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A denarius, or denarii in its plural form, was a small silver coin that was central to the Roman economy for about 450 years. On its obverse side, a denarius typically displayed the image of the reigning emperor, while coins featuring the likeness of empresses were also issued due to their royal status. The reverse sides of denarii exhibited a variety of designs, including gods and goddesses, mythical creatures, military imagery, and architectural symbols.
The question of what a denarius would be worth today is a hotly debated topic. Accurately converting the value of a denarius into modern dollars is impossible, as the economy and standard of living in ancient Rome greatly differed from our contemporary world. Just like today, prices and wages throughout the expansive Roman Empire varied significantly from urban centers to rural communities.
Nonetheless, one can estimate the approximate "value" of a denarius by considering its purchasing power when acquiring essential goods. Historians have calculated that a typical Roman peasant family of four required around 1,762 pounds of wheat, 17 gallons of oil, and 106 gallons of wine annually. To secure these staple items during the period of approximately 75 to 125 CE, it cost roughly 200 denarii in the city of Rome, making that the minimum yearly income for a Roman household.
The denarius' time as Rome's dominant currency would come to an end in the 3rd century, when it was replaced by the less pure silver antoninianus. This did not go over well with the Roman people, and resulted in high inflation that plunged the Roman economy into chaos.
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