Roman currency was in the form of silver,gold,copper and bronze. In ancient Rome, gold and silver were commodity's tied to one another.In the early stages of the Roman empire(After the republic fell), Romans used mostly gold and silver. As time went on inflation occurred. Eventually Roman coins contained little or no silver. This economic disaster was a contributing factor in the fall of the empire. Using coins was an upgrade from simple bartering because it gave everyone a common item to trade. But as roman currency devaluated economic conditions worsened. The Denarius is a great example of this. The Denarius was a small silver coin first minted in 212 B.C.E. This coin was made of 97% silver. By 275 A.D The silver content of the Denarius had dropped to an astonishing 2%. Here is a table to show you the extent of inflation in Rome
|Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD)||about 97%|
|Nero (54 - 68)||90%|
|Trajan (98 - 117)||85%|
|Marcus Aurelius (161 - 180)||75%|
|Septimus Severus (193 - 211) and Caracalla (198 - 217)||50%|
|Traianus Decius (249 - 251)||40%|
|Gallienus (253 - 268)||20-25%|
|Aurelian (270 - 275)||2%|
As you can see the silver content of coins in Rome slowly deteriorated as Rome deteriorated. A better way to see the effects of inflation though is to see how much a soldier in a Roman Legionary would receive in wages. The table below shows the wages in Denarii,(coins) a Roman soldier would receive
|Emperor||yearly pay in Denarii|
|Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD)||225|
|Domitian (81 - 96)||300|
|Commodus (176 - 192)||375|
|Septimus Severus (193 - 211)||500|
|Caracalla (198 - 217)||750|
Notice how from 193 A.D too 217 A.D the average wage increased by 50%.That is a huge increase. This is a clear sign that in the years leading up to Romes downfall, there was hyper inflation. There was so much inflation in Rome, that wages for soldiers and other people did not increase fast enough, causing many people to starve.
Inflation occurred in Rome when civil war broke out. To pay for the wars, taxes were increased and extra coins were minted. This lead to inflation causing prices to rise. Therefore, the people of Rome were less than favourable towards those who led them. In addition to this the Roman emperor decided to lower the amount of silver and gold in his currency. This had a very bad effect on the economy. Instead of being able to pass the currency off as genuine, people realized that there was less silver/gold in the coins and the value of the Roman money decreased even more.
Roman emperors saw inflation coming and did the best that they could to prevent it. Laws were made to protect prices. The emperor made a Edict of Maximum prices. This was used to control inflation and poverty. By keeping prices down, the government hoped to solve the inflation. The law was so strict that if a shop keeper exceeded these prices, he/she would be sentenced to death. The Emperors radical way to solve inflation did not work and eventually he along with several other emperors was killed. Over time Rome slowly deteriorated and collapsed. It is my opinion that economic conditions were the main cause for the deterioration of Rome.