How long could a Roman survive in Caesar’s time on a single Aureus?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Gam3rBlake, Nov 10, 2020.

  1. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member

    So the Aureus during Caesar’s time was about 8 grams of almost pure gold and I’m wondering if anyone happens to have any price lists from that time or knowledge about how much an Aureus was worth?

    I read somewhere that most ordinary Roman’s probably would’ve never even seen an Aureus and would’ve used Denarii, Sestarii, and other silver and copper coins.

    If anyone happens to know what an Aureus could buy back then I would really appreciate it. Again I’m speaking of Caesar’s time since it would be impossible to answer a coins value over 700 years with inflation and all that. It might’ve been significantly less during Trajan’s reign than Caesar’s. Plus I know they debased them over time but Caesar’s Aureus’s had the most gold.

    Thanks!
     
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  3. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    According to @dougsmit, a modius of grain could make enough bread (a Roman's staple foodstuff) to last ten days. The 'just price' of a modius in Caesar's time was 12 asses.

    Around that time, an as was 1/16 of a denarius. An aureus was worth 25 pure silver denarii, although the denarius was only 95-98% pure.

    1 year of bread = ((12 / 16) / (25 / 96.5%)) * (365 / 10) = 1.06 aureus

    So, if my calculations are correct (they may not be, given how complicated it is!), an aureus could keep a Roman of Caesar's time a year in bread.

    Sources:
    https://www.forumancientcoins.com/dougsmith/worth.html

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denarius#:~:text=Equals 10 asses, giving the,which was about 325 g.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aureus
     
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  4. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    That would be assuming he had to pay the market price. If he were a citizen residing in Rome he may have had access to a subsidized reduced price dole.
     
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  5. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    If you use a loaf of standard bread today, at $3-$5 per, that aureus has the modern buying power of $1,095 - $1,825.

    you can buy an aureus for that price, so some things don’t change
     
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  6. Scipio

    Scipio Active Member

    Consider that the legionary pay at that time was 225 denarii per year, that’s equal to 9 aurei; one aureus then was worth around 40 days of life risking job.
     
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  7. Romancollector

    Romancollector Well-Known Member

    I wish that could be said for the aurei that I like :hilarious:
     
  8. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    When comparing purchasing power of money then and now, we have to remember that some things were cheap then and some things much more expensive. A loaf of 'Artisan' bread at a fancy store today costs more than a pair of shoes at Goodwill but many Romans would never own shoes and be lucky to have flip-flops. Bread/grain was often given free by the state but how does that compare to Food Stamps? It is hard to compare especially when both civilizations vary so much from what it needed to keep alive and what the upper crust felt necessary for life.
     
  9. PlanoSteve

    PlanoSteve Supporter! Supporter

    I used to have a commodities price list written on papyrus, from around that time...but I sold it on Etsy for an outrageous profit! :smuggrin::smuggrin::smuggrin::jawdrop::rolleyes::p:joyful::joyful::joyful::joyful::joyful:
     
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  10. Scipio

    Scipio Active Member

  11. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    ME TOO!!!!!
     
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  12. Numisnewbiest

    Numisnewbiest Well-Known Member

    Totally off topic, without some twisting, but I have a question about the As denomination: if a single coin is an As, why are multiples called Asses instead of Ases?
     
  13. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    because that is what it says in Wikipedia -
    The as (plural assēs), occasionally assarius (plural assarii, rendered into Greek as ἀσσάριον, assarion) was a bronze, and later copper, coin used during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire.
    As (Roman coin) - Wikipedia
    upload_2020-11-10_21-18-31.png
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/As_(Roman_coin)

    PS - sorry for the dumb reply, I do mot know
     
  14. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Same reason why “ax” plural is “axes?”
     
  15. Numisnewbiest

    Numisnewbiest Well-Known Member

    Exactly...and so As should be Ases.
     
  16. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    According to wicktionary.org, Latin as is descended from the hypothetical Old Latin ass. The original double "s" is retained in all forms of the word except the nominative singular and the vocative singular, which lack an inflected suffix.
    Latin_as.JPG
     
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  17. Numisnewbiest

    Numisnewbiest Well-Known Member

    That sounds official enough to me...thanks!
     
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  18. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member


    Thanks for that! I really appreciate it :).

    Do you happen to know if that is wheat bread? Or barley? Or rye?

    I know in Medieval times wheat was for the rich governing classes (according to the Wikipedia on “Medieval Cuisine”) so I’m wondering if you’d happen to know what kind of bread?
     
  19. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member


    That’s true! However oftentimes the Roman legionaries were not engaged in actual combat and were stationed in their camps.

    So I think maybe it would be more accurate to say 1 Aureus = 40 days of service in the Roman Army?
     
  20. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member

    I think I’ve seen that list before however the list values 1 Aureus (8 grams of gold) as equal to 25 Denarii (~7 grams of silver each). Or 8 grams of gold = 175 grams of silver which is 22:1.

    I wish those were the rates these days because I would happily trade 22 ounces of silver (22x $25 = $550) for 1 ounce of gold ($1850+) all day long.
     
  21. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    G:S ratios have fluctuated somewhat over the years. Not so long ago gold was $400/oz. now it’s almost $2000

    The ancients were much more in tune with precious metal ratios than modern people are, so their ratios make sense.

    by the way, wanna know the origin of the large-sized US cent? Till 1933 america was in the gold standard, and until
    1964 the silver.

    when large size cents (half dollar sized) were first produced in the 1700s they were sized thus that they had enough copper to be worth 1/100 of a silver dollar.

    this can be shifted back, where the bronze Sestertius was MUCH larger than the silver Denarius, despite having much less buying power.

    all things considered, although gold has changed in VALUE, I would argue that it’s ultimate buying power has stayed relatively constant, proportionally, all things considered.
     
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