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Minting tools on Roman coins

By no means the highest-ranked position in the political landscape of the Roman Republic, the role of moneyer was nonetheless considered an honour for many of the men who took on the task. The Triumvir Monetalis (three young politicians acting simultaneously) was responsible for the production of coins.

During the Republic and early years of the Empire, the names of moneyers appeared on many coins issued into circulation. It is thanks to the coins of the Roman Republic that we know the names of hundreds of individuals whose job it was to maintain the integrity of the sacred money of the state, during the 2nd and 1st Centuries BC. 

Moneyers appear to have been awarded a relatively large degree of freedom, during the 1st Century, at least, when it came to the designs which adorned their coins. While many Republican issues struck in the 2nd Century BC bear similar imagery (frequently seen helmeted busts of Roma juxtaposed with the galloping chariots) it seems that many were required to include their names on the coins.

This would have served as a way to examine the quality of the coinage produced and ensure that no corners were cut, or worse. But Romans also liked, very much, to be remembered, and the position of moneyer would have allowed the ambitious Roman a permanent historical mark in metal – his name remembered for years or in this case, millennia, to come. The collectors of Roman Republican coinage ensure that these obscure Roman statesmen are not forgotten. 

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Republican denarii from the 2nd Century BC often depict portraits of Roma and speeding quadrigas. Note the names of the moneyers.
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This brings us to a particularly interesting coin issued by the Titus Carisius, in 46 BC. This silver denarius (Crawford 464/2) is one of a handful of types issued by the moneyer in that year. What makes this coin interesting is that it is one of the only coin types from the ancient world to depict the actual tools used in the production of coins. Carisius’ other coin types are relatively orthodox: one depicts the head of Roma and objects of state (Crawford 464/4b), another, the portrait of Victory and a galloping quadriga (Crawford 432/1) and finally, an equally unusual piece depicting a griffin (Crawford 464/1).

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The portrait of Juno Moneta appears on the obverse of this silver denarius. On the reverse: Silver denarius of T. Carisius depicting the tools used in coin production.

We can presume that the Titus Carisius felt particularly strongly about his role as moneyer, and was perhaps very proud of the fact. It would seem he was the first member of the Roman family, the Gens Carisia to achieve such a title. This coin is not content with merely showing his role as moneyer in Latin. The tools of the job – obverse and reverse dies, hammer and tongs take up the entire reverse design. The tongs for holding the hot, metal blanks, the obverse and reverse dies and finally the hammer used for striking are all depicted in meticulous detail. To show the sacred importance of coins to the Romans (and the significance of Carisius’ role as moneyer), the obverse die is garlanded with a wreath.

The fact that the minting tools appear on the reverse, or back, of the coin shows that they were second in importance only to the portrait of a goddess. Juno Moneta was the goddess believed to protect the Romans’ coinage. The word ‘money’ can be traced back to her. Coins were struck in the Temple of Juno on the Capitoline Hill in Rome. It was from this religious site and mint that the vast majority of Republican coins were issued. The very fact that Roman money was protected by the goddess made coins in the Roman world sacred items or Sacra Moneta. The concept of having one’s name stamped on a sacred object, as well as one which would last the test of time, must have made the role of moneyer incredibly satisfying to the eager and ambitious Roman politician.

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