Coins and Value

The silver denarius was the standard monetary unit of the Roman Empire.  Its value was tied initially to the weight and purity of the silver it contained.  Over time, as the empire fell into decline, emperors began to debase the intrinsic value of coinage.  The emperor Nero (54-68 C.E.) lowered the weight of coins during his rule to balance deficits.  Successive emperors followed suit.  Within 150 years or so, the denarius was devalued to the point that it contained less than 50% silver.  This tetradrachm coin featuring the head of Nero in profile is a silver/copper alloy and was circulated in the region of Alexandria, Egypt during Nero’s reign. 













 Tetradrachm of Nero                   Silver and copper alloy                           64 – 65 C.E.                             2015.16.0066                                     Gift of Ron D’Argenio