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Roman Imitatives

Ruler(s)/ Period: Sri Lanka
Denomination: Imitation of 4th century Roman type
Date of Issue: 4th Cent
Obverse: Laureate bust right. Inscription "I I I ..."
Reverse: Shield or wheel within a wreath
Weight: 1.5 gms
Diameter: 14.0 mm


This coin comes from a hoard of over 600 coins, originally bought by a well-known collector at a flea market in Germany in the 1940's. Although very crude, these coins copy late Roman types such as 'Falling horseman', 'Standards between two soldiers' and 'Votive wreath'.

Roman coins dating from the second century B.C. found their way to the Indian sub-continent by way of trade. Considerable trade in luxury goods in the first century A.D. resulted in the import into India of gold Aureii. By the end of the first century, trade was more in non-luxury items and lower denomination coins were used. This seems to have created a local circulation of Roman coinage (in trading centres, not India as a whole), supplemented by local imitations, eventually replacing the Roman coinage altogether.

Sri Lanka, once known as Ceylon, is a large island off the southern tip of India. Clearly some late Roman bronze coins must have found their way to this area to have been models for these imitatives. Given the fairly low status of the originals it is difficult to see them being used for international trade, so possibly they were souvenirs brought by traders.

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