RomanArmyTalk

Full Version: 100,100 asses
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Hi,

I was reading Livy last week and in his first book he talks about Servius creating the first class system. It was based on wealth; those that had 100,000 to 50,000 asses were the first class and had to supply their armor and weapons accordingly.

My question is, what are asses, donkeys? Ten first class citizens could have a million asses? I find that hard to believe, that would put so many more donkey’s then people in that general area. Were “Assesâ€
Yes, an as was a bronze/copper coin! :wink:
Quote:Yes, an ass was a bronze/copper coin! :wink:

Thanks, it had to be.
Be careful with your topics Steve. Wouldn't want to make an ass of yourself now would you? Big Grin
Sorry, just had to say it. :oops:
Quote:Be careful with your topics Steve. Wouldn't want to make an ass of yourself now would you? Big Grin
Sorry, just had to say it. :oops:

Wouldn't be the first time, probobly won't be the last.
Also, I believe the singular form is "as", not "ass".

Matthew
Quote:Also, I believe the singular form is "as", not "ass".

Matthew

I'll assume your correct Smile
You should never assume Steve, you might make an ass out of u and me Tongue
This is actually a slightly tricky issue, as it is likely that Romans didn't use coinage (either their own or anyone else's) until the 4th century BC... almost 200 years after the traditional reign of Servius Tullius. I think some people (Michael Crawford, in his Roman Republican Coinage, comes to mind) suggest that the early as was a pound of bronze, and explain the Servian classification system that way. But I've also read some arguments suggesting that the bulk of the system (or at least the system which Livy describes) is likely to be a 4th century BC invention.
Quote:This is actually a slightly tricky issue, as it is likely that Romans didn't use coinage (either their own or anyone else's) until the 4th century BC... almost 200 years after the traditional reign of Servius Tullius. I think some people (Michael Crawford, in his Roman Republican Coinage, comes to mind) suggest that the early as was a pound of bronze, and explain the Servian classification system that way. But I've also read some arguments suggesting that the bulk of the system (or at least the system which Livy describes) is likely to be a 4th century BC invention.

Then that brings up another question. If coinage came about after Servius Tullius, was first class 100,000 pounds? That’s probably more then they had, or was it something else that Livy equates to 100,000 asses.

What did they use for trade, other then chickens, goats, slaves etc. or could Livy have been referring to possible 100,000 worth of goods?
You're probably right Steve, as its unlikely that early Romans would have had sheds full of bronze sitting around simply in order to fit within the census qualifications! Which makes me think the levels in asses are an entirely anachronistic creation of Livy's. We know that Livy's interpretation of the Servian classes (as all being created by Servius Tullius) was not the only one floating around in antiquity, as Cato claims that originally only one class existed... so it is entirely possible that Livy's version represented a later one (early 3rd century BC?) used when the as (as a coinage) was actually in use.

One possible compromise could be that the weight of bronze referred to the equipment worn by the early classes, which seemed to be made mostly of bronze (something corroborated by the archeology)... but even this wouldn't get anywhere close to the 100,000 asses of Livy's system!

As for other types of money... well, livestock was probably the mainstay of the early Roman economy (the latin word for money, pecunia, was derived from the word for cattle), but I'd have to say you're right that that the Romans would have struggled to get enough cattle together to equal 100,000 pounds of bronze!
Quote:but I'd have to say you're right that that the Romans would have struggled to get enough cattle together to equal 100,000 pounds of bronze!

Livy may have talking about equal in value to 100,000 asses. One cattle could be worth X amount, so 100,100 pound in Livy time might be 132 cattle, 300 chickens and 97 slave equalling the value of 100,000
As far as I know, the class of a Roman was determined by calculating his worth, not by counting actual coin. I have read of several units of coin/goods as the unit of measurement, but thus far, I haven't found a definite as/euro conversion table.

But to store 100.000 ases you would need a big hole... :oops:
And remember that the As was a low denomination coin:

Republican values:

1 denarius= 4 sestertii
1 sestertius= 1 1/4 dupondii
1 dupondius= 2 ases

I've read it estimated, based on buying power (of bread I think it was) in the early Empire, a denarius was roughly equivalent to $20USD. Thus someone with just a net worth of $100 000 would be considered first class were that same criterion be applicable today. I guess that makes all the billionaires in the world today Double Super Secret Class people :lol: