Dictionary of Commonly used Terms

This page includes a list of commonly used terms within our Ancient Coins galleries.

AE , AE1 , AE2 , AE3 , AE4 , ancient Roman , ancient byzantine , anglo-saxon , antoninianus , barbarous , biga , billon , brass , bronze , caesar , calculus , celtic , constantine , copper , crown , crusader , denarii , drachm , dupondius , follis , franks , gaming piece , gaul , greek , jewelry , justinian , late empire , lead , luna , macedon , medieval , merovingian , minim , nummis , obol , pentanummium , potin , proto , radiate , republic , ring , roman , roman coin , roman flag , roman women , sceatta , series-D , series-E , series-K , series-R , sestertius , siliqua , silver , stater , styca , tetradrachm , thrace , trachies , twins , vandals , viking , visigoths , weight , wreath , york


The AE coins of ancient Rome are a fascinating glimpse into the past, particularly around the later Roman empire from around the 3rd century AD. These coins were used for everyday transactions and were made of bronze or copper. They depict a variety of scenes from Roman life, including gods and goddesses, animals, and imperial leaders. The term “AE” is usually associated with AE1-4 in accordance to size, AE1 being the largest. It is actually a modern construction and we have little or no insight of what this coinage was actually called. The terms “Follis” or “Nummus” are also commonly used, though more recently it is becoming accepted that the term Nummus may have been the correct one also used at the time. As the empire’s economic fortunes decreased the size of coinage also fell making the AE4 class very predominant until the fall of Rome and the coin reforms of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire).


The AE1 coins of ancient Rome were made of bronze and had a diameter >25 mm. These coins circulated widely throughout the Roman Empire and were used for everyday transactions. The term AE is used generically in modern times in lieu of the missing coinage names of the time.


The AE2 coin was a silver coin produced in the Roman Empire. Over time, the design of the AE2 coins changed, with some coins featuring different emperors on the obverse and different reverses. The size of the AE2 is 21-25mm


The AE3 coin was a bronze coin produced in the Roman Empire in the 3rd to 5th centuries. It includes of size 17-21mm diameter. As the empire’s economic fortunes fell so did the size and value of its coinage due to inflation and debasement of the coinage.


AE4 coins of ancient Rome were small bronze coins <17mm diameter that were minted throughout the later Roman Empire. AE4s were minted in large quantities and circulated widely throughout the empire particularly as the Empire’s economic fortunes fell so too did the size of coinage decrease into this category. The term ‘AE4’ is a modern construct in absence of the proper name used at the time.

ancient Roman

The earliest Roman coinage was learned from the Greeks and Etruscans neighbours. Prior to this they used lumps of copper or bronze or various shaped versions of these. Ancient Roman coins were first minted in the late 4th century BCE. The most common denominations were the bronze as and the silver denarius. The As was worth ~1/12 of a denarius, and was often used for small purchases. The denarius was the backbone of the Roman economy, used for paying military salaries. Gold coins were also minted, but were less common due to their high value. As the fortunes of Ancient Rome grew, the aureus was increasingly used as a means of paying taxes irrespective of the fluctuations of lower denominations. With the decline of the Roman empire the size and quality of Roman coinage also fell due to inflation and debasement of the coinage. Highly sophisticated alloys and silvering processes were adopted to make the coins seem superficially more valuable.

ancient byzantine

Citizens of the Byzantine empire would have recognised themselves as “Roman”. The Byzantine Empire was a medieval and early modern state that existed in southeastern Europe between the 4th and 15th centuries. It was a successor state of the Roman Empire, it was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in 324 AD at Constantinople (now Istanbul) and lasted until 1453. During most of its existence, it was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe in parallel with the growing power of the Frankish and Holy Roman Empire. As a continuation of the Roman Empire, it is also conventionally referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium.


Anglo-Saxon coins were first minted in the late 5th or early 6th century AD. They were made of gold, silver, or copper, and often featured a design of a cross on the obverse and a portrait of the king on the reverse. The first Anglo-Saxon king to issue coins was Aethelberht of Kent, who ruled from 550-616 or Eadbald of Kent who ruled c. AD625. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, Anglo-Saxon coinage was replaced by that of the new rulers, much closer to the designs on the European continent. Typical names for Anglo Saxon coinage include gold “Schillings”, “Thrymsas” and later silver “Sceattas” and “Pennings” which had more in common with the Viking north, and lastly copper or copper alloy “Stycas”.


The Antoninianus was a Roman silver coin used from the 3rd to the 5th centuries AD. It was initially worth two denarii, but was later devalued to one. The Antoninianus was named after Antoninus Pius, who introduced it in AD 21. The coin featured the bust of the emperor on the obverse and a reverse with various designs, including military scenes and personifications of the empire. In the 4th century, the Antoninianus began to be made with increasingly debased silver, culminating in the issuance of coins made entirely of bronze in the 5th century.


