Roman Republic

Rome, quadrans (aes grave), 241 235 BC
Bronze, cast
weight 67.198 g
diameter 44.3 mm
Inv. 1921.747.

In Italy bronze was used as barter, its exchange value corresponding to the weight of the metal. Even when bronze pieces were given images in the C3 BC, in Rome the twelve ounce pound was determined by weight. From the C3 BC the Romans struck silver and small bronze coins of their own for trade with the Greek colonies. The images on Roman aes grave ('heavy money') included reflections of the daily life of an agrarian society with its patron gods. Here the right hand and the sickle together with two grains of wheat on the obverse symbolize harvest. The weight of the piece, a quarter of a pound or three ounces, is indicated on both sides by three balls. The example illustrated came from Bachofen s collection and may have appealed to him as a scholar of religions particularly interested in the meaning of the hand in relation to funerary symbolism. He equated the left hand with the female principle of motherhood and death, and the less frequently depicted right hand with the male principle of cognition and divinity.

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