Money and Finance in the Roman Empire Ipass Loans

Great emperors Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, and Nero ruled Rome in ancient times. When we talk about “Kaiser” or “Czar,” we’re referring to Caesar, and the month of July is named after him. Such was his grandeur. The Roman Empire included the whole Mediterranean region and a fourth of the total population at its height. Just in the city of Rome alone lived nearly a million people. The Colosseum was used to amuse the populace with gladiator and animal battles and is currently the most visited tourist destination in the Italian city Ipass Loans. The political history of the Empire is frequently taught, but less is known about Roman economics and finance. Today’s essay is a brief history lesson on money and banking under one of the greatest empires the world has ever known: Rome.

Roman Economics

The Roman economy was a rustic but relatively urban market economy in which money was utilized as a means of transaction. There were indirect trades. Goods and services such as wine, donkeys, and wheat were set by supply and demand. Of course, some government action now and again, for example, when a famine developed due to drought. But for the most part, the market economy was left on its own. Yet, Rome was not even relatively as affluent as we are now. Most people lived barely over the subsistence threshold. The political elite was mainly preoccupied with their political positions, which is to say they were engaged with wars and power politics, not with economic progress.

Markets were, compared to now, inefficient owing to the slowness of information, but commerce continued across the empire. The Roman infrastructure is recognized for its excellence. The name “aqueduct,” for example, is still used. Grain was brought from regions surrounding the Mediterranean.

The cornerstone of the Roman monetary system was the denarius: a coin containing around 97 percent pure silver. Copper and gold were also commonly utilized, but silver was the predominant monetary unit for daily transactions. As the quantity of silver in the denarius initially remained generally consistent, the Romans had a relatively stable financial system. It was the monetary standard for more than 450 years. However, throughout the years, the worth of the currency fell, which led prices to go higher. New Emperors would often request that all coinage be returned to government control and re-stamped with their image after a power transition. In this procedure, cheaper copper was added, and the proportional quantity of silver in the currency fell. Inflation is not new. Unlike today’s government and commercial banks, the Roman emperors simply melted copper with silver to spend more than taxes could be collected.

Roman Finance

In the absence of general growth, capital markets in Rome cannot to the slightest degree be compared to current needs. However, there existed a demand for capital in which money was loaned and borrowed.

Loans were often provided with interest payments frequently between 4 and 12 percent. The money came from the elite, such as Senators who sponsored the Empire to gain from their positions. This wealth was not only used to support military battles to stimulate imperial expansion but also to fund manufacturing and commerce. To institutionalize these methods, something like a banking system arose to link the supply of money with demand. Again, incomparable to contemporary financial organizations, but entities that borrow and lend, pushing money flows around to support the economy.


The ancient Roman Empire was affluent compared to its contemporaries. It had a solid monetary system based on silver, which degraded over time via inflation. Free market institutions were in existence and mostly left to their own devices. Capital rushed from savings to investors (the aristocracy) to fund industry and military development, but remember that this was an elite game. Ordinary inhabitants at the margins of the Empire were not prosperous but pleased to not die of famine. Still, the amount of growth the Romans accomplished is impressive. The market has produced a massive empire.

David C. Barham