Some ancient coins were issued by the barbarian invaders of the former Roman dominions. The style and design replicated that of Rome although with rougher rendering and style. These are generally termed as “barbarous” or “barbs”.


A biga was an ancient Roman two-wheeled chariot, used for transport or racing. The word “biga” comes from the Latin for “two”, and they were usually pulled by two horses. They were light and fast, and could easily be turned around in tight spaces. As well as some military functions, Bigas were used in public games and races. The goddess Luna (moon) is often depicted on a biga whilst her brother Apollo (Sun) rode on a quadriga – four horse chariot.


Billon coins were first introduced in the 4th century BC and were made of an alloy including a gold or silver precious metal and a base metal such as copper. The silver content varied from 20-60%. They were used extensively throughout the ancient world also including China and the Roman Empire for example. It is at times also used in substitution of the term Potin which is a silver-looking alloy of Copper, Lead and Tin.


Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and was first used around 500 BCE. It was used extensively by the Romans for military equipment, as well as for coins and jewelry. Brass continued to be popular through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, especially for musical instruments. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that brass became widely available, due to new production methods. Today, brass is still used in a variety of applications, from plumbing fixtures to musical instruments.


Like Brass, Bronze is an alloy of copper, but alloyed with Tin rather than Zinc. It was first used by humans around 3000 BCE. The earliest known examples of bronze objects are from the Sumerian city of Ur, in modern-day Iraq. Bronze was widely used in the ancient world for making tools, weapons, and armor, as well as for sculpture and other decorative items. The process of making bronze involves heating copper and tin to a high temperature and then pouring them into a mold. Once the metal has cooled and hardened, it can be shaped into the desired form. The bronze age was followed by the iron age – the spread of the Roman empire greatly contributed to the spread of iron-smelting technology.


The name Caesar is derived from the Latin word caesaries, meaning “hairy”. The archetypal “Caesar” was Gaius Julius Caesar a member of the Julia clan in ancient Rome who achieved dictatorial status. The first emperor of Rome, Augustus, was adopted son of Julius Caesar and originally named Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Octavian), but he took on the name Augustus after being granted sole power over Rome by the Senate. Augustus’ nephew and heir, Tiberius, was also given the title of Caesar. Following the legacy of Julius Caesar, the term Caesar is also used to refer to someone who has been appointed as ruler or appointed by a ruler to rule in their stead. In the later Roman empire, the title of Caesar was given to the heir apparent of the emperor. The German leaders “Kaiser” title stems from Caesar.


Ancient calculus pieces are some of the most fascinating relics from antiquity. These pieces were used by early mathematicians to calculate various quantities with the aid of an abacus, from simple arithmetic through to more complex problems. While the methods used with these pieces are no longer commonly used today, they provide insight into the thinking of early mathematicians and how they approached problems. Calculus pieces could also be used as gaming pieces on a board for various ancient Roman games.


Celtic coins are a type of ancient coinage produced by the Celtic peoples across Europe. They were first produced in the late 4th century BC, and continued to be minted until the early 1st century AD. Celtic coins were typically made of silver or bronze, and often featured images of animals, humans, or deities.

They are particularly attractive for their artistic approach and organic designs often based on Greek-Macedonian prototypes such as the coins of Philip and Alexander. The reason for this link seems to be that Greek military strategy often adopted Celtic warriors as mercenary troops, for which they paid in Greek gold coinage which in turn acted as prototypes for Celtic local coinage.


Emperor Constantine was the first Christian emperor of Rome, later known as Constantine I or Constantine the Great. He ruled from 306 to 337 AD unified the Western and Eastern halves of the Roman Empire and proceeded to create a new capital at Constantinople (Istanbul) which was later to become the centre of power for the Byzantine Empire. Under his rule, Christianity began to spread throughout the Roman Empire. Constantine also issued the Edict of Milan, which granted religious tolerance to all religions within the empire.


Copper was one of the first metals to be used by humans and it has been an important part of human civilization for over 10,000 years. Copper is a soft, malleable metal with a reddish-brown color. It is a good conductor of heat and electricity and is resistant to corrosion. These properties made it ideal for use in coins, tools, and other objects. It is often alloyed with Tin to make Bronze which is closer to the colour of gold, harder than copper and more durable as a working tool.

Greek copper coinage – staters – began around the 8th century BC. The Romans began minting their own bronze coins around 350-300 BC using Greek technology at Naples. Preceding this Roman ‘coinage’ was based not as circular discs but rather as small sized cast bullion possibly with a stamp on it.


