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The Social History of Early Roman Coinage

  • Seth Bernard (a1)

Abstract

Fiscal explanations often given for Rome's first coins fail to account for the shape of monetary development. Nothing in the mid-republican budget matches the small scale and sporadic production of Roman coins during the early third century, or coinage's rapid expansion in the lead-up to the Second Punic War. Instead, I locate early Roman coinage within a broader reconfiguration of wealth and political power during the early phases of imperial expansion. Coins facilitated the exchange of wealth in the absence of strong social ties; conquest opened up Roman society to vast wealth of this order while also sparking debate about wealth's integration into the political community. Archaeological and textual evidence permits us to trace the contested and uneven development of elite accommodation to impersonal wealth during the third century. This context, I argue, offers the best explanation for Rome's initial coins.

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