What could I buy for this denarius?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by GinoLR, Mar 20, 2023.

  1. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    Titus denier.jpg
    This is a denarius of Titus (marked with some banker stamp). What could I buy with it, back then?

    Under Titus 1 aureus = 25 denarii = 100 sestertii = 200 dupondii = 400 asses = 800 semisses = 1,600 quadrantes

    In Pompeii many people attempted to run carrying with them their precious items (jewels) and all the money they could take. About 60 bodies found were carrying an average 200 sestertii, in silver and bronze. Some others carried aurei, for thousands of sestertii. There were rich people living in Pompeii. Some frescoes represent money:

    pompeii fresco coins.jpg
    On the left, a pile of denarii and aurei. On the right, a pile of copper (asses) and orichalcum (dupondii, sestertii) coins.

    What could you buy?
    According to inscriptions and graffiti (found mostly in Pompeii and Herculaneum):

    A modius (6.5 kg) of wheat: 30 asses (7 sestertii, 2 asses)
    A pound (0.33 kg) of olive oil: 1 sestertius
    A loaf of bread: 2 asses
    A sextarium of wine: 1 as (ordinary wine of course)
    A pot, or a plate: 1 as
    A drinking cup: 2 asses
    A tunic: 15 sestertii. The laundering is 4 sestertii (= 1 denarius)
    A mule: 130 denarii (5 aurei, 5 denarii)
    Slaves were available at a large variety of prices. We know a slave who was sold for 630 denarii (25 aurei, 5 denarii).

    A 1st c. funerary stela from central Italy represents a traveller with his mule checking out at a local inn, and what they are saying:


    Lucius Calidius Eroticus made (this tomb) for himself and Fannia Volupas when still living.
    -Inkeeper, let's settle up.
    - You have 1 sextarium (c. 0.55 liter) of wine: 1 as, bread: 1 as, pulmentarium 2 asses
    - That's right
    - A girl: 8 asses
    - That's right too
    - Hay for the mule: 2 asses
    - That mule will be the ruin for me!

    The total is 14 asses (3 sestertii, 2 asses). If the customer gave a denarius, the inkeeper would give him back a dupondius or two asses. I now know what I could have had for my denarius: my tunic cleansed, or a night with dinner and extras at Mr Eroticus and Mrs Voluptas'.
    Limes, Eric the Red, AdamL and 16 others like this.
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  3. Cherd

    Cherd Junior Member Supporter

    If I had a time machine, I'd take one of my spare denarii back to August 22, 79 -Pompeii and have the night of my life!!

    It'd be difficult to not let them in on what was coming, but you know...... space/time continuum and all that :(
    expat likes this.
  4. mikebell

    mikebell Active Member

    Good OP this, but the ancient world ain't quite dead yet! Some parts of North Africa you feel are still pretty close. The following picture was taken 2019 in Essaouira medina Morocco.
    Apologies for the moped, but its essentially a walled city, Bab Doukkala up ahead in the distance. Each morning the ladies can be seen knocking out circular flatbreads, collected fresh off the stove. Here the ancient world is close.
    Limes and Cherd like this.
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