Ancient Roman Coin & Money Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

The Romans made coins of gold, silver, and bronze in order to create a trade and promote their leaders. Learn about the development of Roman coins and their uses of money in this lesson.

Show Me The Money

If you want to buy anything today, whether it's groceries or a sports car, there's a lot of ways to pay. You can use a credit card or a check or even a cell phone app when it's time to pay the bill. Before the first banks were invented, however, people relied on nothing more than metal coins in order to power their economy, or their trade and riches. In fact, the ancient Romans produced so many coins over their existence that you can buy a lot of them on eBay today!

Roman coin
Domitia coin

First Funds

While many civilizations before the Romans used gold and silver as payment, we know that the first Roman minting, or coin production, started about 400 BCE. Before this, Romans used bronze weights as money. The first coins made in Rome resembled those that were produced in nearby Greece, where silver coins had been popular for several hundred years. In fact, the first coins discovered by historians actually had Greek letters. Later coins carried the name 'Roma,' the Romans' word for themselves.

A conflict called the Punic Wars brought in lots of treasure and led to the first Roman coins made of pure gold. Along with the gold coins came the silver denarius coins (pronounced dee-nar-eee-us) that Romans would use for another 500 years. These coins spread across Europe and have been found from Britain to the Middle East.

The Punic Wars led to destruction but brought Rome lots of treasure
Carthage

Roman Economy

Just like American money has pictures of presidents, ancient Roman money had pictures of Roman leaders. Roman rulers wanted to demonstrate their power and riches by putting their faces on coins. Think about it: when there's no TV or Internet, how do you know who your rulers are and what they look like? Coins let everyone know who was in charge, but this meant that with a new leader, the Romans had to change their coins.

For example, the Roman ruler Julius Caesar minted huge numbers of coins with his face on them. When Marcus Brutus killed Caesar, Brutus minted coins with his own face on one side and two daggers on the other side to remind everyone who was responsible for taking down Caesar!

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