There were a variety of ancient Roman crowns, of which the best known is the laurel wreath symbol of Apollo’s divine inspiration. Crowns were typically used as honorary symbols to denote power or as decoration for particular achievements. Several of these can be seen depicted on ancient Roman coins or statues for example showing emperor Augustus wearing the ‘oak crown‘. Coins of the later Roman empire show a variety of these, also including pearls and diadems, wreaths or the “radiate” crown which was often used to denote certain types of coinage. For long periods of time the Radiate crown was used on the “Antoninianus” silver coin which had replaced the denarius to signify that it was worth 2x the denarius, similarly to its earlier use on the dupondius worth 2x an As.


The Crusades were a series of religious wars fought by Christian knights against Muslim armies with the goal of taking back the Holy Land from the Muslims. The first Crusade began in 1095 and ended in 1099 with the capture of Jerusalem. There were 8 major Crusades and dozens of smaller ones over a period of 3 centuries through to the end of the 1200’s, but they ultimately failed to achieve their goal. Crusader coins are a type of coin minted during the Crusades at locations such as Jerusalem or Antioch. They typically depict a cross or ruler’s name on one side and a Christian symbol and mint location on the other.


The denarius was a standard silver coin used during the Roman Republic and Empire. It was first minted in 211 BC and functioned as the backbone of the roman coinage system – it was used as the standard for payment of military troops. The word “denarius” is derived from the Latin word for “ten”, as it originally worth ten asses. Not surprisingly, half a denarius was known as “quinarius”, stemming from the word for 5:quinque. Ongoing inflation caused the denarius to be debased and eventually replaced by the double denarius, commonly referred to as “Antoninianus” in the middle of the 3rd century AD. The word “denarius” lies at the root of common modern monetary terms such as the Arabic “Dinar” or Italian word “denaro” and Spanish “dinero” meaning money.


A drachm or drachma was a small silver coin used in ancient Greece from around the 6th century BC. It was worth about six obols or a handful of arrows although different city states minted it with varying weights. The pre-emnence of Athens brought the Athenian type to be a benchmark and the conquests of Alexander the Great extended its use across the empire although inflationary pressures over time brought it to be gradually debased with increasing quantities of copper. The last Greek drachma was minted in AD 267.


The dupondius was a large, brass Roman coin used during the Roman Republic and early Roman Empire. It weighed a little over 12.5 grams and was worth two asses, or little less than a sestertius. However it was often similar in size to the As and made distinguishable by way of the metal colour or imagery – The dupondius was usually issued with a radiate crown, indicating that it was worth double (ie two As).


The term “Follis” is typically used to refer to a large bronze coin of the late Roman Empire introduced in about 294 AD, during the reign of Emperor Diocletian and then revalued under Constantine’s monetary reforms. It weighed some 10 grams and had a small percentage of silver. The term is often used interchangeably with the terms AE and Nummus. Later research suggests that Nummus is the correct term used at the time. At the end of the 5th century, the Byzantine Empire (eastern Roman Empire) introduced a copper Follis coin worth 40 nummi. It soon became the standard coin used for trade and commerce. The follis continued to be minted until the 5th century AD.


The Franks were an ancient Germanic people who lived in Northern Gaul and north European regions first mentioned in the 3rd century by Roman historians although they were certainly active well before then. They were militarily active with and against the Romans as well as other neighbouring Germanic tribes such as the Saxons. Romanised Franks rose to power in the 5th century when they conquered most of Gaul in parallel with the collapse of the western Roman empire. Around the 460-500s under the leadership of kings such as Aegidius, Childeric and his son Clovis I, they gave rise to the Merovingian dynasty later followed around 800AD by the Carolingian dynasty to became one of the most powerful groups in Europe. In 732, they defeated the Muslim army at the Battle of Tours. The Franks also played a major role in the fall of Rome, the rise of Medieval Europe and the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ in contrast to the hegemony of the Byzantine Empire in the East. The term Frank or Frankish is very broad and hence also includes the regional involvement of the (Frankish) kingdoms in the Crusades through to the end of the middle ages around 1300.

gaming piece

A Roman gaming piece, also called a tessera or talus, was a small, square-shaped object made of bone, ivory, wood, or stone. These pieces were used in a variety of games played by the ancient Romans. The most popular game that utilized Roman gaming pieces was Ludus Latrunculorum, or “Game of Mercenaries.” This game was similar to chess and required two players. each player had an army of 16 soldiers, represented by the gaming pieces. The objective of the game was to capture all of the opponent’s soldiers by surrounding them with your own troops.


