For a long period anterior to the reign of Darius the ratio of the value of gold and silver was maintained at 13-1/3 to 1. For a hundred and fifty years after the return of Julius Caesar from Gaul it is known that the ratio was 12 1/2 to 1. In spite of the fact that even in this very early stage of history it was found necessary to fix the relative values of gold and silver, we find the actual currency and the real standard of value to have been only silver. This is due no doubt to the fact that there was very little gold in Europe at the time; but there was not much silver either. Under the Roman Empire there were large stores of these precious metals acquired by conquest and the plunder of vanquished cities - although there was some production from the mines. With the decline and fall of the Roman Empire or what was known as the Empire of the West, Rome was practically denuded of precious metals. When the Turks conquered Constantinople gold was still being coined for a while for very limited amounts.
In England, up to the reign of Henry III there were no gold coins at all. The standard of value was solely silver. "The Kings of England as well as the Sovereigns of most of the states in Europe possessed and exercised the right of deciding the rate at which coins of every kind should pass or be, in modern language, legal tender. Under this authority, not only the coins issued in England, but also foreign coins, whether of gold or silver, could, and did, become legal money of the realm."* It was very common in the times of Shakespeare or Chaucer to find practically all the coins of the different countries in Europe circulating in England. Falstaff complained of losing three or four bonds of forty pounds a piece and the Hostess said that "A hundred marks is a long one for a poor lone woman to bear." * * So long as silver was the currency, the value of gold varied according to the demand and the increased or decreased supply of it. The nations altered the relative value of gold and silver coins extremely frequently. Such alteration was principally made for the purpose of attracting one or other of the metals to the country; it happened on many an occasion that England, like the rest of the countries in Europe, was at one time denuded of silver and at another of gold. But with the discovery of America the available quantity of both silver and gold increased and the relative value of both metals altered materially.
* "The Standard of Value " by Sir David Barbour, k.c.m.g.
* * Shakespeare's Henry IV.