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Aes Formatum

PAGE UNDER CONSTRUCTION - JUST STARTING!! 3/16/18.

Aes formatum is

Ancient Coins of the Roman Republic and Italy from Before 150 B.C. in the Forum Ancient Coins shop

Even before this time metal was used to manufacture implements and weapons and undoubtedly bronze in any form was a valuable trade good. Metal is particularly useful for barter because it is compact, portable, easy to store, and did not spoil. Despite its great advantages, it was not until the middle of the 5th century B.C. that bronze replaced cattle as the primary measure of value in trade. Aes formatum, including axe heads, rings, cast bronze shells, domed discs, rods, bars, ingots and bricks, for example, was traded alongside aes rude. All  bronze objects were suitable for trade by their weight and were frequently broken to adjust their weight and to make change.

Grueber does not use the term aes formatum in Coins of the Roman Republic in The British Museum, but does describe some examples as follows: "In the find at Vulci, besides the aes rude and the aes signatum there was a number of rough brick-shaped pieces in very poor condition, without any imprint and nothing to indicate their value; their weight varying from an ounce to a pound. These bricks formed about on-sixth of the whole mass. Also there were some elliptical-shaped pieces which represented fractions of the as, most of them corresponding to the weight of the sextans (Mommsen, Hist. mon. rout., t. i., p. 176). These pieces would appear to be intermediate between the as rude and the aes signatum."

At the beginning of the 3rd century B.C., aes signatum, a new form of Roman money, appeared. Aes signatum consists of heavy oblong, quadrilateral or brick-shaped cast pieces of bronze, with depictions of animals (e.g. birds, elephants, oxen, pigs and dolphins), Pegasus, corn-ears, a caduceus, or a sword and sheath. Their weight averages approximately 1350 grams. Rough brick-shaped pieces without any imprint were also made, which seem to be a link between the aes rude and the aes signatum. Aes rude and aes formatum remained in use, by weight, for some time after the introduction of the aes signatum, since specimens have been found together.

Although bronze traded by weight was the official measure of value for only for Rome and central Italy and perhaps only from the about the middle of the 5th to the 3rd century B.C., bronze was a trade good and a medium of exchange both earlier and later and across much of the ancient world. Italian aes rude has been found in hoards alongside aes formatum, aes signatum, Celtic ring money, all sorts of bronze objects, and coins as well, as far from Italy as Spain and Croatia.

References

Bertol, A. & K Farac. "Aes rude and aes formatum – a new typology" in VAMZ, 3. s., XLV (2012). PDF available online
Garrucci, R. Le monete dell'Italia antica. (Rome, 1885). Available online
Grueber, H. Coins of the Roman Republic in The British Museum, Vol. 1. Aes rude, aes signatum, aes grave, and coinage of Rome from BC 268. (London, 1910). PDF Available Online
Haeberlin, E. Aes Grave. Das Schwergeld Roms und Mittelitaliens. (Frankfurt, 1910). Available online
Sear, D. Roman Coins and Their Values, Volume I: Republic to the Flavians. (London, 2000).
Thurlow, B. & I. Vecchi. Italian Cast Coinage. (Dorchester, 1979).
Vecchi, I. Italian aes rude, signatum and the aes grave of Sicily in Thurlow–Vecchi, Italian Cast Coinage. (Dorchester, 1979).
Vecchi, I. Italian Cast Coinage. (London, 2013).

Images, Plates & Descriptions

Grueber, H. Coins of the Roman Republic in The British Museum, Vol. 1. Aes rude, aes signatum, aes grave, and coinage of Rome from BC 268. (London, 1910).

The earliest form of exchange in metal employed by the Romans consisted of amorphous lumps of bronze of no fixed weight, and without any official stamp or mark of value. Hence they received the name of aes rude (Festus, de Verb, sig., s.v. rodus) or aes infectum. When used for currency or exchange these lumps of metal must have passed by weight. A number were discovered in 1828 near Vulci together with some quadrilateral coins, called aes signatum (see BMCRR I p. 3). Many of the latter were broken, the larger pieces weighing from two to three pounds, others being equal to various divisions of the pound, whilst the greater number weighed about two ounces, thus corresponding to the sextans (see BMCRR I p. 9). Somewhat later there was another find of this aes rude at Vicarello, with which were many examples of the aes signatum, of the aes grave (see BMCRR I p. 5), and of Romano-Campanian coins (see Babelon, Mon. de la Republique romaine, vol. i., p. 10 f.). Barron D'Ailly (Recherches sur lamon. rom., p. 10), through whose hands many examples passed, give their maximum weight at about 707.2 gram. (=10913.7 grs.), and their minimum at 2.21 gram. (34.1 grs.).

At what time the aes rude was instituted is impossible to say. It probably remained in use, by weight, for some little time after the introduction of the aes signatum, since specimens of both series have been found together.

In the find at Vulci, besides the aes rude and the aes signatum there was a number of rough brick-shaped pieces in very poor condition, without any imprint and nothing to indicate their value; their weight varying from an ounce to a pound. These bricks formed about on-sixth of the whole mass. Also there were some elliptical-shaped pieces which represented fractions of the as, most of them corresponding to the weight of the sextans (Mommsen, Hist. mon. rout., t. i., p. 176). These pieces would appear to be intermediate between the as rude and the aes signatum.



Haeberlin, E. J. Aes Grave. Das Schwergeld Roms und Mittelitaliens. (Frankfurt, 1910).

Haeberlin pl. 2., 1 - 9.

Round cake, whole and fragmented (aes formatum) - Contemporaneous instruments made of bronze.



Modified to optimize internet display.

1. 69.8 g (Nos. 1-6 from the finds of Porto Torres, Sardinian, 1897).
2. 25.3 g
3. 13.9 g
4 & 5. Two bronze I-shaped section chisels of 28.1 g and 30.6 g
6. Bronze pick of 108.9 g
7. 95.9 g (from the finds of Siniscola, Sardinia, 1892).
8. 79.3 g (grave find at Chiusi about 1880).
9. 11.5 g (area of Perugia).

Selections from the Haeberlin Collection


Haeberlin pl. 3., 1 - 12.

Other fragments of round cake; pie slice and thaler-shaped pieces.



Modified to optimize internet display.

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.

Selections from the Haeberlin Collection


Haeberlin pl. 4., 1 - 9.


Other fragments of round cake; pie slice and thaler-shaped pieces.



Modified to optimize internet display.

1. 69.8 g (Nos. 1-6 from the finds of Porto Torres, Sardinian, 1897).
2. 25.3 g
3. 13.9 g
4 & 5. Two bronze I-shaped section chisels of 28.1 g and 30.6 g
6. Bronze pick of 108.9 g
7. 95.9 g (from the finds of Siniscola, Sardinia, 1892).
8. 79.3 g (grave find at Chiusi about 1880).
9. 11.5 g (area of Perugia).

Selections from the Haeberlin Collection