The ancient Gauls were a Celtic people who lived in ‘Gaul’ , a region roughly corresponding to present-day France, Belgium, Luxembourg and parts of Switzerland. They are thought to have spoken a Celtic language related to modern Welsh and Breton. The Gauls emerged as a distinct people in the late Iron Age, and by the 1st century BC they had spread across much of Europe. They predated Roman hegemony and had invaded a considerable portion of northern Italy, known to the Romans as “Gallia Cisalpina”. They were invaded and subdued by Julius Caesar and gradually Romanised and according to the Roman historian Tacitus were given senatorial seats under Emperor Claudius in 48 AD. Claudius himself was of Lyon and issued a speech regarding the status of Gaul recorded on the famous Lyon Tablet. Julius Caesar recorded tribal names and details as part of his memoirs. Their coinage started around the 6th century BC around Marseilles which was at the time a Greek colony and over 2 centuries transformed to a range of more Gallic types with localised decorations of Celtic organic and geometric type, rarely with any form of text. They did at times have Greek influence through mercenary coinage, particularly from the 4th century coinage of PhilipII of Macedon. Some two centuries later the stylistic influence on coinage came from Rome and Roman culture.


The Greeks considered themselves as composed of 4 tribes including Aeolians, Achaeans, Dorians and Ionians and there are varying references to the earliest coinage being produced either by the Lydians or Aeolians at Kyme and their king Midas. Ancient Greek coinage consisted of Staters, Drachms (and multiples thereof) as well as the smallest denominations of Obols and Hemiobols. The earliest coinage were Obols some of which have been found dating earlier than 800BC. Given that Greek culture was made up of many city-states there was great variety of production, though the economic strength of Athens came to predominate in coinage types and standards. As Greek coinage was among the first it was also highly influential on later and surrounding cultures, partly due to the many colonies they settled across the Mediterranean as well as due to Alexander the Great’s conquests. The Greek military tendency to use foreign mercenaries, particularly from north European Celtic tribes also meant that Greek coinage came to influence Celtic production and it is interesting to observe the similarities and progressions from Greek types of Philip or Alexander across to Celtic equivalents.


The history of ancient jewelry is a long and complicated one, with different styles and materials being used in different parts of the world at different times. However, there are some commonalities between different cultures’ jewelry. For example, many cultures have used beads and shells as decorative elements in their jewelry, as well as using metals such as gold and silver. Jewelry was often seen as a way to show status or wealth, as well as being used for religious or magical purposes.


Justinian I, also known as Justinian the Great, reigned at Constantinople from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the empire’s greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the historical Roman Empire with particular success in Africa, Spain and Italy as well as to the East under Generals Belisarius and Narses. His reign left a profound impact on the Byzantine Empire. His legal reforms and architectural projects such as the Hagia Sophia shaped the empire’s legal system and cultural legacy. The Justinian legal code consolidated the legacy of ancient Roman law and set it as a foundation for many modern legal systems. Furthermore, his monetary reforms aimed to improve the currency system, ensuring stability and facilitating economic activities within the empire.

late empire

Between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD, the Roman Empire was in a state of decline with several reflections on ancient Roman coinage of the time. The economy was struggling, and there was political instability. In 410 AD, the city of Rome was sacked by the Visigoths, and in 455 AD it was sacked again by the Vandals. The emperor Constantine moved the capital of the empire to Constantinople in 330 AD, the empire was divided into two parts in 395 AD, and by 476 AD the western half had fallen to barbarian invasions. The eastern half of the empire (aka the Byzantine empire) continued until 1453 AD when it fell to the Ottoman Turks. These broad events, need to pay armies and maintain a faltering economy brought continuous inflation and debasement of the currency. Numerous reforms attempted to re-set coinage also leveraging advanced alloying and silvering techniques to give the appearance of greater value than the material content of the individual coin and avoid hoarding behaviours. The split between East and West and its control through a Tetrarchy brought coinage emissions under the two Augusti and two Caesars, with numerous individual variations across the many local mints. For example the Antoninianus was issued to replace the Denarius though with scarce silver content, or with various issues of AE1-4 bronze coinage of ever decreasing size and weight. The gradual break-up of the western provinces also brought localised coinage emissions and barbarian issued imitations of Roman coinage. After the fall of Rome, the eastern part of the Empire managed to implement some degrees of successful reform for example under Emperor Anastasius at the end of the 5th century and then Justinian I.


Lead has been used by humans since ancient times and was one of the first metals discovered and used for a variety purposes with little knowledge of its toxicity. Lead is a soft, malleable metal with a low melting point that is easy to work with, furthermore it is relatively resistant to atmospheric corrosion and hence durable. Ancient lead production likely began in Asia Minor and spread from there. The Roman Empire was one of the largest producers of lead, using it for a range of applications such as plumbing, coinage alloy, cosmetics and paints, construction and of course as weighs. The mining of silver also involves smelting and frequent emission of lead co-compounds in the ore. Lead production declined after the fall of Rome but continued on a smaller scale throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern era. It is interesting to note that recent research of polar ice cores has been able to measure and show the extent and variation of atmospheric lead pollution through the ages, also including the Roman empire.


