Greek Silver Coins

Greek Silver Coins


SILVER COIN – THE INTEGRATION OF MACEDONIA AND THE NORTHERN AND EASTERN AEGEAN ISLANDS

Greece’s largest territorial expansion came after the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, with the incorporation of Macedonia and the Eastern Aegean islands. Prior to the Balkan Wars, Macedonia, still under Ottoman rule, had become an apple of discord between Greece and Bulgaria. This sparked the Struggle for Macedonia, with Greek and Bulgarian guerrilla bands fighting for control of the disputed areas and vying for the national allegiance of their inhabitants. The coin portrays Pavlos Melas (1870-1904), an officer of the Greek Army and hero of the Greek Struggle for Macedonia, who assumed command of the Greek guerrillas in the Kastoria-Monastiri region. His heroic death in a clash with an Ottoman army unit made him a symbol of the Greek Struggle for Macedonia and inspired many Greeks to follow his example.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS AND OTHER INFORMATION

Maximum issue: 4,000 pieces

Coin designed by: George Stamatopoulos

The coins are made of silver with a content of 92.5%, the minting quality is proof and 4000 pieces of each coin have been issued. Each coin is also available individually in a wooden collector case with the corresponding certificate.


Acquisition of Greek coins enriches study of medieval history

Chios, Martino Zaccharia, silver grosso, 1324-1329. This silver coin of the island of Chios in the eastern Aegean imitates the main silver coin of Venice, the grosso on the obverse (above) it depicts Zaccharia standing with Saint Isidore, and has a seated image of Christ on its reverse (below). Zaccharia bears the title "Servant of the Emperor" in recognition of the fact that the island was given to his grandfather by the Byzantine emperor in return for protection against the Ottoman Turks.

Images courtesy of the University Library's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

Lesbos and Ainos, Dorino Gattilusio, gold ducat, 1400-1449. This gold imitation of the Venetian ducat has Gattilusio identified as "Duke of Myteline" kneeling in front of a saint (above) the reverse (below) has a standing figure of Christ. The Gattilusio were made lords of Lesbos on the island of Myteline and Ainos in Thrace on the mainland by Byzantine emperors as a reward for their defense against the Turks. The Sarmas specimen is the only known example of the coin with an M beneath the standard, apparently an identification of the island of its minting.

A recent acquisition by the University Library's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections of more than 800 coins from medieval Greece will help researchers deepen their knowledge about a period of Middle Age history that has been little understood by scholars.

The Sarmas Collection of coins from medieval Greece is available to researchers on campus and around the world through the University Numismatic Collection. The new coin collection, assembled by London-based businessman Theo Sarmas, comprises coins minted in the eastern Mediterranean in the 13th and 14th centuries following the fall of Constantinople by armies of the Fourth Crusade.

"This makes Princeton an unrivaled resource for the study of a coinage about which there are many unanswered questions," said Alan Stahl, curator of the University Numismatic Collection. "Until now there has been no specialized collection of the coins of the Greek lands of the later Middle Ages available for study to the public."

The coins were acquired in November with matching funds provided by the University's Program in Hellenic Studies, which contributed with the support of the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund. The fund was established to promote the understanding of Greek culture at the University.

John Haldon, professor of history and Hellenic studies, said the Sarmas coins are an important addition to the teaching materials available at the University.

"Students all too rarely have an opportunity to handle coins and to understand how they were made, their iconography, and their size and weight," Haldon said. "Along with the University's existing holdings, these coins will considerably increase research opportunities open to students at all levels."

Maria Mavroudi, professor of history and Hellenic studies, said the collection is a valuable source of information about Greek lands in the late medieval Byzantine era. The collection is rich in coins minted in the Greek peninsula and Aegean islands that imitate important trade coins of Italian cities, especially those of Venice and Naples.

"This is a remarkable research tool," Mavroudi said. "The period that the collection covers is generally poorly documented in sources and little understood by scholars. Study of these coins can help scholars map out how the eastern Mediterranean economy functioned in the 13th and the 14th centuries."

The largest part of the collection features coins of the rulers of mainland Greece in the late Middle Ages, chiefly members of the Villehardouin family of Athens and the Angevin rulers of the Peloponnesus. Examples of note include a silver coin of Chios minted by Martino Zaccharia in the period between 1324 and 1329, which imitates the silver grosso of Venice, and a gold coin of Dorino Gattilusio, lord of Lesbos and Ainos from 1400 to 1449, which imitates the popular gold ducat of Venice.

