Imperial Rome
by Maria Laura Delpiano, Costanza Falletta

A new monetary reform was promoted in 274 by Lucius Domitius Aurelianus, regarding billon denominations in particular. As for gold coinage, the Emperor reintroduced the weight of 1/50th of a libra for the aureus. This metrological innovation is recorded in the exergue of some series with the initials IL, which can be explained as (ex) una (libra auri) quinquaginta (aurei). After Aurelian the number of active mints on the vast territory of the Empire increases as well. Therefore, coins begin to bear letters or initials of the mint city in which they are coined.

Aurelian's reform, however, was very short-lived. The weight of the aureus continued to be reduced: Carus and his sons (281-285 A.D.) already strike coins at 1/70 of a libra (= about 4.67 grams).
In the second half the 3rd century gold denominations show very beautiful Imperial portraits. The military type is given new importance by the display of defensive or offensive weapons, while the civil one shows the Emperor's body wrapped in highly decorated dresses holding the emblems of power - such as the scipio, that is an eagle-tipped sceptre.

Click on the images of the coins to enlarge them

Aureo di Aureliano

Aureo di Tacito

Aureo di Probo

Aureo di
Magnia Urbica

© 2008 UCSC Milano