Anyone have any price lists from Ancient Roman times?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Gam3rBlake, May 23, 2021.

  1. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member

    Ever since I got my first denarius for my collection I'm curious of what it could buy and how long it took someone to earn one.

    I know price lists are usually in sestercii (1/4th of a denarius) but I can do the conversions myself xD.

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  3. JayAg47

    JayAg47 Well-Known Member
    Although by the time of Diocletian the denarius ceased to exist, he issued a new short lived silver coin called Argenteus, with the same purity of 1st century denarius.
    And one argentues equaled 100 denarius communis, which I assume were just the bronze follis of that time, and he issued an edict ordering merchants the price at which to sell their goods.
    So if we translated the price list to a couple of centuries back, I'm pretty sure a denarius, let's say during the time of the Flavians would get you a week's worth of groceries if you were a vegetarian, or a nice dinner with fruits, meat and wine for the day.
    Or a visit to a dinky brothel house;)
    Last edited: May 23, 2021
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  4. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member


    My denarius is from Hadrian’s reign so it’s a smaller denarius than under Augustus and some of the earlier Emperors but it’s still a silver coin of relatively high purity unlike the later years of the Empire when they were basically just silver plated copper/bronze.

    That’s pretty crazy considering Marcus Licinius Crassus was said to be the “richest man in Rome” with a total net worth of 200 million sestercii (50 million denarii).

    One thing I’ve wanted to know for a long time was how much it cost an Emperor to host a day of Gladiator games at the Colliseum.

    I know every games was different and the prices would’ve fluctuated wildly. Heck Julius Caesar had the Colliseum flooded and had mock naval battles going on.

    But I’m curious what an average price would be.

    I do know they were expensive.

    Apparently Commodus held a day of games after becoming Emperor and the imperial treasury was empty from 8 years of war so he paid for it by taxing the Senate after they gave soldiers land as a reward for fighting in Germania and said it came from the Senate instead of the truth that Commodus gave it to them.

    Im curious how much the Senators would’ve been taxed to pay for that day of games. Like if it was a huge financial burden or not.

    I know most senators were very rich but as games are said to be extremely expensive I imagine it is possible it was a lot of money even for wealthy people like them.
    Last edited: May 23, 2021
  5. JayAg47

    JayAg47 Well-Known Member

    The Colosseum was built 125 years after JC was assassinated, although it is true that they had mock naval battles!
    Regarding the cost, the colosseum could hold 50,000 spectators, and lets say everyone got a sestertius worth of free bread and wine(althoug cheap and diluted), that alone would come to 12,500 denarii, then you include the cost of gladiators while factoring in the cost of training and feeding them, it would be around 3000-5000 denarii each (an ordinary adult slave costed 500 denarii), also they had exotic animals like lion, tiger, rhinos, elephants and leopards, which would've costed much more than a human, and then you have all the workers to pay to clean up the piss, blood, and vomit after the games are over. This is only for a normal one day game.
    And repeat this for 100 more days when Titus celebrated the Colosseum's inauguration, and the cost would've been exponentially higher for naval battles!
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  6. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member

    Oops my bad!

    I know Julius Caesar had a mock naval battle but I was wrong about the location xD.

    However based on all the information I have about costs of things in Ancient Rome I imagine it was common for gladiator games at the Colliseum to cost tens of millions of denarii. If not hundreds of millions for the very large ones like Tiberius' 100 days of games and Commodus's 14 days of plebian games where he participated as a gladiator...except his opponents were given dull blades to keep him safe.

    Fun fact: Caligula spent ~2 billion sestercii (500 million denarii) in the first year of his reign as Emperor according to the Greek-Roman historian (and future consul) Cassius Dio. But that wasn't on games just living exorbitantly.

    Then again Caligula was driven crazy by abuse from childhood to emperorship and from his "brain fever" and 3 month coma so his madness seems to be more of a genuine mental illness rather than him just being a cruel sadistic person.
    Last edited: May 23, 2021
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  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    The agricultural day laborers in Matthew 20:1-16 were hired to work all day for a denarius. In the Flavian period, when the author of Matthew wrote his gospel in Greek for people residing in the Roman empire, a denarius was apparently a typical rate for a day laborer.
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  8. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    From ANA "Daily life in ancient Rome":

    Last edited: May 23, 2021
  9. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I don't mean to be "that guy," but it's from the ANA, not the ANS. See here.
  10. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Considering that list, for the average bloke things were rather expensive. Better stick to legumes and bread most of the time and only occasionally have meat or fish perhaps more often, which I remember from Diocletian's Edict of Maximum wages and prices, was cheaper than chicken, beef, pork, or lamb.
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  11. MarcosX

    MarcosX Active Member

    this is why us Meds learned to eat Dandelions a looong time ago
  12. Restitutor

    Restitutor Well-Known Member

    Wow a common legionnaire made more than a praetorian? No wonder they assassinated the emperors so often :dead:
  13. fomovore

    fomovore Active Member

    Legionary centurions did. I imagine that the Praetorian officers made even more.
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