Luna was the Roman goddess associated with the moon. She was considered the divine embodiment of the moon’s gentle and soothing light and often depicted as a beautiful woman with a radiant crown or a crescent moon adorning her head. She was believed to drive her chariot across the night sky in a biga (two horsed) chariot. Luna held a significant role in the Roman religious and cultural beliefs. She was associated with the passage of time, as the moon’s phases marked the lunar month and influenced various aspects of life, including agricultural cycles, fertility and was believed to have influence over women’s menstrual cycles. In Roman art and architecture, Luna is sometimes depicted alongside her brother, Sol, the god of the sun. They represented the celestial bodies that governed the day and night, light and darkness.


Ancient Macedonia was a kingdom located in northern Greece, known for its unique history, culture, and military prowess close but distinct from that of the Greek states. One of the most notable figures in Macedonian history is King Philip II, who ascended to the throne in 359 BC and is known for his military reforms and the expansion of Macedonian territory. He transformed the Macedonian army into a formidable fighting force, introducing the phalanx formation and innovative cavalry tactics. His military successes paved the way for his son, Alexander the Great, who brought the empire to its zenith, stretching from Greece to Egypt and as far east as India. Alexander’s military campaigns not only expanded the empire’s borders but also facilitated the spread of Greek culture and Hellenistic influence across the conquered territories. During the reign of Philip II and Alexander the Great, Macedonian/Hellenic coinage became more standardized and widespread. The coins often depicted the ruling monarch on the obverse (front) side, usually wearing a royal diadem or a lion’s skin headdress associated with Heracles, the mythical ancestor of the Macedonian kings. The reverse (back) side of the coins often featured various symbols and emblems, including gods, animals, or military equipment. Its use to pay mercenary troops also heavily influenced the design of Celtic coinage of northern Europe.


The middle ages are commonly referred to as spanning from the fall of Rome in the 5th century through to the early Renaissance in the 15th century marked by the fall of Constantinople. By these measures the Middle Ages can be said to have paralleled the entire period of the Byzantine Empire. The transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages was not a sudden event but rather a gradual process of transformation and similarly the transition from late Middle Ages to Renaissance was gradual and differed across European countries. Medieval coinage was a complex and ever-changing system of currency that was used throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. Given the long period of time, relative geographic fragmentation and birth of the separate European states, Medieval coinage exhibits a great deal of variety in form and imagery, ranging from Anglo-Saxon “sceattas” through to Crusader issues in the Middle East. The effects of Christianity and Romanisation are evident throughout, as is the influence of the post-Roman Frankish and Germanic kingdoms.


The Merovingian dynasty was a Frankish royal house that ruled the Franks for over 300 years, from the middle of the 5th century under the rule of Clovis I until the end of the 8th century when it was superseded by the Carolingian dynasty. It extended across large regions of central and northern Europe also including France, Netherlands and Germany. The Merovingian kings were a major source of coinage in Europe during this time period such as the gold Tremissis. Imagery often included a relatively crude portrait on the obverse and the Christian cross on reverse.


Minim coinage is part of British Celtic coinage, though the term is a modern one. Staters and their fractions were of gold or silver. Minims were a fraction of silver coinage. Bronze smaller value coinage is frequently referred to as Potins. The term is also applied liberally to the smallest of late Empire Roman bronze coins of (say) 10mm diameter – also known as AE4. They are frequently lacking in detail or legend.


Nummis or Nummus coinage is a type of currency that was used in the Roman Empire. The word “nummus” means “coin” in Latin, and the coins were made of bronze or copper, particularly from the 3rd century onwards. Nummis coins were used for everyday transactions, such as buying food or paying for services. The word Nummus is often used interchangeably with “Follis” and “AE”. The Nummus was an important element of smaller coinage during the Byzantine Empire.


Obol coinage was a type of coinage used in ancient Greece and early examples made of copper have been found dating back earlier that 800BC. Obols were worth one-sixth of a silver drachma and possibly named in accordance with the value of a handful of arrows. The term “obol” is also used to refer to a weight unit, equal to one-sixteenth of an ounce.


Pentanummium means 5 Nummi in the coinage of the ancient Byzantine Empire particularly during the 5th to 7th centuries. It was denoted by the Greek letter “E”. The Pentanummium was first introduced in 513AD.


The potin or billon coin is made of an silver-looking base alloy with metals such as copper, lead and tin. “Billon” is more typically applied to Roman coinage made with this alloy whilst “potin” for Celtic or Greek coinage.


Proto money is a term used to describe early forms of currency that were used in trade prior to the development of modern day money. These early forms of currency were typically made from materials that had value in and of themselves, such as shells, beads, or metal ingots. While proto money did not have the same purchasing power as modern day money, it was still an important step in the development of trade and commerce.


