The Roman Denarius


The denarius (plural denarii) was the standard Roman silver coin during Miriam’s time, the first century CE. The word is derived from Latin meaning “containing ten” because it was originally valued at 10 assēs, coins made of bronze and then copper. Today, the word for “money” in several languages derives from the name of the denarius: for example, in Italian (denaro), Spanish (dinero), and Portuguese (dinheiro). Likewise, the currency in several other countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, and Iraq is called “dinar,” or something similar.


Aside from the Roman denarius, many other currencies were in use in the Mediterranean world. In The Deadliest Hate, when Miriam was in Caesarea, she saw that shopkeepers had to be experts in converting from one currency to another:


The yellow-eyed clerk named Galen was standing at a counter near the front of the shop collecting the money for each purchase. But first, depending on the customer’s currency, he’d calculate the cost on an abacus with the ease and efficiency of the best moneychangers in the Forum. He might be paid in Greek drachmas, Roman denarii, Tyrian zuzim, or the aniconic bronze coins the Romans struck for the Jews. And every once in a while, he’d even come across an old bronze prutah left over from the Hasmonean dynasty, which he’d accept along with the customer’s other coins.


You would find it hard to come across any of these ancient coins today, but the good news is you don’t need them to buy a copy of The Deadliest Hate. To watch the trailer and/or buy the book, all you need to do is click here.


My thanks to Professor Emerita Rosemary Millham for directing my attention to the denarius.


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