Dimitri Gondicas, executive director of the Program in Hellenic Studies, said the acquisition of the Sarmas Collection is part of the program's continued collaboration with the library's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections to acquire relics that can be used for teaching, research and public exhibits that attract visitors to the University from around the world.

The acquisition of the Sarmas Collection follows the 2006 donation of the Wu Collection of Chinese coins, which already has attracted American and Chinese scholars to the University. The Sarmas coins, along with other holdings in the University's extensive collection of Greek and Roman coins, are currently being catalogued for the online database for numismatics. The University started the database in 2005 to provide Web-based access to the collection through a searchable catalog with photographs and descriptions of the objects.

The University Numismatic Collection was started in 1849 when friends of the University, then known as the College of New Jersey, bought and donated a collection of plaster casts of Greek and Roman coins. Today, the collection has vast holdings of Greek and Roman coins, and also includes coins from the Byzantine, Western Medieval and United States Colonial eras.

Part of the collection is currently on display in the "Numismatics in the Renaissance" exhibition, which is on view through July 20 in the main exhibition hall of the University's Firestone Library.


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Greek Silver Coins - History

Ancient Greek coinage can be divided into three periods that generally conform to the traditional periods of Greek art. The earliest period, the Archaic, covers the time from the introduction of coinage in Asia Minor sometime in the seventh century BC to the end of the Greco-Persian Wars in 479 BC. During this period the Greeks moved from a currency struck in electrum (an alloy of gold and silver) to a bi-metallic one of silver and gold. The Lydians may have been the first to produce coins by exploiting the naturally-occurring electrum found in the local Paktolos River. About the same time, cities in Ionia also began to strike electrum coins. While these early coins were little more than ingots, they typically included one or more punchmarks, applied to indicate either the purity or issuing authority. Soon a type was introduced on the other side of the coin by placing the blank on an engraved surface when the punch was applied. Under Kroisos (561-547 BC) coins in both gold and silver were struck for the first time. Featuring a lion and bull on the obverse and two punchmarks on the reverse, these Kroiseids, as they were later called, had several denominations. The gold stater and silver siglos and their fractions became the first international currency prior to the introduction of the Persian gold daric and silver siglos at the end of the sixth century BC.

At the same time, to the West, from the Aegean islands to Magna Graecia and Sicily, the Greek city-states began to mint coins. Early coins featured geometric designs, but these were soon replaced by iconography representative of each city. Often these symbols provided a pun on the town’s name, such as the parsley-leaf (selinos) design on the coins of Selinos. Other designs reflected each city’s local deity, such as the bee used by Ephesos (an insect sacred to Artemis), or the head of Athena along with her sacred bird, the owl, at Athens. Still others used particular local flora and fauna, such as the turtles and tortoises of Aegina.

During the Classical period (479-336 BC), the Athenian tetradrachm predominated as the international currency. Over the course of the preceding Archaic period, a number of regional weight standards developed, which became problematic as international trade flourished into the early Classical period. The prevalence and popularity of the Athenian coinage, however, resulted in the Attic standard becoming the pre-eminent weight standard by the end of the fifth century BC.

Greek coinage reached extraordinary heights of technical and artistic merit during the Classical Period. Almost everywhere, the typeless punch was replaced by an engraved die, resulting in coins with obverse and reverse designs. As engravers became more skillful and adept at using such small canvasses, the cities' coins became a matter of civic pride. Larger city-states produced a wide range of fine and innovative types, both in silver and gold. Bronze coins, often with equally fine style, were introduced around the middle of the fifth century BC. As some city-states began to copy their neighbors’ types, each city’s ethnic was incorporated into the design. The wealthy cities of Sicily produced some especially fine coins, many of whose dies were signed by their engravers. One such artistic masterpiece is the dekadrachm of Syracuse, regarded by many collectors and numismatists as the finest example of Classical Greek numismatic art.

