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p766 Moneta

Unsigned article on pp766‑767 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

MONETA, The mint or the place where money was coined. The mint of Rome was a building on the Capitoline, and attached to the temple of Juno Moneta, as the aerarium was to the temple of Saturn (Liv. VI.20). This temple was vowed by Camillus, and dedicated in 344 B.C. on the spot where the house of M. Manlius Capitolinus had once been standing (Liv. VII.28; Ov. Fast. VI.183). Some writers describe the art of coining as having been known to the Italians from the earliest times, and assign its invention to Janus (Macrob. Sat. I.7; Athen. XV p692); but this and similar accounts are nothing more than fables. The statement of Pliny (H. N. XXXIII.3), who assigns the invention of coining to Servius Tullius, has somewhat more of an historical aspect; and he derives the name pecunia from the circumstance that the coins were originally marked with the image of some animal. The earliest Roman coins were of aes [Aes], and not struck, but cast in a mould (see the representation of such a mould on page 545). The moulds, however, were sometimes without any figure and merely shaped the metal, and in this case, the image as well as the name of the gens, &c., were struck upon it by means of a hammer upon an anvil on which the form was fixed. As the strokes of the hammer were not always equal, one coin though equal in value with another might differ from it in thickness and shape. Greater equality was produced at the time when the Romans began to strike their money; but when this custom became general, is not known. Respecting the changes which were introduced at Rome at various times in the coinage see Aes, As, Argentum, Aurum, and Nummus.

In the early times of the republic we do not read of any officers who were changed with the superintendence of the mint; and respecting the introduction of such officers we have but a very vague statement of Pomponius (Dig. 1 tit. 2 §30). Their name was triumviri monetales, and Niebuhr (Hist. of RomeIII p646) thinks that they were introduced at the time when the Romans first began to coin silver, i.e. 269 B.C. The triumviri monetales had the whole superintendence of the mint, and of the money that was coined in it. A great number of coins, both of gold and silver, is signed by these triumvirs in the following manner:— III. VIR. AAAFF, that is, triumvir auro, argento, aere flando feriundo (Cic. de Leg. III.3; P. Manut. ad Cic. ad Fam. VII.13) or III. VIR. A.P.F., that is, ad pecuniam feriundam. Other coins on the other hand do not bear the signature of a triumvir monetalis, but the inscription CUR. X. FL. S. C. i.e. curator denariorum flandorum ex senatusconsulto, or are signed by praetors, aediles, and quaestors. Caesar not only increased the number of the triumviri monetales to four; whence some coins of his time bear the signature IIII. VIR. A.P.F., but entrusted certain slaves of his own with the superintendence of the mint (Suet. Caes. 76; compare Cic. Philip. VII.1). The whole regulation and management of the Roman mint and its officers during the time of the republic is involved in very great obscurity.

The coining of money at Rome was not a privilege belonging exclusively to the state, but from the coins still extant we must infer that every Roman citizen had the right to have his own gold and silver coined in the public mint, and under the superintendence of its officers. The individual or gens who had their metal coined, stated its name as well as the value of the coin. This was a kind of guarantee to the public, and nearly all the coins of the republican period coined by a gens or an individual bear a mark stating their value. As long as the republic herself used pure silver and gold, bad money does not seem to have been coined by any one; but when, in 90 B.C., the tribune Livius Drusus suggested the expediency of mixing the silver which was to be coined with one-eighth of copper, a temptation to forgery was given to the people, and it appears henceforth to have occurred frequently. As early as the year 86 B.C., forgery of money was carried to such an extent, that no one was sure whether the money he possessed was genuine or false, and the praetor M. Marius Gratidianus saw the necessity of interfering (Cic. de Off. III.20). He is said to have discovered a means of testing money and of distinguishing the good from the bad denarii (Plin. H. N. XXXIII.46). In what this means consisted is not clear; but some method of examining silver coins must have been known to the Romans long before this time (Liv. XXXII.2). Sulla inflicted heavy punishment upon the coiners of false money; his law remained in force during the empire, and not only false coining, but any crime connected with the deterioration of money, was gradually made to come under it. In the latest times of the empire false coining was treated as a crimen majestatis. All Roman money was generally coined at Rome, but in some particular cases the mints of other Italian towns, as in the provinces, were used; for we must remember, that during the time of the republic, subject countries and provinces were not deprived of the right of coining their own money. This right they even retained under the empire for a long time, though with some modifications; for while some places were allowed to coin their money as before, others were obliged to have upon their coins head of the emperor, or of some member of his family. Silver and gold, however, were coined only in places of the first rank. When all Italy received the Roman franchise, all the Italians used the Roman money, and in consequence lost the right to coin their own.