Radiate crowns were a type of crown that was popular in ancient Rome as a symbol of imperial power. The crown was often used to denote coinage of “2x” value, such as in the Dupondius (double Sestertius) or the later Antoninianus (double Denarius). Radiate crowns were often made of precious metal such as gold and decorated with rays or sunbeams. Radiate crowns were worn by Roman emperors and some members of the imperial family. They symbolized power and majesty. It was frequently shown as Apollo’s crown to symbolise his status as sun god.


The Roman Republic was a period of time in which Rome was governed by a group of elected officials headed by two Consuls. The Republic began in 509 BC, when Rome’s last king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, was overthrown by the Roman people. The Republic lasted some 500 years until 27 BC, when the Roman Empire was established. During this period Rome saw a great increase in its military and economic power. It was also the period during which its monetary system developed significantly with the silver denarius as its principal backbone. Other coinage typical of this period included the bronze As or Aes, Sestertius and gold Aureus amongst others.


Rings, also including signet rings were popular during the Roman Empire. They were often made of gold or silver, and were decorated with gemstones or engravings. They were used as symbols of status and wealth, and some rings had special significance, such as betrothal or wedding rings. Bronze rings were extremely common and during the late republic often included inset enamel colours.


The first Roman coins were minted in the late 4th century BC, during the Roman Republic. The coinage system was based on the Greek drachma, and initially consisted of copper and silver coins. The silver coins were divided into denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 asses. .

roman coin

Roman coinage was first introduced in the late 4th century BC. The first Roman coins were made of bronze, copper silver as well as gold. The most common Roman coins were the silver denarius and the bronze As or Sestertius. The denarius was initially worth 10 As (hence its name a denarius meaning 10) but this was later changed to 16 Asses, while the sestertius was initially worth 2.5 Asses and later worth 4 Asses.

roman flag

The ancient Romans did not have a national flag in the modern sense. Various military standards and banners known as “vexilla” were used to represent their legions and military units. The most well-known military standard of ancient Rome was the “aquila” or eagle standard. The aquila was a golden eagle mounted on a pole and carried by the legion’s aquilifer (eagle-bearer). It symbolized the honor, valor, and unity of the legion. Other military standards included images of animals, gods, or mythological figures associated with the particular legion or unit. In terms of symbols representing Rome as a city or empire, the most recognizable emblem was the “SPQR” (Senatus Populusque Romanus), which stood for “Belonging to the Senate and People of Rome”. This inscription appeared on various Roman objects, buildings, and monuments, but it was not specifically a flag.

roman women

In ancient Rome, women did not typically hold official positions of power within the government or political institutions. The Roman society was highly patriarchal, and men held the majority of political offices and decision-making authority. However, there were instances where women exerted influence and held positions of influence. As the wives or mothers of Roman emperors, empresses had significant influence and often played political roles. They could exercise influence over their husbands or sons, offer advice, and participate in decision-making processes. Some notable empresses include Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus, and Agrippina the Younger, the mother of Emperor Nero. A variety of Roman women came to be represented on Roman coinage, also including for example, Faustina the Younger, Faustina the Elder, Julia Domna, Julia Mamea, Helena (mother of Constantine) and others.


Sceatta coinage was a type of early Anglo-Saxon coinage, introduced around the year 675-680 and provide a valuable into early medieval Britain. The name comes from the Old English word for ‘treasure’. Sceattas were typically small 10-20mm and made of silver, although gold or bronze have also been found. They were struck with a simple design, often featuring a quasi abstract image of a face or animal together with dots or pellets. Around 80 different types of sceatta have been identified, indicating that they were produced by a number of different mints across southern England. The lack of written records has made it difficult to research them although the advent of metal detector finds has enabled a larger sample to be found and classified in different series and more closely associated with certain geographical locations. Sceattas continued to be used until the end of the 9th century, when they were replaced by the more familiar penny. The issues of sceattas are subdivided into 3 main phases: ‘primary’ (680-710AD) Series A-C, ‘intermediate’ (695-740AD) Series D-F and ‘secondary’ (710-760AD) with series G-Z. There is also possibly a fourth earlier phase known as ‘pre-primary’. The primary includes Series A, B and C together with the continental series D. Intermediate includes Series D and E with E probably being minted later than 710AD also including types often referred to as ‘porcupines’


The series-D saxon coinage was a type of English coinage minted during the late 7th and early 8th century often with runic or pseudo-runic inscriptions together with stylised symbols such as dots and crosses. The purpose and value of Series D sceattas are still the subject of scholarly debate. Some theories suggest that they served as a regional currency, while others propose that they were used as bullion or for ceremonial purposes.


