Monday, August 29, 2016

The denarius

NUMISMATICS: Silver denarius was centerpiece of Rome’s currency for centuries. Most famous ancient coin is silver ‘Eid Mar’ denarius (Jeff Starck, Coin World).
Just as the Greeks had a signature silver coin, the Roman denarius (plural: denarii) was the centerpiece of the Roman currency system.

The small silver coin was first minted about 211 B.C. during the Second Punic War, and became the most common coin produced for circulation, remaining useful long after memories of the war had faded.


Early denarii feature the head of Roma, patroness of the city, on the obverse. The reverse features the Dioscuri, known individually as Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of Zeus and Leda. These young gods became widely popular as protectors in a moment of crisis, and a temple was built in their honor.

As the decades passed, designs for the denomination made way for the political realities of a world where the moneyers (those who struck the coins) and later the rulers themselves, highlighted their own achievements, relationships, or both.

The denarius is probably best known from this story in the New Testament:
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Hero′di-ans, to entrap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin,[a] and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at him.

a. Mark 12:15 Greek a denarius

(Mark 12:13-17 RSV)
And cross-file under Punic Watch.