Jump to content

Are the Asterix books numismatically accurate?


GregH
 Share

Recommended Posts

I'm an Asterix fan like (i suspect) a lot of you. I notice there's a lot of references to coins in the books, especially sestertii.

Now the books are set during the Roman Republic (the Imperatorial Period), c. 50-45BC.

Were sestertii even in use during this period? My understanding is during the republican period they were small silver coins, rarely used, and i rarely see them for sale. Roman Republic Denarii seem to be much more abundant. So why are sestertii everywhere in the Asterix books?

 

 

asterix.jpeg

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I suppose it would have least have been a unit of account even if the actual coin denomination was rare.  (I LOVED Asterix way back when and still have all my old books!  My kids enjoyed them too, thankfully.  Still aren't much into coins though... 😏)

My early Republican sestertius, totally the wrong date:

image.jpeg.40172b8630d374058d6c97ebe3839202.jpeg

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Sestertius was IIRC reintroduced as a brass coin by Augustus, but it was very infrequently issued and slowly became more popular throughout the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius... Nero was the one who really ran off with the denomination.

I actually don't know what the late Republicans used for small change, because it seems like the bulk of the AE coinage was minted from 211-100 BC, with bronze issues being very sporadic and generally scarce after that. Surely the Republican economy had to have some form of small change?

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, Finn235 said:

I actually don't know what the late Republicans used for small change, because it seems like the bulk of the AE coinage was minted from 211-100 BC, with bronze issues being very sporadic and generally scarce after that. Surely the Republican economy had to have some form of small change?

I suspect they used the old AEs, which became quite worn. Scarce to collectors today may just mean they were far less likely to make it through 2000 years. Nobody hoarded small change, after all. 

Kenneth Harl makes the same point about Asses during the first couple centuries of the empire. They were workaday coins, common and in constant use, but a far smaller percentage of them made it to our time than the precious metal coinage.  

I wonder to what extent old AE’s were melted down and the metal reused by the mint?

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

37 minutes ago, Finn235 said:

I actually don't know what the late Republicans used for small change, because it seems like the bulk of the AE coinage was minted from 211-100 BC, with bronze issues being very sporadic and generally scarce after that. Surely the Republican economy had to have some form of small change?

They used small change imitations like this. Most of them come from the first century and they were made in multiple places across Italy, which Rome didn't seem to mind.

dolphinsm.jpeg.2b61f5738fd317f1814a1e5188c0da1f.jpeg

Imitations of Roman Republic coinage, Italy, Æ Semis(5.96g, 21mm). 1st century B.C., Italian mint. Laureate head of Saturn right, S behind/Prow of galley right; above, S; to right, dolphin below, ROMA. Cf. Crawford, “Unoffical imitations and small change under the Roman Republic,” AIIN 29(1982), 66; cf. BMC RR(1910 ed) vol II, p. 588, 7 = BM 1906,1103.2817(same obverse die)

Ex @Stevex6 Collection, ex CNG e-auction 295, 30 January 2013, lot 368

 

Another example of small change from this era in my collection which I'm having trouble finding my photo of, so here's a 20-ish year old Sternberg catalog photo of it:

footsternberg.jpeg.f5b459f5720755185d99668a967af176.jpeg

Imitations of Roman Republic coinage, Italy, Æ Semis(9.75g). 1st century B.C., Italian mint. Laureate head of Saturn right, S behind/Prow of galley right; above, foot facing left(or backwards L?); below, ROMA. Cf. Crawford "Unofficial Imitations and small change under the Roman Republic," AIIN 29(1982), 67

Ex Sternberg 35, 29 October 2000, 389

  • Like 8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't recall any reference to coins other than sestertii in Asterix. If anybody knows one, please let me know the book.

About my childhood heroes. I even planned un tour de France with a route that took me through l'Armorique

DE0C1808-3203-422D-947F-76C5D826F1F8.thumb.jpeg.86a44891afcf581323238773d0a77e7b.jpeg

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...