The series-E saxon coinage was a set of silver coins probably minted on the continent/north-western Europe rather than in England 700-740AD. The coins often show ‘plumed bird’ or ‘porcupines’ .


The series-K saxon Sceatta coinage was minted ca. 720-750AD. This includes ‘wolf types’ (with portrait profile obverse and a reverse resembling a coiled dragon).


The series-R saxon Sceatta coinage is a type of English coinage minted up to ca. 750AD. Typically resembling crudely styled runes.


The sestertius was initially a small silver coin used during the Roman Republic and early Empire. Originally issued around 210BC it was worth two and a half asses, or one quarter of a denarius. Around 23BC it was reissued as a large brass coin. It typically ways 25-28gm and measures ~32-34mm in diameter and up to 4mm thick. It was produced well into the 3rd century by which time the quality of metal was greatly deteriorated and the value of coin debased. A double sestertius was issued at this time, denoted by a radiate crown (rather like its use for the double denarius aka Antoninianus). Sestertii tend to be rarer than many other Roman coins due to their removal from circulation in the 3rd and 4th centuries, early brass examples are particularly cherished by collectors because their larger size provided ample surface area for high quality imagery.


The term Siliqua in ancient Rome referred to a unit measure of weight. Nowadays, the ancient siliqua is used to mean a small silver coin minted in the Roman Empire around the 4th century AD. The coin was originally worth 1/24th of a gold solidus.


The first silver coins were minted in Lydia in Asia Minor around 600 BCE though its use for coinage at scale can really be attributed to the Greeks, with silver Obols and Drachms. Roman silver coinage included the Denarius in the 3rd century BC which came to be the backbone of Roman Republican and early Empire monetary system. This was replaced in the 3rd century AD by the double denarius which is generally referred to as an Antoninianus, denoted by the emperor’s image with a radiate crown. A later Roman silver coin of the 4th century AD was the Siliqua. Silver has been used for coinage throughout history because it is durable, malleable, and has a relatively low melting point. It is also abundant enough to create coins but rare enough so that not everyone can produce them. Silver is also valuable enough so that it can easily be exchanged for goods and services.


The stater was an ancient Greek coin made of silver. The term is also applied to similar coins minted by other regions of Europe in imitation of the Greek stater.


Styca coins are a type of coin that was used in the Anglo-Saxon period in England minted primarily at York in pre-Viking Northumbria starting with the reigns of Aethelred, Eanred at the end of the 8th century through to around 850AD including the reigns of AethelredII, Redwulf and Osberht. Stycas were a replacement of the earlier Sceatta and were typically small in size ranging from 10-15mm and originally made of silver though later made of brass or copper alloy and finally copper only. They were circulating in significant quantities and principally used for paying taxes or for external trade. The name ‘styca’ comes from the Old English word for ‘piece’.


The Drachma was the primary unit of currency in ancient Greece consisting of a relatively small silver coin. A Tetradrachm had the value of four Drachmae and hence a larger silver coin. At Athens they were first minted in the 6th century BC. Tetradrachms were minted in significant quantities across various Greek city-states and were used as both a medium of exchange and a store of value. Tetradrachms minted at Athens or Macedon by Alexander the Great are worthy of particular note and are highly prized by collectors and numismatists alike for their historical value and beautiful designs.


Ancient Thrace was a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. It was bounded by the Balkan Mountains to the north, the Aegean Sea to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. The area included parts of present-day Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Turkey.


Trachy coins (plural Trachea) were minted under the Byzantine empire during the 11th to 14th centuries. The name means “uneven” to denote their unnusual cup-shape. They were typically made of copper, billon or even electrum (silver and gold).


Castor and Pollux, also known as the Dioscuri, were figures from Greek and Roman mythology. They were twin brothers, sons of Leda though of different fathers, one of whom was Jupiter. Hence, Castor was mortal, while Pollux was immortal. In Greek mythology, they were considered the patrons of sailors and were often associated with horsemanship and protection. Castor and Pollux were renowned for their bravery and skill in battle, and they played a significant role in various myths and legends. The image of Castor and Pollux, often depicted as two young men on horseback or as two stars in the constellation Gemini, symbolizes brotherly love, loyalty, and the inseparable bond between siblings. Their mythological significance extended into Roman culture, where they were also worshipped as deities and featured prominently in Roman art and literature.


The vandals were a Germanic people who came from the Eastern European regions that are now Poland. During the later Roman Empire they played a significant role in the collapse of the western part of the empire and are best known for their sack of Rome in 455 AD. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Vandals under Genseric took large portions of North Africa where they established their own kingdom. In the 6th century, they were defeated by the forces of Justinian’s Byzantine Empire under the command of General Belisarius.


