and corrector in a minor province.
The coin of Tetricus. Photo: Aki Syrjäläinen/Auction House Helander
3rd century economy crisisThe Roman empire was under inflation all the 3rd century but the worst of it occurred after the mid-3rd century. Originally the coin denarius was 97 per cent silver, but in mid-3rd century only 50 per cent and at the end of 3rd century only around 5 per cent. The Roman emperor Aurelian (who was the emperor during Tetricus) struck new coins during this inflation. In those coins there are numerals XXI or KA. They were called follis.
Constantine the Great 306-337 (CE)
Constantine the Great (272–337), also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, is one of the most known Roman emperors. He was the emperor of Roman Empire during the years 306–337. Originally, he was mostly the emperor of the Western Rome, but after defeating Maxentius and Licinius in 324, he took over the whole empire.
Constantine the Great was also the first Christian emperor, though he was baptized just before he passed away. Before passing away he ended persecution against Christians and legalized Christianity. Constantine also made a law that Sundays are sabbath for all the citizens.
He renewed the Roman coinage system during his reign. Silver “inflation” coin follis was replaced with 3 gram bronze coin. The new silver coin was called siliqua and it´s weight was 2,27 gram. There was also changes in the gold coin, but changes to these two coins had the most impact on the citizens, because the value of the silver and bronze coins went more down than the gold coin. As you can imagine, gold coins were mostly owned by upper class and the emperor.
The coin of Constantine the Great. Photo: Aki Syrjäläinen/Auction House Helander
All the coins I mentioned earlier, as many other Roman coins, will be sold at our May Auction. May Auction will be held the 10th and 11th of May. In the auction there will be more historical items, for example an English parchment from mid-18th century. The auction catalogue will be published on the 4th of May at 5pm (local time).
Text: Joonas Mutkala/Auction House Helander
Photos: Aki Syrjäläinen/Auction House Helander