Hoards Are Vital to our Understanding of History

Armstrong Economics Blog/Ancient Economies Re-Posted Jan 26, 2023 by Martin Armstrong

QUESTION: Why do you buy hoards? It is interesting. Just curious.


ANSWER: The coinage is the ONLY way to truly confirm the history. Much of the most important periods like the 3rd century AD, the fall of the Republic, or the Revolution during the Debt Crisis of the 1st century BC known as the Social War, can only be properly understood through the coinage lacking really detailed accounts of financially what was taking place. By recreating the monetary system using coinage, I was able to answer the question – How did Rome Fall? Gradually? Or Catastrophically? By assembling all the coinage, and testing it out, I could establish what nobody else could due using documents or archaeological digs. Rome collapsed in just 8.6 years.

That was then observed in testing and using the same methods around the world. The collapse of the English coinage that inspired Gresham’s Law, bad money drives out good, also took just 8 years.

The Great Monetary Crisis of 1092 saw the gold content collapse also in just 8 years. The same pattern has unfolded time and time again. History repeats NOT because of wars or abstract theories. It repeats simply because human nature never changes – on technology.

The computer was about to forecast the fall of Communism in 1989.95 and it spread and took down the Berlin wall a few months after Tiananmen Square. People attributed that to modern communication. That was nonsense, The Roman Republic fell in 509 BC, and in the same few months in Athens, they too overthrew their tyrants, and Democracy was born.

The question is NOT how fast the information spreads. It could have traveled from Rome to Athens in a few days. The real question is how long does it take to filter through society to create political change?

Therefore, assembling the number of coins by examining hoards and the number of different dies multiplied by 15,000 will give us a good idea of the money supply at that time as illustrated above. Granted, this research project cost tens of millions of dollars to produce. Nonetheless, it has yielded a wealth of information that enabled us to see specifically what took place economically. Human nature has not changed. When Rome burned, Nero did visit the victims. Tiberius issued coins for the aid of Asia when a major earthquake devasted the region we call Turkey today.

I am finishing a book on the famous Battle of Actium where Mark Antony lost to Octavian giving birth to Imperial Rome. The number of dies and the amount of coins issued by Antony demonstrates that the entire wealth of Egypt was at his disposal and it was really an Egyptian proxy war against Rome. The number of silver denarii struck had to be at least 25 million. The sheer massive amount of the increase in the money supply thanks to Egypt was huge. Antony’s coins remained in circulation for decades, although very work. They were the most common coin found in hoards at Pompeii in 79AD about 100 years later. Hoards enable us to see the cost of that war and how it changed Egypt and Rome.

Where Rome began with bronze as its monetary unit and one pound was known as a Roman As, we can see that the price of the Punic Wars as what was one pound of bronze consistently declined. Here we found it was six waves of 51.6 years which are in themselves six waves of 8.6 years,  that produced the major wave of 309.6 years. So if we look from the beginning of the Roman As being 341 grams in 280 BC, by the time we get to Nero in 54AD, the Roman As was about only 10 grams.

Even looking at the reforms of Diocletian in 295AD, his introduction of the follis declines remarkably also following the six waves of 8.6 years. I have looked at the monetary systems of Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas. they have conformed to the Economic Confidence Model confirming that this is a cycle that clearly incorporates everything from war to climate change.

Even though Emperor Titus’ (79-81AD) reign was marked by a relative absence of military and political conflicts after his father, Vespasian (69-79AD) had defeated Judaea was defeated, there were several disasters during his brief leadership. On October 24 in 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted and almost destroyed the cities and resort communities around Naples. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried under stones and lava in 79AD shortly after Titus (79-81AD) came to power. Titus made all efforts to help the victims of the volcano and donated large amounts of money from the imperial treasury. The emperor visited Pompeii right after the tragedy happened.

A single silver denarius was discovered in 1974 among the 180 silver coins buried in Pompeii. When it was cataloged, it overturned history. Titus’ father died on June 24th, 79 AD. Therefore, any coin of Titus as emperor would have to have the very first recording of his power “IMP VIIII” or 8th Imperator, which was a title that meant ‘leader of the army’ to the Romans. The coin discovered in Pompeii had the legend “IMP XV,” which was granted to Titus for the war in Britannia. Titus sent Gnaeus Julius Agricola who pushed further into Caledonia and managed to establish several forts there as recorded by Tacitus (Agricola 22). Therefore, Titus received the title of Imperator for the fifteenth time for this event, according to Cassius Dio (Roman History LXVI.20). This took place we know in September 79 AD about 3 months after becoming emperor following his father’s death. Obviously, if any coin was discovered in the ruins of Pompeii with “IMP XV” in its legend, then this provides absolute proof that the date for Vesuvius of August 24th, 79 AD cannot be correct.

