The Ancient Library

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On this page: Coinage (continued)



system of coining money in existence. The various Greek standards of value were all developed—in several gradations, it is true —from the gold and silver standard of Asia Minor. It was not until a later time that the standard of the Persian gold money was in some cities transferred to the silver coinage. The proportion of gold to silver was commonly reckoned among the Greeks as 10:1, so that a gold piece weighing 2 drachmae was = 20 silver drachmce. But in commerce the proportion assumed was 12:1, and this was the average generally observed in the Roman empire. The measure of weight most commonly current was the talent, which contained 60 mince. Like the talent, the mina was not a real coin, but a standard of measurement. The unit of coinage was the drachma, 100 drachmas being reckoned to the mina. The drachma, again, contained 6 obols. In an­cient times the commonly accepted standard was that of vEglna. The coins of the island of ^Egina were stamped on one side with the figure of a tortoise, on the other side

(1) DIDRACHMON OF .EGINA. (B.C. 700-550.}

with a roughly executed incuse square. The largest silver coin was the stctter or didrachmon (fig. 1), ( = about 2s. 2d., the vEginetan drachma being = Is. Id.). Salon abolished this standard in Attica, and in­troduced a lighter drachma equal to about 8d. The Attic talent ( = 6,000 drachma;') was thus worth about £200, the mina about £3 6s. 8rf. The silver coins of Attica bore on the front the head of Pallas, and on the

Archaic head of Athene. Owl. (2) TETRADKACHMON OF ATHENS.

(Time of Persian wars.)

reverse the figure of an owl. The principal coin wag the tetradrachmon or 4 drachma;

(fig. 2), the largest (which was only issued occasionally) the dlkadrachmon or 10 drachmce. The didrachmon (2 drachma;) was in like manner issued rarely. The tri-ObOldn (3 obols), the 6bt>l6s, and the heml-ObOKdn (J obol) were small silver coins; the tStartemOrtfin (% obol) the smallest of all. The Greek states always adopted a silver currency, gold being rarely issued. The largest gold piece was the didrach­mon or golden stater (= 20 silver drachmce). Besides this we find drachmas, triobols, obols, half-obols, quarter-obols, and even eighth obols in gold. The gold money most commonly current in Greece was, down to the Macedonian age, the royal Persian coin

(3) daeic.

called DdreikOs, or Daric (fig. 3). It was stamped on one side with a crowned archer, on the other with an oblong incuse. This corresponded with the gold stater of Attica and of the cities of Asia Minor. Among these should be especially mentioned the sta­ter of Cyzicus or the Cyzicenus =28 silver drachmce. The earliest copper coin issued at Athens was the Chalkfis = J of a silver obol (440 b.c.). In the time of Alexander the Great the silver coinage stopped at the

Head of Apollo. Victorious b\ga. (4) GOLD STATER OF PHILIP II OF MACEDON.

triobolos, and it therefore became necessary to represent the smaller fractions in copper. The silver money of Attica was in very general use, but the Attic standard was not adopted in Greece Proper. It spread westward, however, in quite early times. In the greater part of Sicily, and in Taren-tum and Etruria, the coinage was from the first regulated in accordance with the Attic standard. But the wide diffusion of this standard was mainly due to the action of Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great. The former adopted it when intro­ducing his gold coinage (Philippus, fig. 4),


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