Chart: Deaths of Roman Emperors vs. coinage debasement
Correlation does not necessarily imply causation.
In other words, just because two sets of data may follow a similar pattern, it does not mean there is any direct causal relationship.
However, as we were assembling our previous research on Currency and the Collapse of the Roman Empire, we noticed something that was too uncanny to skip past: during the 113-year stretch of time from 192 to 305 AD, an astonishing amount of Roman emperors (84%) were either brutally murdered or assassinated.
This, of course, was a particularly troubled period for the Romans. During the Crisis of the Third Century (235 to 284 AD) specifically, the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression threatened to bring down the Empire.
Coincidentally, during this same time frame, the silver denarius went from having 2.7 grams silver to being “silver” in name only. Base metals such as bronze and copper were added to the silver coins to debase the currency, and by the year 300 AD, a silver denarius (or its equivalent) had only a trace of silver left.
Notes on the Data
Roman Emperor deaths or abdications included in the visualization are ones that occurred between the birth of the Empire (27 BC) to the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476 AD). It’s also worth noting that, according to the source, there is a significant amount of emperors who had fates that are unclear or died under mysterious circumstances, and therefore the list may not be entirely accurate.
About the Money Project
The Money Project aims to use intuitive visualizations to explore ideas around the very concept of money itself. Founded in 2015 by Visual Capitalist and Texas Precious Metals, the Money Project will look at the evolving nature of money, and will try to answer the difficult questions that prevent us from truly understanding the role that money plays in finance, investments, and accumulating wealth.