The establishment of the hegemony of the Macedonian kingdom in Greece, followed by the conquest of the Persian Empire by the Macedonian king Alexander III, heralded the Hellenistic period (336-31 BC). Greek culture spread into the Middle East and Central Asia, precipitating the development of a new synthecized culture based on the combination of Greek and non-Greek elements. Many local coinages ceased and were replaced by the Attic standard Alexander tetradrachm and its fractions. Featuring the head of the Greek hero Herakles on the obverse, and the figure of Zeus Nikephoros (Zeus, who brings Victory) on the reverse, this new coinage was minted at a great many cities throughout Greece and Asia for the next two centuries. Following Alexander’s death, his conquests were divided up between his generals, known as the Diadochs, or successors. To fund their various military and economic enterprises, these kings now began to strike their own coinage. An innovation in these series soon developed that affected all regal series thereafter. While retaining a mythical or historical type on the reverse, the obverse usually featured the monarch's own portrait. In addition to the successor-states of Alexander, various kingdoms in Iran, Afghanistan, and northwestern India, prompted by the lucrative trade routes with the West, also struck their own Attic-standard coinage. Some of the finest numismatic art of the Hellenistic period is found in these series, such as that of the Greco-Baktrian kings and the early kings of Persis. The Hellenistic age was brought to a close by the expansion of Rome, which absorbed the great Hellenistic kingdoms one after another.

The earliest Roman coinage was aes rude, large irregular lumps of bronze. These were eventually replaced in the fourth century BC with aes signatum, large cast ingots decorated with either a branch (ramo secco), or several other designs. By the middle of the third century BC, aes grave became the standard regional currency. These new coins were cast in several denominations (as, semis, triens, quadrans, and uncia), each with its own particular design and denoted with respective marks of value. Although the weight standard for these coins would be reduced periodically over the next two centuries, these denominations, with the addition of the dupondius, remained in the standard Roman bronze currency until the end of the third century AD.

In 241 BC, the last year of the First Punic War, the first regular Roman silver coinage began to be issued. These didrachms, called quadrigati after the quadriga on the reverse, were struck for the next sixteen years and, along with a variety of fractional denominations, became the standard Roman silver currency until the introduction of the denarius in 211 BC during the Second Punic War. The denarius, so-called because it was initially equal to ten asses, was soon revalued to equal 16 reduced-weight asses, a ratio which remained in effect until the demise of both denominations in the third century AD. The denarius remained the primary silver coin of the Romans until Caracalla introduced a double denarius, or antoninianus, in AD 215. Over the course of the third century AD, however, the silver content of the antoninianus decreased until it became largely a bronze coin.

Initially, the denarius featured the head of Roma on the obverse, and the Dioscuri, the twin sons of Jupiter, on the reverse. Later, individual moneyers struck issues commemorating great family deeds and created visual puns on their own names. In 45 BC Julius Caesar became the first living Roman to place his portrait on a Roman coin, establishing a tradition that would continue through the Roman Empire. At the same time, the reverse became a medium through which the issuer conveyed political propaganda. Unlike the earlier issues that reflected past events, the propaganda alluded to here was of current events. This became standard practice under the empire, and many of the significant events in Roman history were enshrined on the reverses of the coins. The propaganda reflected a variety of subjects from wars and other political victories to the founding of new colonies, the dedication of new monuments, tax reforms, and any number of sacred events. Perhaps the most common depictions are the personification of the virtues of the emperor and his dynasty.

The sestertius was initially a silver coin, introduced along with the denarius as a fraction in 211 BC and struck sporadically throughout the remainder of the Republic. In 23 BC Augustus reintroduced the denomination as a large bronze coin equal to four asses. Its large size allowed die cutters ample space to develop a highly elaborate or detailed scene. As a result, the sestertius designs are among the most artistic of the Roman denominations, and the most popular with collectors. In AD 249 the emperor Trajan Decius introduced a short-lived double sestertius.

Although not the only gold coin struck by the Romans, the aureus (more properly, aureus denarius) was the standard gold denomination valued at 25 denarii. As with the denarius, the aureus became a venerable denomination introduced by Sulla during the Republic, it was struck until the beginning of the fourth century AD under the Empire. Like the other denominations, it too experienced periodic weight reductions. Under the later emperors of the third century AD, dramatic fluctuations occurred in the weight of aurei, and a few novel gold denominations were attempted, including a binio, roughly equal to one and a half aurei.

