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Argentum, Silver

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ARGENTUM.
73
Antonines 1/4, under Severus about 1/2 ; after which time there seems to have been no fixed standard, some denarii being worse, others apparently better than the last mentioned.6 But after Spain had been lost to the state, in consequence of the usur­pation of the various pretenders to the empire in the time of Gallienus, the silver currency altogether vanishes, and is replaced by Billon" denarii, in which the silver forms but one-fourth, or even less, of the weight of the coin. These pieces, extremely bright when fresh, in consequence of the silver being forced upon the surface by the pressure of the stamp, become quite coppery after a little circulation. Pinkerton ascribes the evident scarcity of silver coin under the Empire, even in its most flourishing times, to the drain of specie towards India for the purchase of precious stones and silk, and compares it with the same beginning to be sensibly felt in his own times (1770), occasioned by the purchase of tea. After an interval of fifty years Diocletian, having reunited the dispersed members of the empire, re-established the silver currency upon its original footing; and this continued, though the weight of the denarii gradually lessened, until the fall of the Western Empire.
Diocletian's restored silver denarii are ninety-six to the Roman pound, hence many of them bear XCVI within a wreath on the reverse. They, being eight to the Roman ounce, would equal 54 grs. Troy each. But his successors, though they did not again debase the standard, rapidly curtailed the weight, so that few exceed 30 grs. Again, double denarii were coined, of which one thousand were equivalent to a pound of gold: hence styled
Argentum, Silver Page of 453 Argentum, Silver
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King. Natural History of Precious Stones.