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Greek Coins

Greek coinage began in the late 7th century B.C. as small lumps of electrum. These early coins were stamped with simple devices. Pure silver and gold coins were soon introduced, but coins were not used for daily transactions until the invention of bronze coinage at the end of the 5th century B.C. Greek coins were struck, not cast, and the coinage was based on a regulated weight standard; the value of each coin was determined by the amount of metal contained in it. The denominations were divisions, or fractions, of the principal coin, usually called a stater. Each Greek city-state issued its own coins and could adopt its own weight standard, but in the 6th century B.C. many Greek cities used a standard based on coinage of the island of Aegina. In the 5th century, the Attic standard prevailed in areas under Athenian sphere of influence, although the Aeginetan standard also continued in use elsewhere.

Alexander the Great adopted the Attic standard in the 4th century B.C., and it became the normal one for most currencies during the Hellenistic period (3rd to 1st centuries B.C.).

Coin devices, or types, identified both mint and denomination and occurred in great variety: for example, figures or heads of the principal gods and heroes; animals; products typical of the city-state; or subjects related to local myth. Some devices contained a punning allusion to the city's name, such as the rose (rodon) of Rhodes. Not until after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. did it become the usual practice to put the portrait of a human being on Greek coins.

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Coin with Head of the Goddess Athena and OwlCoin with Head of the Goddess Athena and Owl
Silver Tetradrachm from Athens, Greece

Obverse: Head of Athena, wearing an earring, a necklace, and a crested helmet adorned with an olive wreath and a floral ornament, facing right.

Reverse: Incuse square containing an owl standing facing out between an olive twig and the Greek legend Greek text

5th century B.C.
(69.121)
 


Coin with Pegasus and Head of the Goddess AthenaCoin with Pegasus and Head of the Goddess Athena
Silver Stater from Anaktorion, Greece

Obverse: Pegasus flying left
Reverse: Athena, wearing a Corinthian helmet, facing left, with Greek letters above, Greek letters and a flaming altar behind her head.

345-300 B.C.
(61.35.3)
 


Philip II (359-336 B.C.)Philip II (359-336 B.C.)
Gold Stater from the mint at Amphipolis, Macedonia
(modern Amfipolis, Greece)

Obverse: Head of Apollo, wearing a laurel wreath, right.
Reverse: Charioteer driving a biga right, with trident below the horses.
Exergue: Greek text

340-328 B.C.
(76.77)
Gift of Dr. Anna Marguerite McCann Taggart
 


Lysimachos, King of Thrace (306-281 B.C.)Lysimachos, King of Thrace (306-281 B.C.)
Silver Tetradrachm from the Mint at Magnesia, Ionia
(modern Magnesia, Turkey)

Obverse: Head of the deified Alexander the Great, wearing diadem and horn of Ammon, facing right.
Reverse: Athena Nikephoros, wearing a crested helmet and a long chiton, seated left on a low stool, holding a small Nike in her right hand, resting her left elbow on a round shield.
Legend: Greek text

297-281 B.C.
(60.31.1)
 

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