The monetary reforms undertaken by Diocletian (AD 284-305) completely transformed the Roman currency system. The nummus, or follis, apparently tarrifed at 25 denarii, and its radiate fraction, replaced the old sestertius, dupondius, and as as the bronze denominations. Featuring the Genius of the Roman People on the reverse of the nummus, and Jupiter with the emperor on the radiate fraction, these new coins were struck in various imperial mints during the first of decades of the fourth century AD. Eventually, however, the weight of the follis was reduced, so that by the middle of the century, several unnamed bronze denominations began to circulate. While most are known today only by their diameter in millimeters, some numismatists have called the larger of these new denominations a centenionalis or maiorina. Diocletian also introduced a new silver denomination, the argenteus, was also introduced. Its extremely high silver content, something unseen for almost a century, led to pervasive hoarding, resulting in its subsequent abandonment. In AD 309, Constantine introduced the solidus, which replaced the aureus as the standard gold coin of the Roman Empire. This was soon accompanied by fractions, the semissis (half-solidus) and tremissis (third-solidus). Sometime during his reign, Constantine also reintroduced a high-content silver denomination. Known as the siliqua, this silver denomination was far more successful it was struck along with its fractional half siliqua well into the Byzantine period. A larger silver denomination, the miliarensis, also appeared in smaller numbers.

Diocletian's reforms also affected coin designs. While the obverse still contained the bust of the emperor, the reverse types became highly standardized within a particular reign and across all of the mints. It was not uncommon for the depiction of a significant idea to be standardized and used at all of the mints for five or more years at a time. Nonetheless, mintmarking became far more complex, and changes to a particular mint's markings occurred frequently. This innovation allows us to more easily trace the development of the coinage throughout the empire over a period of time, and precise dating permits us to tie changes more closely to specific events.

Unlike the Roman Empire in the West, the Eastern Roman Empire, with its capital at Constantinople, did not collapse. What we call Byzantine coinage was simply a continuation of the currency and denominations of the Later Roman Empire. The Byzantines regularly struck gold solidi, the denomination introduced by Constantine I in AD 309, as well as fractional semisses and tremisses. Under Nicephorus II Phocas (963-969), two new gold denominations appeared, the histamenon nomisma and tetarteron nomisma, which replaced the solidus. Lasting little more than a century, the histamenon was permanently replaced by the hyperpyron and quarter hyperpyron. Although these denominations continued to be struck until the fourteenth century, they were reduced both in weight and fineness. Eventually, the final hyperpyra the Byzantines struck were silver. In addition, a scyphate, or cup-shaped denomination, the trachy, was issued in both electrum (debased gold) and billon (debased silver). The reason for the introduction of cup-shaped coins is not known, although it is usually theorized that they were shaped for easier stacking. The designs of these coins reflect the Christian nature of the Byzantine Empire. In addition to portraits of the Byzantine emperors, the Victory on the reverse of the earlier Late Roman solidi was transformed during the reign of Justin I into an angel. During the second reign of Justinian II (705-711), the portrait of Christ appears for the first time on Byzantine coinage. Later on, the image of the Theotokos also becomes a regular feature of the coinage.

Bronze coinage, however, had become so reduced in weight, that its small size and low value made it difficult to use in large transactions. Beginning with the monetary reform of Anastasius I in 498, the follis was reintroduced as the main bronze denomination. Unlike its Roman predecessor, the Byzantine follis was valued at 40 nummi, signified by the large M (Greek for “forty”) on the reverse, Like its predecessor, the new follis included mint and officina marks. Now, however, the follis was also dated: either annually by the regnal year, or by the periodic indictional (tax) year. Along with the follis, other bronze fractions were struck. The most common was the half follis, or 20 nummi, signified by the large K on the reverse others included the decanummium (I), and the pentanummium (E). Beginning in the seventh century, the follis was significantly reduced in weight and became the only bronze denomination regularly issued. Although the so-called "anonymous issue" folles, featuring the bust of Christ and struck during tenth century made a brief appearance, the follis was reduced to such a state that it was replaced by the trachea and tetarteron in the early twelfth century.

The Byzantines infrequently struck silver denominations. Early on, they briefly continued to mint the older Roman denominations, the miliarense, siliqua, and half siliqua. The emperor Heraclius (610-641) introduced the hexagram. A large piece equivalent to a double miliarense, it was struck in large quantities during his reign, but by the end of the seventh century the hexagram disappeared from circulation. Leo III (717-741) introduced the miliaresion, a revived version of the earlier miliarense, which was regularly issued into the ninth century. Thereafter, its use greatly decreased, though fractions of the miliaresion were issued in the eleventh century. Another short-lived silver denomination, the basilikon, briefly appeared in the fourteenth century. It was quickly replaced by the stavraton, which was introduced later that same century. The stavraton has the distinction of being the final coinage struck by the Byzantine Empire, issued even as the city fell in 1453.