The Vikings were seafaring Norse people who emerged from the Scandinavian region during the early Middle Ages. Known for their skilled navigation and shipbuilding abilities, the Vikings embarked on extensive voyages of exploration, trade, and conquest that greatly impacted northwestern Europe and regions like Northumbria in Britain. The Vikings raided and settled in various parts of Europe, establishing trade routes, forging political alliances, and leaving a lasting impact on the cultures they encountered. In Northumbria, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in what is now northern England, the Vikings made their presence felt through raids and subsequent settlements. They significantly influenced the region’s political landscape, intermingling with local populations, establishing trade networks, and ultimately contributing to the formation of a hybrid Anglo-Scandinavian culture. The first recorded Viking raid on Northumbria took place in 793 CE when the monastery of Lindisfarne was attacked. The Vikings, particularly from Scandinavia, targeted Northumbria due to its wealth and strategic importance as a center of trade and power.


The Visigoths were a Germanic tribe that played a significant role in the history of Europe during the late Roman and early medieval periods. Originating in the region of modern-day Germany, the Visigoths migrated southward and settled in various parts of Europe, including Gaul (present-day France) and eventually the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal). In the 5th century CE, they emerged as a powerful force and established their own kingdom in Gaul and later in Spain. The Visigoths’ presence in Spain lasted for several centuries, and their rule saw a fusion of Germanic, Roman, and local Hispano-Roman cultures. They adopted Arian Christianity as their religion but later converted to Catholicism. The Visigothic kingdom in Spain reached its height under the rule of King Euric in the 5th century. However, they faced internal conflicts and external pressures, particularly from the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate, which ultimately led to their defeat and the end of Visigothic rule in 711 CE.


Ancient Roman standard weights were essential to commerce and trade across the Roman Empire. Forums across the empire frequently had a reference point of standard volumes and weights that could be used by traders; an example is visible in the forum at Pompeii. The Roman system of weights was based on the libra (pound), which was equivalent to approximately 328.9 grams (estimates vary between 322 and 329). The libra was further divided into smaller units, including the uncia (ounce, 1/12th of a libra), which is equivalent to around 27.4 grams. The uncia was subdivided into smaller units such as the semuncia (1/24th of a libra, approximately 13.7 grams) and several more subdivisions aided by the fact that 12 is easily divisible by 2, 3 and 4. Some of the names also corresponded with some common coinage names, such as Obolus (1/48 ounce = 0.57gm) and Siliqua (1/144 ounce= 0.19gm). The Roman standard weights varied across regions and time periods, and there were also larger units such as the as the Talent (100 libra = 32Kg). It is important to note there was some degree of variability across regions and the long period of the Roman Empire.


A laurel wreath is a circular crown made of interlocking branches and leaves of the laurel tree, also known as bay laurel or Laurus nobilis. The laurel wreath was a symbol of victory, honor, and achievement. It was often presented to military commanders, athletes, poets, and scholars as a sign of recognition for their accomplishments. Laurel wreaths were worn by victors in ancient Greece and Rome as well as by emperors and is frequently shown on ancient Roman coinage, either as a crown worn by the Emperor on the obverse side of the coin or in the later Roman Empire shown on the reverse side as a votive wreath making pledges to the gods.


Roman York, known as Eboracum, was an important city and fortress in Roman Britain. It was founded in 71 AD by the Romans under Emperor Vespasian as a military stronghold and administrative center. Situated strategically at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Foss, York served as a major logistical and commercial centre and later became the headquarters of the Legio IX Hispana, a Roman legion. It served as the base for several Roman emperors, including Septimius Severus and Constantius Chlorus. Roman emperors would often visit York to oversee military campaigns or establish their presence in the region. After Roman departure York continued its position of prominence: Anglo-Saxon York was part of the Kingdom of Northumbria, one of the major Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in early medieval England, including a large territory in the northern parts of present-day England and southeastern Scotland. York, known as Eoforwic during the Anglo-Saxon period, it served as an important political, economic, and religious center within the kingdom. It was the capital of the Northumbrian kings and played a crucial role in the kingdom’s administration and defense. York had a rich history, with notable events such as the conversion to Christianity by King Edwin in the 7th century and the establishment of the Archbishopric of York in the 8th century. York, also known as Jorvik, had a tumultuous history during the Viking Age. The Vikings first attacked York in 866 AD and eventually conquered and established their own settlement within the city. This Viking settlement, known as Jorvik, became a major trading and political center in the region. Under Viking rule, York thrived as a bustling trading hub, attracting merchants from across Europe. The city’s economy flourished, with craftsmen producing high-quality goods and the presence of a vibrant marketplace. Jorvik was a multicultural and cosmopolitan city, reflecting the diverse backgrounds of its inhabitants. Viking rule of the city and region came to an end with the Norman invasions.