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Roman mints

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Coin of Crispus
Coin of Crispus, son of Constantine I, from the beginning of the 4th century CE it is a follis made of bronze and a small amount of silver. In the lower part of the coin, on the reverse, we see SMN - the coin was minted in Nicomedia. | Photo:

Mints in ancient Rome were created with the introduction of the first currency as a means of trade, i.e. around the middle of the 5th century BCE. Originally, only Rome was involved in minting coins, but with the expansion of the Roman state, other cities (e.g. Taranto or Benevento) were granted the right to mint coins, and finally, local mints were also allowed to operate in the newly created provinces. The mint in the capital was located on Capitoline Hill, next to the Temple of Juno Moneta, and was established in 269 CE.

Under Octavian Augustus, the number of mints increased significantly. Coins were produced in almost every corner of the Empire. Until the 3rd century CE, we can talk about 18 main Roman mints (Londinium, Lugdunum, Arelate, Treveri, Mediolanum, Ticinum, Aquileia, Ravenna, Rome, Carthage, Siscia, Sirmium, Heraclea, Thessalonica, Constantinople, Nicomedia, Antioch, Alexandria).

Mint marks

In the middle of the 3rd century, CE Roman mints introduced mintmarks to control the actions of officials responsible for minting new coins. In this way, it was easy to find out which mint issued the coins, e.g. with a smaller amount of precious metal.

Mint marks were placed at the bottom (on the reverse) of the coin – this place was referred to as exergue. The sign consisted of:

  1. Letter P (Pecunia), M (Moneta), SM (Sacra Moneta) or PS (Pecunia Sacra).
  2. Abbreviation for the city where the coin was minted (usually 1-7 letters). Example:
    • Rome – R, RM, ROM, ROMA, ROMOB, VRB ROM, SMR
    • Alexandria – AL, ALE, ALEX, SMAL
    • Constantinople – C, CP, CON, CONS, CONSP, CONOB
    • Ravenna – RAV, RV, RVPS
  3. Identification number of the officina – workshop of the mint concerned. Written as a Greek, Roman, or Roman numeral. The mint in Antioch during the reign of Constantius II – 15 had the most workshops.
  4. Series designation for better identification – for example dots, crescents or branches.
Roman coin minting die.
British Museum, London

Workers in Roman mint

The control of minting coins, in Republican times, was in the hands of officials who were directly accountable to the Senate. With the establishment of the empire, the procurator monetae was responsible for the minting of the coins. Since the time of Diocletian, each mint has had its own procurator. It is worth mentioning that the procurator was responsible mainly for the supervision of the imperial estates and the control of tax collection.

Procurator commissioned the production of coins in accordance with the orders of the rulers. There were many helpers on the staff of procurator: praepositi or officinatores. Praepositi assisted in the management of the mint and coordinated the work of the officinatores, that is, blue-collar workers who worked in “production”. These included signatores, scalptores, suppostoresand malleatores, where each type of worker had different tasks.

Drawing showing the reverse of a Roman denarius from 45 BCE The coin shows the working tools of each ancient mint: a hammer, pincers and an anvil.

Minting of coin in ancient Rome

The method of minting coins in ancient Rome
The method of minting coins in ancient Rome[/ramka_ze_ zdjeaniem]

An anvil and two seals were used to mint the ancient coin on both sides. The lower die was directly on the anvil. A prepared, hot piece of metal on which the stamps were to be placed was placed on the lower die. The metal was placed on the lower die with a pair of pliers. An upper die was placed from the top of the metal, which was then struck with a hammer. The force of the impact caused the hot metal to remain embossed in accordance with the prepared dies.

  • David Sear, Roman Coins and their Values
  • The Maxentian Mint at Ostia, "", 19.02.2017

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