Thursday, February 16, 2006

My Top 20: Coin No.2: Athenian Tetradrachma 393-300 BC

One of the most famous series of ancient coins ever minted and known colloquially as Athenian Owls. Used widely and initially well trusted in the Mediterranean in the 5th & 4th centuries BC. Widely copied, often debased, easily forged.
First coin of this type about 510 BC when Athenian democracy was established. The early coinage, known as archaic, shows the eye ‘Egyptian’ style, whilst later coins showed the eye facing forward.
On the obverse Athena, patron goddess, on the reverse her owl who flew about the world every evening and returned with news of what had happened the previous day. The sprig of olive pays tribute to the vast trade in olive oil & the pots which held the oil.
The long drawn out Peloponnesian war drained Athens of her wealth & importance and ended with the capture of the city by the Spartans.
When Athens was cut off from the silver mines at Laurian c 406 BC it was forced to produce silver plated (fourree) type coins that it originally intended to replace with pure silver after the war.

Currency values & Weights
Deka-drachm=10 dr=43.9 gm
Tetradrachm=4 dr=17.29 gm
Didrachm=2 dr=8.69 gm
Drachma=6 obols=4.39 gm
Hemidrachm=1/2 dr=2.15 gn

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