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Imperial Monetary Policy and Social Reaction in Third Century Rome


  • Kallmes Kevin

    () (Classics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3145, USA)


In the third century AD, under the pressure of plagues, external invasion, rising army costs, and usurpation, the Roman emperors incrementally debased the silver coinage that was produced at their imperial mints and incrementally took over civic mints. The debasement, from 2.7 g of silver to 0.04 g of silver in the equivalent of a denarius from 160–274 ad, was accompanied by worries from emperors, mint-workers, and bankers about the value of the currency; however, the total loss of purchasing power of the Roman coinage from the same era was 50–70 %, far less than would be expected from the change in metallic content, if it were the primary source of value. The currency reform of Aurelian in 274 ad, despite raising metallic values of coins, was followed by at least a 90 % reduction in the purchasing power of the silver coinage from 274–301 ad, the year of Diocletian’s Edict on Maximum Prices, showing a paradoxically inverse relationship between metallic value and purchasing power.

Suggested Citation

  • Kallmes Kevin, 2018. "Imperial Monetary Policy and Social Reaction in Third Century Rome," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 24(1), pages 1-11, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jeehcn:v:24:y:2018:i:1:p:11:n:2

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