Greek Coins

This Greek ClipArt gallery offers 87 illustrations of historic coins of Greece.

A Ship

A ship on the acrostolium of which hangs a shield, an emblem of the mercantile and warrior city of Tyre.…

Acanthus

Coin of the city of Acanthus.

Aegina

Coin from the city of Aegina.

Alexander Coin

An illustration of a coin with depicting the face of Alexander the Great.

Alexander the Great

(356 B.C.-323 B.C.) Greek leader

Alexander the Great

A medal with the portrait of Alexander the Great on one side the other side shows the inscription ALEXANDROU…

Coin of Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great's head on a silver coin of Lysimachus in 321-281 B.C.

Coin of Alexander the Great

"Coin of Alexander the Great. Alexander, at the time of his father's death, was in his twentieth year,…

Amphipolis

Coin of the Greek city of Amphipolis.

Antiochus

"Antiochus III. (Coin)" &mdash Morey, 1903

Antiochus Epiphanes

Medal of Antiochus Epiphanes.

Aphractus

"Called also navis aperta, a ship which had no deck but was merely covered with planks in the front…

Aplustre

"An ornament of wooden planks, which constituted the highest part of the poop of a ship. From the representations…

Apollo

Apollo, the god of day, his head surrounded by rays. His chariot bears similarities to a rainbow. It…

Coin of Athens

The obverse and reverse sides of an ancient coin of Athens.

Athenian Coin

The obverse and reverse sides of one of the earliest coins.

Athens

Coin of Athens

"Coin of Athens." &mdash Smith, 1882

Attic Drachma

"Attic Drachma" &mdash Morey, 1903

Aurum

"Gold appears not to have been coined at Athens till the time of the Macedonian empire, with the exception…

Carian Coin

The obverse and reverse sides of one of the earliest coins.

Coin of Chios

The obverse and reverse sides of one of the earliest coins.

Cistophorus

The front of a Greek silver coin weighing on the average around 193 grains, first issued by the kings…

Cistophorus

The back of a Greek silver coin weighing on the average around 193 grains, first issued by the kings…

Coin of Cypress

A coin of Cypress, representing the temple of Venus. It shows that she was worshiped in this island…

Coin of Cyrene

A coin of Cyrene showing an image of Jupiter.

Coin of Paphos

A coin of Paphos, now Baffo, in the island of Cypress. It shows that Venus was the deity worshiped there…

Coin of Rhodes

This illustration shows currency from the ancient city of Rhodes.

Ancient coin

An old coin, with a man's head on one face, and a man harvesting grain on the other.

Greek coin

A Greek coin, with an elderly man on it.

Corcyra Coin

"Coin of Corcyra" &mdash Morey, 1903

Coin of Corinth

The coin of the ancient Greek city of Corinth.

Olive crown

"From a medal of Lepidus, represents an olive crown." &mdash Anthon, 1891

Isthmian crowns

"The Nemian and Isthmian games occurred more frequently than the Olympic and Pythian. They were celebrated…

Coin of Cyrene

The coin of Cyrene, the mythological daughter of Hypseus, King of the Lapiths.

Damareteion

The coin was first struck in commemoration of the gold crown sent by the Carthagininians to Demarete.…

Damareteion

The coin was first struck in commemoration of the gold crown sent by the Carthagininians to Demarete.…

Drachma

"The principal silver coin among the Greeks. The two chief standards in the currencies of the Greek…

Drachma

"The principal silver coin among the Greeks. The two chief standards in the currencies of the Greek…

Encased Coin

"The surrounding of the punchmark with a band bearing a name, and the introduction of a head in its…

Episemon

Episema were used in Greece as a symbol for a country, region, or used on a shield or badge. This episemon…

Eretria Coin

"Coin of Eretria" &mdash Morey, 1903

Ensis falcatus

Four representations of men with ensis falcati.

"A sickle a scythe a pruning knife or pruning hook a bill a falchion a halbert. As culter denoted…

Fasces

"Rods bound in the form of a bundle, and containing an axe in the middle, the iron of which projected…

Obverse and Reverse Sides of a Gazzetta

"Gazzetta of the Ionian islands, 1801. A small copper coin, worth about 3 farthings, made in Venice…

Grecian Coin

A coin used as currency by the ancient Greeks.

