A Comparative Chronology of Money

Monetary History from Ancient Times to the Present Day

1 - 499 AD

© Roy Davies & Glyn Davies, 1996 & 1999.

Based on the book: A History of Money from Ancient Times to the Present Day by Glyn Davies, rev. ed. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1996. 716p. ISBN 0 7083 1351 5. (Page numbers in the 3rd edition published in 2002 may be slightly different).

30 BC - 14 AD Reign of Augustus Caesar
Augustus reforms the Roman monetary and taxation systems issuing new, almost pure gold and silver coins, and new brass and copper ones, and also introduces three new taxes: a general sales tax, a land tax, and a flat-rate poll tax.

p 95

c. 30 AD Christ drives the money changers out of the Temple in Jerusalem
Jesus overturns the money changers' tables (Matthew 21.12). To gentiles the practice of money changers conducting their business in and around temples and other public buildings would have seemed commonplace. The Greek bankers or trapezitai derived their name from their tables just as the English word bank comes from the Italian banca for bench or counter.

p 72

54- 68 AD Reign of Nero
Nero slightly debases the gold and silver coinages, a practice copied by some later emperors, starting mild but prolonged inflation.

p 95

250 AD Silver content of Roman coins is down to 40%
After this level is reached inflation accelerates.

p 96

270 AD Silver content of Roman coins has fallen to only 4%

p 97

260 - 268 AD Reign of Gallienus
During his reign there is a temporary breakdown of the Roman banking system after the banks reject the flakes of copper produced by his mints.

p 97

270 - 275 AD Reign of Aurelian
Aurelian issues new, nearly pure coins, using gold from his eastern conquests, but raises their nominal value by 2½ times hoping in this way to stay ahead of inflation. However this "reform" sends inflation soaring. A rebellion by mint workers led by Felicissimus costs Aurelian's army some 7,000 casualties.

p 97-98

284 - 305 Reign of Diocletian
Diocletian makes vigorous attempts to get to grips with the problem of inflation using a variety of methods but these prove only partially effective at best.

p 100-105

295 Diocletian reforms the coinage
This fails to halt inflation, probably because the older coins remain in use and, in accordance with Gresham's law, drive the good coins out of circulation.

p 100

301 Diocletian issues the Edict of Prices
The Edict introduces direct controls of prices and also wage rates. This, too, is defeated by market forces.

p 101-102

305 Diocletian abdicates voluntarily
Although his currency reform and prices and incomes policy failed, his other reforms of the Roman administration, including the world's first system of annual budgets, are more successful.

p 102-105

306 - 337 Constantine secures control over the West then the whole Empire
Constantine issues a new gold coin, the Solidus, which continues to be produced in the Eastern Roman Empire unchanged in weight or purity for the next 700 years.

p 105

313 Christianity becomes the official faith of the Roman Empire
Constantine adopts Christianity and following his conversion, he confiscates the enormous treasures amassed over the centuries in the pagan temples throughout the empire. Consequently, unlike Diocletian, he has easily enough bullion to replace the earlier debased gold coinage. However he continues to produce debased silver and copper coins. Thus the poor, unlike the rich, are left with an inflation-ridden currency.

p 105-107, 641

307 One pound of gold is worth 100,000 Denarii
The value of the denarius is only half that stipulated in Diocletian's edict of prices 6 years earlier.

p 107

324 One pound of gold is worth 300,000 Denarii
Later, in Egypt by the middle of the 4th century the denarius'value collapses completely so that a pound of gold is worth 2,120,000,000 denarii: another early example of runaway inflation.

p 107

410 Rome falls to the Visigoths
Banking is abandoned in western Europe and does not develop again until the time of the Crusades.

p 107,111

c. 435 Coins cease to be used in Britain as a medium of exchange
As a result of the Anglo-Saxon invasions Britain, uniquely among the former Roman provinces, ceases to use coins as money for nearly 200 years. When they are re-introduced from the Continent they are used initially for ornament.

p 117, 641

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Roy Davies - Last updated 25 May 2005.