Coin (obverse), Denarius, of Augustus

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minted at Lugdunum (Lyons)

Postcard of Coin (obverse), Denarius, of Augustus.
© National Museums Scotland

Coin (obverse), Denarius, of Augustus

This silver coin was minted at Lugdunum (Lyons) by the emperor Augustus between 15 BC and 13 BC. It is a type called a denarius, the most common Roman silver coin. This picture shows the obverse of the coin.

The obverse has the bare head of the emperor Augustus looking to the right. The legend 'AVGVSTVS DIVI F' identifies him and refers to his title as 'son of a god'. Augustus was the adopted son of Julius Caesar, who was proclaimed a god after his death. The coin has been struck slightly off centre.

Rome needed vast numbers of coins to pay for her armies. Exact figures are lacking, but if one assumes a standing army of 150,000 men, each of whom was paid at least 225 denarii a year, this meant an annual wage bill of over 33 million denarii. Later emperors raised the wages of soldiers, and required even more.

The Roman currency system included the denarius (plural: denarii), a small silver coin, as the most common coin in circulation. Classical historians regularly say that in the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire the daily wage for a laborer was one denarius. The denarius was first struck in 211 BC during the Roman Republic, valued at 10 asses, giving the denarius its name which translates to "containing ten". In 118 BC it was re-tariffed at 16 asses, to reflect the decrease in size of the As. The As was a bronze or copper coin. The denarius continued to be the main coin of the empire until it was replaced by the antoninianus in the middle of the 3rd century AD.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-627-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  A.1932.465
Date: 15 - 13 BC
Minted between 15 and 13 BC
Material: Silver; both sides very slightly off-centre; moderate wear. Inscription: Obv.: AVGVSTVS DIVI F; bare head right. Rev.: Apollo citharoedus standing left, holding plectrum and lyre; [I] MP to left; X to right; ACT in exergue
Dimensions: Diameter 18.50 mm; weight 3.83 g; die axis 4.0
What: Coin Type: RIC I (revised edition) 171a
Coin, denarius
Subject: Coins and currency
Who: Augustus (Emperor)
Where: France, Lyons
Roman Empire
Description: Silver denarius of Augustus, Roman Empire, minted at Lyons, 15-13 BC
  • I.A. Carradice, 'A Catalogue of Roman Coins in the Collections of the RSM, Edinburgh', No. 11 
  • Sutherland, C.H.V. The Roman Imperial Coinage. From 31 BC to AD 69. Vol. 1, revised ed. London: Spink and Son Ltd, 1984. 
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