Greek Coin

"In the reign of Philip of Macedon, the coinage of Greece had attained its full development, having…

Isthmian Games

This medal commemorates the Isthmian Games, celebrated on the Isthmus of Corinth in honor of Neptune.…

Jupiter

A medal engraved with the image of Zeus, or Jupiter, next to a sphinx the other side of the coin depicts…

Lampadephoria

"Lampadedromia, torch-race, and often simply, Lampas, was a game common throughout Greece. At Athens…

Lydian Coin

The obverse and reverse sides of one of the earliest coins.

Lyre coin

"Lyre, with seven strings. From a coin of Chalcis." &mdash Smith, 1882

Coin of Macedonia

"Coin of Macedonia." &mdash Smith, 1882

Medal

A medal that appears to have been made at the time when Claudius Optatus was Duumvir.

Medal

A medal showing five cities, represented by female figures, offering fruit to a goddess sitting on a…

Medal of Attalia

A medal of Attalia. One side pictures Neptune with his trident, suggesting that Attalia was a seaport.…

Medal of Caesarea Libanus

A Medal of Caesarea Libanus. On one side the head of Alexander Severus is engraved. Depicted on the…

Medal of Corinth

The medal of Corinth. On one side the Chimera with the inscription Korinthion is engraved. On the other…

Medal of Crete

A medal of Crete, representing a Minotaur and the labyrinth in which he was confined.


Ancient Greek Coins of Miletus

The ancient Greek city of Miletus in Asia Minor, on what is now the west coast of Turkey, has been called the birthplace of the modern world. Home of Thales, “the father of philosophy,” and his followers Anaximander and Anaximenes, Miletus was the intellectual and commercial capital of the Greek world in the century before Athens rose to prominence. At the beginning of the Greco-Persian Wars, Miletus was besieged and eventually destroyed by the armies of Darius the Great, and while the city was later rebuilt, it never recovered its early importance. By the Middle Ages the once-busy harbors of Miletus had largely silted up and the site was abandoned. These pages discuss the origins and early history of Western coinage and present a detailed outline of Milesian coin types from the Greek and Roman periods.

Illustrated table of contents (this page).

Illustrated numerical catalogue — An abbreviated listing of all the specimens shown on these pages, arranged in numerical order by catalogue number.

Introduction, history, and weight standards — An introduction to the history and coinage of Miletus, including a discussion of the Lydo-Milesian weight standard.

Tabular chronology of Milesian coinage — A synoptic view of the Greek coinage of Miletus from the sixth to the first century before Christ.

The electrum lion coins of the kings of Lydia — Considered by some to be the first true coins, these archaic electrum pieces were issued by the early Lydian kings—probably Alyattes or Sadyattes—about 600 BC , several decades before the reign of the famous Lydian king Croesus. Their design influenced the later silver coins of Miletus. (1 example.)

The mysterious “geometric” electrum series — One of the most unusual of all ancient coin types, these enigmatic Lydo-Milesian electrum issues may be the first coins ever produced with specific designs on both the obverse and reverse. They were minted on the same weight standard as the Lydian electrum and the electrum and early silver of Miletus, but their exact origin is unknown. (1 example.)

The early electrum lion coins of Miletus — The first series of coins that is attributable to Miletus with certainty is a well-known group of sixth-century electrum issues that include full staters as well as thirds, sixths, twelfths, and twenty-fourths. The larger denominations feature a regardant lion, a device that will appear on almost all Milesian coinage for the next five centuries. (2 examples.)

The electrum and silver lion/scorpion issues — A series of early electrum forty-eighth stater fractions that feature a lion’s face or paw on the obverse along with a scorpion on the reverse may have been minted at Miletus or at nearby Mylasa in Caria. A similar series is also known in silver it may be contemporary with the electrum lion/scorpion issues or may be a later design. (3 examples.)

The eye-swirl/quincunx fractions — One of the first silver coin types ever minted, these tiny silver fractions weigh just over a tenth of a gram and feature a swirl or eye-like pattern on the obverse. Although their exact place of origin is uncertain, their quincuncial reverse design is nearly identical to one of the reverse punches that regularly appears on the largest early electrum coins from Miletus. (12 examples.)

The silver dotted lion-mask series — These small silver coins are often attributed to Miletus, and they feature a facing lion mask within a dotted border on the obverse, along with a dotted square or sun-like design on the reverse. Their metrology is unusual, however, and the fractional denominations represented in the series suggest that these coins might have originated from a different mint. (7 examples.)