It has been stated above, that probably every p767Roman citizen had the right to have his gold and silver coined, but none had the right to put his own image upon a coin, and not even Sulla ventured to act contrary to this custom. The coins apparently of the republican period with the portraits of individuals, were, according to Eckhel, coined at a later time, and by the descendants of those persons whose portraits are given. Caesar was the first to whom this privilege was granted, and his example was followed by many others, as we see from the coins of Sext. Pompeius. The emperors assumed the right to put either their own images or those of members of their families upon their coins.

From the time of Augustus, the triumviri, generally speaking, no longer put their name son any coin, and it became the exclusive privilege of the emperor to coin silver and gold. The senate entrusted with the administration of the aerarium retained only the right of coining copper, whence almost all copper coins of this period are marked with S. C. or EX S. C. But this lasted only till the time of Gallienus, when the right of coining all money became the exclusive privilege of the emperors. As, however, the vast extent of the empire rendered more than one mint necessary, we find that in several provinces, such as Gaul and Spain, Roman money was coined under the superintendence of quaestors or proconsuls. Roman colonies and provinces now gradually ceased to coin their own money. In the western parts of the empire this must have taken place during the first century of our aera, but in the East the Roman money did not become universal till after the time of Gallienus. From the time of the emperor Aurelian a great number of cities of the empire possessed mints in which Roman money was coined, and during the latter period of the empire the superintendents of mints are called procuratores or praepositi monetae.

The persons who were employed as workmen in a mint were called monetarii. Their number at Rome appears to have been very great during the latter period of the empire, for in the reign of Aurelian they nearly produced a most dangerous rebellion (Aurel. Vict. de Caes. 35; Vopisc. Aurel. 38). They seem generally to have been freedmen (Murat. Inscript. 985, n5).

In Greece every free and independent city had the right to coins its own money. Sparta and Byzantium are said to have only coined iron money (Pollux, VII.106), but no ancient iron coin has ever been found. Respecting the time when money was first coined in Greece, see Argentum and Nummus. The Greek term for money was νόμισμα, from νόμος, because the determination of its value was fixed by law or contract (Aristot. Ethic. V.8).

The mint at Athens was called ἀργυροκορεῖον. [Argyrocopeion.] We do not hear of any officers connected with the management or the superintendence of the Athenian mint. How far the right of coining money was a privilege of the central government of Attica is unknown. But the extant coins show that at least some demes of Attica had the right of coining, and it is probable that the government of Athens only watched over the weight and the purity of the metal, and that the people in their assembly had the right of regulating everything concerning the coining of money (Aristoph. Eccles. 810, &c.). The Attic gold and silver coins were always of very pure metal, and we have only one instance in which the state at a time of great distress used bad metal. This was in the archonship of Antigenes and Callias, B.C. 407 and 406 (Aristoph. Ran. 673, with the Schol., and 678). Individuals who coined bad money were punished with death (Demosth. c. Lept. p508; Nomismatos Diaphoras Dike.) The place where money was coined is always indicated on Greek coins; either the name of the place is stated, or some symbolical representation of the place, as the owl on Athenian and a peacock on Samian coins. These symbols are generally of a religious nature, or connected with the worship of the gods or heroes.

For further information on this subject see Eckhel, Doctrina Numorum Veterum, and especially the Prolegomena generalia in vol. I; Dureau de la Malle, Economie Politique des Romains.


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