Journal of Roman Studies


A Revisionist View of Roman Money*

W. V. Harrisa1

a1 Columbia University

The consensus view that all Roman money consisted of coins has been undermined in recent times and should be discarded. The inhabitants of the Roman Empire frequently and on a significant scale made payments by means of credit-money, creating a ‘multiplier effect’, which meant that in high classical times the Roman economy was not constricted, as is often supposed, by an inelastic money-supply. Yet the monetary system was not modern; rather it had its counterparts in such economies as those of seventeenth-and early eighteenth-century Britain.

Key Words:

  • MONEY;


* I warmly thank Jean Andreau, Jean-Jacques Aubert, Alessandra Casella, Marcello De Cecco, Richard Duncan-Jones, Martha Howell, Elio Lo Cascio, Paolo Malanima, and Peter Temin, who all read and criticized an earlier version of this paper with salutary effects. It is obviously not to be presumed that they agree with my conclusions. I am also extremely grateful to St John's College, Oxford, for the opportunities provided by a visiting fellowship.