The archaic twelfth-stater series — One of the more familiar Greek coin types from the Archaic period, these small Milesian silver pieces were issued about 500 BC and weigh roughly 1.12 g . On the obverse they feature a lion—the Milesian city symbol—and on the reverse an ornament variously described as a flower, sun, or star. Ancient counterfeits of this type have also been documented. (21 examples.)

Milesian-style forty-eighth and ninety-sixth staters — These tiny silver fractions weighing less than a third of a gram are often attributed to Miletus but may be from the nearby city of Mylasa in Caria. Many varieties exist—with the obverse lion facing left or right, the reverse bird facing left or right, and one or two pellets being present on either side of the bird—but no pattern has been found in the variation. (14 examples.)

The lion-head/lion-scalp series — The obverse of these small silver coins features the familar Milesian lion head, but the reverse depicts a facing lion scalp. Though sometimes attributed to Miletus, they are more probably from the city of Mylasa in Caria, about 35 miles southeast of Miletus. The satraps of Caria had close relations with Miletus during the fifth and fourth centuries BC . (2 examples.)

The Milesian revivals of the Hecatomnids — During the first half of the fourth century BC , the philhellenic Persian satraps Hecatomnus, Mausolus, and Hidrieus of Caria issued a series of silver coins that revived the archaic lion-head/sun types of Miletus. Whether these coins were actually struck at Miletus or at a nearby mint in Caria is uncertain, but the familiar type would have been readily identifiable as Milesian throughout southern Asia Minor. (2 examples.)

The bronze lion/sun series — The earliest bronze coins of Miletus, from the fourth century BC , revived one of the oldest stylistic themes in the city’s coinage: the sun-like reverse design. These bronze issues are also the first inscribed coins of Miletus, and often have the name of a magistrate around the reverse border. (3 examples.)

The Rhodian silver and bronze Apollo/lion series — Many silver and bronze coins of Miletus from the fourth century onward depict the head of the city’s patron deity, Apollo, on the obverse, and on the reverse feature a standing lion looking back at the sun. The name of the issuing magistrate or moneyer usually appears in the exergue, the narrow space below the standing lion. (7 examples.)

Lifetime issues of Alexander the Great — The coinage of Alexander the Great was the first truly imperial coinage the world had ever seen. Minted at many localities from Greece to central Asia, Alexander’s coins used a small number of fixed types along with a wide range of mint marks and other symbols to indicate their city of origin. The Alexander issues of Miletus were struck during two distinct periods, with this first group dating from about 325–318 BC . (5 examples.)

The third-century silver and bronze Apollo/lion issues — The autonomous third-century coinage of Miletus included a distinctive group of silver didrachms, drachms, and hemidrachms struck on the Persic standard, probably issued in parallel with the bronze facing-Apollo series (below). An uncommon third-century profile-Apollo bronze issue was probably minted during a gap in the production of facing-Apollo types. (2 examples.)

The bronze facing-Apollo series — A third-century bronze version of the long-running Apollo/lion coinage of Miletus features a three-quarter facing view of Apollo on the obverse, rather than the more common profile view, along with the familiar regardant lion on the reverse. These coins were issued in three different denominations by a variety of magistrates. (6 examples.)

The second-century silver Apollo/lion issues — The early silver Apollo/lion coinage of Miletus generally featured types that faced to the left, but the later issues most often have types that face to the right. The chronology of these second-century silver Apollo/lion issues is very complex, as they were minted on several different weight standards in a variety of denominations by many different magistrates. (5 examples.)

The wreathed bronze Apollo/lion series — Within the extensive Apollo/lion coinage of Miletus, issued in silver and bronze from the fourth to the first century BC , the late “wreathed bronzes” form an easily recognized group. In these issues the obverse portrait of Apollo is surrounded by a border of dots, and the reverse lion is enclosed in a laurel wreath. A common large denomination and a rare small denomination are known. (8 examples.)

The bronze Apollo of Didyma series — The temple of Apollo at Didyma, a few miles from Miletus, was one of the great religious centers of the ancient Greek world. The oracle of Apollo Didymaeus was regarded as second in importance only to the famous Delphic Oracle on the Greek mainland. These bronze coins feature the famous Archaic statue of Apollo Didymaeus sculpted by Canachus. (2 examples 1 sidebar.)