Archeologists in Pompeii have discovered a remarkable inscription written in charcoal which has survived the catastrophe confirming that the eruption of Mt Vesuvius indeed took place in October 79AD as confirmed by the coin discovered and ignored by historians.  The charcoal writing, discovered on the wall of a villa during a new phase of excavations, adds weight to a theory that the volcano destroyed the town in October 79AD rather than August of that year in line with Cassio Dio and the denarius of Titus. The date of August 24th, 79 AD, came from a letter addressed by Pliny the Younger to the Roman historian Tacitus, originally written some 25 years after the event.

Titus devoted much of his silver coinage of Atonement to the gods for the disaster of Pompeii. There were four main Atonement issues commemorating the services of prayer and propitiation through which the emperor attempted to address the public alarm over the disaster. People often attributed such events to the gods being angry. The coinage showed emblems seeking the approval of Jupiter, Neptune, Apollo, and the deceased former Emperors to watch over the Roman people.

News actually spread rapidly around the Roman Empire. There were formal boards where notices would be posted in which important news and major events would be informed to the people much like such a board in a big company with notices to the employees. These boards were called the Acta Diurna and they were designed to inform the Roman people thereby avoiding fake news. We could call them ancient billboards in modern terms and even government officials would walk up and pin a written notice and the crowds would rush to see what is news. Thus, everyone knew of Pompeii in a matter of days. It did not take long for information to circulate.

Because the coin dies back then were hand carved, we are able to identify the number of dies in use during a given year because each is unique. Just look at these portraits on the famous Tribute Penny of Tiberius (14-37AD). It all depended upon the artistic ability of the engraver.

The coin itself has taken its name because Jesus, referring to a denarius, which the English translated to “penny” because that was their silver coin, asked: “Whose is this image and superscription?” When answered that the likeness was Caesar, He replied; ”Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:20-21). Thus, the coin has been called the tribute penny meaning that was how you paid your taxes.

Hoards have enabled me to (1) see what was in circulation at that point in time for the hoard can be dated to around the most recent coin in the hoard. (2) I also have a number of ancient Roman dies like this one of Tiberius. Studies creating modern dies to test how many coins could be struck from such a die before it cracked provides a picture of about 15,000 coins.

By completing die studies quantifying how many were in use, it then becomes possible to estimate the money supply. Here we can see that during the Social War of 90-87BC, there is a drastic increase in the quantity of coinage issued obviously to pay for soldiers. However, conducting metal testing on the coinage of this period, we find that Rome also debased the coinage slightly adding up to 10% copper to the silver. Therefore, studying hoards allows one to actually ascertain the extreme of monetary affairs.

The Social War of the First Century BC was a failed Revolution against the corrupt Republic. The rebellion was waged by ancient Rome’s Italian allies (socii) who were denied equal rights with the Romans, despite the fact that they also fought alongside Romans in battle. They were seeking to separate and thus they fought for independence. Here are the coins of the rebels. They are very rare. You can see the theme celebrating the female head of Italia.

The allies in central and southern Italy had fought side by side with Rome in several wars and had grown restive under Roman autocratic rule, wanting instead Roman citizenship and the privileges it conferred. In 91 BC, the Roman tribune Marcus Livius Drusus proposed granting them Roman citizenship. The arrogance of the Senators erupted into a heated opposition. They went as far as to even Drusus for daring to propose such a decree. That resulted in the revolution.

When I dug deeper, the coinage with the debasement also reveals that there was a financial crisis. In all honesty, it was the Debt Crisis that ended the Roman Republic. There was a Sovereign Debt Crisis during the Roman Republic period that resulted in a dictatorship and a debt default. The Roman Debt Crisis of the 1st century BC has left behind a vivid account of what took place. The volume of gold and silver in Italy had increased dramatically during the late 2nd century BC following the Punic Wars. We have the first real gold coins issued by the Roman Republic at that time.

However, this concentration of wealth, which was akin to the United States after World War I and II, was absorbed by commercial expansion and investment in Gaul and Asia. A period of excessive concentration of money and large profits came to an end with the rise of the Social War of 91-88BC which was a war waged between the Roman Republic and several of the other cities in Italy (no taxation without representation), which prior to the war had been Roman allies for centuries. The war was begun by the Picentes because the Romans did not want to afford them Roman citizenship, thus leaving the Italian groups with fewer rights. The war resulted in a Roman victory and genocide against the Samnites. However, Rome granted Roman citizenship to almost all of its Italian allies, including the Samnites, to avoid another war. Therefore, we find that the debt crisis was correlated with a separatist movement – which we are beginning to see worldwide starting in Europe, but will eventually become a contagion in the United States as the conflict between left and right erupts after the November elections.

The Social War led to the complete state bankruptcy of the Roman State. We can see the dramatic rise in the money supply created during this time of war. This turmoil was then followed by the dictatorship of Sulla who then imposed an attempt to control the debt crisis capping interest rates at 12%. The previous legal rate was capped at 8.5%, but obviously, the market had exceeded that limit and Sulla had to confront that reality in 88BC. The debt crisis continued and then in 86 BC, the government was compelled into default. This is when the Valerian Law came into play. The State debts were defaulted on and thus reduced to 25%.

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