Monday, November 28, 2011

Gold and the Roman Empire

Gold and the Roman Empire

Rome is believed to be dated as far back as 753 B.C, though it was initially a very small town which built itself as an empire over time. Their use of gold grants them a special place as far as the history goes. The rapid growth of the Roman Empire after 300 B.C. can be related directly with the increase in the supply of gold to their capital. This dramatic supply reached as high as ten tonnes. The use of gold as a metal was not as much in jewellery as it was in the craftsmanship of gold coins; in fact, it was the Romans who brought about a most widespread use of gold coins throughout the west. Gold coins can still be found all across Europe as archaeologists have dug up quite a few as evidence.

The fact that gold was abundant enough to be used in coins sheds a significant amount of light on the strength and power of the Roman Empire. Copper and silver coins were used for purchases in small amounts. Though gold coins were used before in the western Turkey and Greece during the time of Alexander the Great as well but only in emergency situations. after the death of Emperor Augustus, gold coins were fashioned with his head as a crest, and were used regularly.

These coins were used in paying the wages of the soldiers. The excavations show that they were used by well-to-do citizens as well. they were also used as savings, and for the first time, gold was not used for jewelery, adornments, or for show of stature but, literally as money.

With the growth of the Empire, Rome acquired more control over the gold production from the surrounding areas as well. The Egyptian conquest gave them control over gold from Africa. Mining was rigorously in process in Spain; towards Eastern Europe, they overtook Romania in lure of the gold mines, and this was the main reason for planning a conquest towards Britain. Britain was believed to be a metal rich country and though gold by itself might not be in abundance, it was there if mined in areas like Dolaucothi and Carmarthenshire.

Towards the fall of the Roman Empire the gold supplies were also running low. A smaller coin was introduced and the original gold coins were not as abundantly used. The money used to build and decorate churches was now used to build a better economy. The increasing rate of inflation was alarming. once the conquests stopped altogether, the gold coming from different regions also decreased considerably. Gold coins were not produced in great quantities as before, and therefore, they lost their original value. Gold prices also hiked up, and this put an end to the coin production altogether. It came down to exchanging food and eatables for services and purchases. The fall of the Roman Empire finally came around in AD 476. A most impressive collection of the roman coins and jewelery is on display at the British museum.