Roman provincial bronzes of Nero — As the Roman Empire expanded to the east, Miletus eventually became incorporated into Rome’s Province of Asia. Among the provincial bronze coins struck at Miletus by a number of Roman emperors were these types which feature an obverse portrait of the emperor Nero (AD 54–68) and a reverse image of the Milesian cult statues of Apollo Didymaeus and Artemis. (2 examples.)

Roman provincial bronzes of Domitian — The emperor Domitian, son of Vespasian, brother of Titus, and the last member of the Flavian dynasty, ruled the Roman empire from AD 81–96. Provincial coinage was struck in his name at more than 90 mints, including Miletus. (1 example.)

238–244), but he left a surprisingly large numismatic legacy. Miletus was one of his many mints in Asia Minor. (1 example.)

Ottoman silver akçes of Sultan Mehmed I — During the Byzantine period Miletus came to be known as Palatia, from the old “palaces” that dotted the site and the new Byzantine castle built into the ruins of the Roman theater. Under the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks “Palatia” became “Balat,” “Balad,” or “Beled,” and Sultan Mehmed I struck silver akçes at Balad in the year 1413 (AH 816). These coins, minted just 2000 years after the first coins of Miletus, are likely the final issues of this birthplace of Western coinage. (1 example.)

References and literature cited — A list of publications useful in the study of Milesian coins and the ancient coinage of Asia Minor in general.


Ancient Greek Coins - The first coined money

In ancient Greece money originated as metal rings, rods or spits. Money took a variety of forms before the adoption of coins, and early coinage is often found mixed together with other kinds of primeval money. Coins originated as small precious metal ingots, stamped with badges guaranteeing weight and purity, in western Asia Minor about 650 bc. After t he Lydians developed a bimetallic coinage , by 500 bc silver staters were being used throughout the Mediterranean world. Most early coinage was struck to support governmental spending, particularly military expenditures, which were very high during the constant warfare of the fifth and fourth centuries bc. In 338 bc this internecine warfare ended when Philip II of Macedon conquered mainland Greece .

The Macedonian monarchy then soon vastly expanded when the Persian Empire was conquered by his son Alexander. On Alexander's death , his empire fragmented into the kingdoms of Macedon, Syria, Thrace, and Egypt , beginning the era of Hellenistic royal coinage.

To the West, the prosperous cities of Magna Graecia were soon caught up in struggles involving the competing power of two great city-states, Rome and Carthage. Carthage issued a voluminous coin age for its wars against Hellenistic Sicily, and later Rome, which ultimately ended in her total destruction (146 bc). Though Greek coinage continued into the first century ad, after the fall of Carthage the rest of the Mediterranean world was then rapidly absorbed into the Roman Empire.


Drachma, silver coin of ancient Greece, dating from about the mid-6th century bc, and the former monetary unit of modern Greece. The drachma was one of the world’s earliest coins. Its name derives from the Greek verb meaning “to grasp,” and its original value was equivalent to that of a handful of arrows.

The following year, the drachma was revalued at a rate of 1000 to one, pegged at 30 drachmae to one U.S. dollar. The three modern Greek drachmae were replaced by the euro in 2001 at the rate of 340.750 drachmae to one euro….


South and East Asia

In 1947, both India and Pakistan claimed their independence from the British colonial government that had ruled there since the late 18th century. The troubled aftermath of World War II led to revolution and the establishment of a communist government in China, while in Japan, the power of the Emperor was replaced by a constitutional democracy.

Indian aluminum-bronze 20 paise (1969) depicting an ancient Indian sculpture. This image is associated with King Aśoka (270-232 BC) who was known for his tolerant and peace-loving nature.

Pakistani nickel rupee (1948).

Chinese aluminum 5 fen (1991) issued by the People's Republic.

Japanese copper-nickel 50 yen (1968) struck in the name of the Showa Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989).

Other pages of the exhibit:

Ancient Greece and the Mediterranean World

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Ancient Rome

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Medieval Byzantine and Islamic Empires

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The Medieval West

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Ancient and Medieval East and South Asia

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New Sources: The 15th and 16th Centuries

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Europe in Transformation: The 17th Century

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The Enlightenment: The 18th Century

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Early America

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African Money

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East and South Asia in the 19th Century

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Empires and Colonialism in the 19th Century

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Moving West: 19th-Century America

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Coins of the World

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The United States in the 20th Century

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The Art of the Medal

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The Future of Money

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U.S. Treasures of the American Numismatic Society

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Manhattan Money

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Paper Currency of the World

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