The Mysterious Ancient Roman Coin

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The Coin is 3.2 cm wide by 3.2 cm long. It is also 0.2 cm thick. The coin depicts a side portrait of a bearded man with some sort of crown or wreath around his head. On the back of the coin there are two flag poles or banners in the background. There is a man standing behind two bulls. There is Latin writing on both faces of the coin. The coin has a green tinge to its faces. What really impresses me about this coin is the clarity of the image and writing and how round it is.

Initial Questions about the Coin

1). How old is this coin?
2). Who is depicted on this coin? Was he an important man? What did he do?
3). What do the words on the coin mean?
4). What does the image of the man behind the two bulls symbolize?
5). How much is this coin worth now?
6). How much was this coin worth back when it was still in use originally?
7). What material is this coin made of?
8). How was this coin made?
9). How long did it take to make this coin?
10). How many hands has this coin passed through?
11). How is this coin similar to Canada’s coin currency?
12). How is this coin different from that of Canada’s coin currency?
13). What is the criteria of a coin?

Framing Question from the Grade 4 Social Studies Curriculum:

What are the most significant differences between Canadian societies and societies of the past?

(Big Idea: By studying the past, we can better understand the present.)

Focus Questions to help answer the Framing Question

1). Who is depicted on this coin? Was he an important man? What did he do?
2). What was the value of this coin? How does it relate to the value of Canadian money today?
3). Are there other coins that can be compared to the coin in question?
4). How is this coin similar or different than Canadian coins? What can we learn from coins?
5). Have all societies used coins? Why are coins important?

1). Who is depicted on this coin?

The coin is from the Roman Empire. My mother, who gave me the coin many years ago, confirmed that the coin depicts the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius. He lived from 86 to 161 A.D. He was the Roman Emperor from 136 to 161 A.D. According to historians, Antonius Pius is highly regarded for his ruling style. He never left Rome once during his reign unlike other emperors and he deferred military matters to his governors and generals. He is praised for having a peaceful and prosperous reign.

2). What was the value of this coin? How does it relate to the value of Canadian money today?

According to a handout by Tulane University, one is able to figure out the value of a roman coin by finding out the type of coin and its weight. First, having prior background knowledge of coins, I was able to ascertain that the coin in question is made of copper because of the green deposits along its two faces. The green deposits are copper salts. Once I was able to deduce that the coin was copper I could narrow down the search by weighing the coin. Since the coin in question weighs around 11 grams, I knew it was an As which is a denomination of coin that is 1/16 a denarius which was what the roman currency was based off of. According to the Matthew 20:2 and John 12:5 in the Bible, a denarius was the average man’s daily wage. So this coin was what a person would have made working 30 minutes if we were to assume he worked an 8 hour day (even though it may have been closer to a 12 or 14 hour day). Carrying on this 8 hour assumption, this coin can be compared to making 5 dollars and fifty cents in today’s day and age if we use the current 11 dollars an hour as a standard.

3). Are there other coins that can be compared to the coin in question?

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Two very different coins depicting the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius

Yes there are hundreds of coins depicting the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius. There are gold, silver, copper and orichalcum coins. They can be found here and here. What is interesting to note is that the second face of many of the coins are different since they symbolize and represent various events or celebrations or persons of the Roman Empire. Since I could not find another coin like the one in question, I can only speculate that the man behind the two bulls on the back of the coin symbolize prosperity and good agriculture.

4). How is this coin similar or different than Canadian coins? What can we learn from coins?

This Roman coin is different than Canadian coins because there is no visible currency displayed on the coin. When comparing this coin to the Canadian toonie you can also notice that the coin is larger than the toonie. There is also no date displayed on the coin as opposed to a date on the toonie. Lastly, there are visible teeth marks on the toonie but the edges are smooth on the Roman coin. One can quickly discern the toonie is still relative young while the Roman coin is worn out and is much dirtier and aged.

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So similar yet so different!

 

The coin is similar to Canadian coins because there is a depiction of a person of interest. On the Roman coin there is a depiction of the Roman Emperor. On the Canadian coin there is a depiction of the Queen of England. On the back of the coins there are descriptive features of the countries. On the back of the Roman coin there is a depiction of a man with two animals. On the back of the Canadian coin there is a depiction of a polar bear. They both contain a specific value with which one can purchase goods and services with. Although the coins come from very different eras and regions of the world, they both are tools for economic purposes.

5). Have all societies used coins? Why are coins important?

Coins are important to all societies because they provide a currency with which to purchase goods and services. They also offer more freedom of choice as opposed to the old bartering system where you traded goods for other goods. Having said that, not all societies have used coins. For example, there are still tribes in certain parts of the world today that do not use any form of currency. Canada and the Roman Empire both use coins of different values and not only do they serve their purpose economically but they also share information about the country or empire from which they originated. They serve as artefacts that edifies others.

Primary and Secondary Sources

The primary sources I used to help answer the framing and focus questions were my mother and aunt who both are familiar with the coin in question. It has been in the family ever since they were young children. As for the secondary sources, I used the Bible as a reference of the denarius coin. I used a handout from the Tulane University, 2 articles on Roman Imperial Coinage and the English Translation of the Historia Augusta. These are all referenced at the end of this document.

How does this link to the Social Studies Thinking Concepts and Citizenship?

The Roman coin can represent the thinking concept of significance because students will continuously come into contact with coins so it is imperative that they know the importance of it.  They can also come to realize that although coins may be important to us in Canada, for some tribes in the Amazon, coins are not important at all. The Roman coin can also represent the thinking concept of interrelationships. By examining more than one society, students can see the differences and similarities in daily life as well as the relationship between the two societies in question.

The Roman coin can represent privileges and rights. In ancient Rome, if you were a slave you were not allowed to own anything. So by virtue of having coins on you gives you privileges and rights apart from slaves. For a Canadian, being in possession of coins gives you responsibility over yourself and your expenses.

Links to the Curriculum

Grade 4 A 2.2 – Gather and organize information on ways of life and relationships with the environment in early societies, using a variety of primary and secondary sources in both print and electronic formats.

This expectation can be narrowed down to focus on the information coins can give us on the daily life of early societies. Students can study a variety of coins or currencies to help analyze and interpret life of early societies.

Grade 4 A 3.3 Describe significant aspects of daily life in two or more early societies.

This expectation can once again be focused on the monetary aspect of daily life. Students can study the effects of the different social classes such as the nobility vs the serfs if they were looking at Medieval Europe for example.

Links to Children’s Literature

Coin Collecting for the Next Generation by Kevin Flynn
Explore Ancient Rome by Carmella Van Kleet
Make a Penny Green (science experiment) by Chelsey Marashian.

Summary of What I learned

I learned that the mysterious roman coin that has been in my family is roughly 1800 years old. It depicts the image of the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius. I learned that he was widely respected and lead a vast and growing Empire. By studying this coin closely, I found out that this coin was not of such great monetary value and is comparable (through some speculation and assumptions) to $5.50 in Canadian money today. I came to realize that there were four different types of coins (gold, silver, copper and orichalcum) with varying denominations. This is similar of today’s Canadian coins with their respective denominations. Coins can also tell you about the rulers or person of interests that are inscribed on them. They also share a message about events, people, places, animals or the general morale of the country or empire from which the coin originated. I also learned that this inquiry would make for a great cross-curricular integration with math especially when it comes to measuring the coin, weighing the coin and calculating the value of the coin in respect to the value of Canadian money. All in all, there are many avenues this inquiry project can travel in. All it takes is the changing of a few words and the asking of new questions and you have a whole new inquiry approach to the same item.

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