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Aes signatum – precursor of Roman money

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Aes signatum from 4th century BCE
Aes signatum from 4th century BCE | Photo: Siren-Com | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Aes signatum was a primitive form of Roman money, succeeding aes rude – copper nuggets. The exact date of the introduction of these “coins” is unknown, but it is believed that it took place in the middle of the 5th century BCE, and is related to the codification of Roman law (the so-called law of the Twelve Tables).

Creating aes signatum involved casting flat tablets (usually of various sizes) from copper and decorating them with emblems, most often depicting animals (e.g. cattle). Interestingly, the representation of cattle is related to the fact that the “currency” in archaic Rome was supposed to be cattle – hence the Latin name of money – pecunia (from pecus – cattle).

The weight of such money was usually between 600 and 2500 grams. Aes signatum was used in Rome until the 4th/3rd century BCE when it was replaced by aes grave – the first Roman monetary money.

  • Jane DeRose Evans, The Art of Persuasion: Political Propaganda from Aeneas to Brutus, 1992

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