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Gardner, Percy 

The earliest coins of 
Greece 






THE BRITISH ACADEMY 



The Earliest Coins of 
Greece Proper 



By 

Percy Gardner 

Fellow of the Academy 



the Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. V"\ 



London 

Published for the British Academy 

By Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press 

Amen Corner, E.G. 

Price Two Shillings and Sixpence net 



.31 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE 
PROPER 

PAGE 

I. SUPPOSED EUROPEAN COINS IN ELECTRUM . . 3 

II. PHEIDON AND THE COINS OF AEGINA ... 5 

III. COINS OF EUBOEA 15 

IV. COINS OF CORINTH AND CORCYRA .... 22 
V. EARLY COINS OF ATHENS . . 27 



SUMMARY 

I. THE first question which arises is whether the earliest coins of Hellaa 
were of electrum. Electrum coins have been attributed to Thrace, 
Aegina, and Euboea ; but in every case the attribution is improbable, 
and an Asiatic origin more likely. 

II. The tradition ascribing the first issue of coins at Aegina to Pheidon 
must be considered. The date of Pheidon may be fixed to the eighth 
century B. c. But this is too early for the issue of coins : nor did 
Aegina belong to Pheidon. Pheidon regulated the weights and measures 
of Peloponnese : these are of doubtful, possibly Mycenaean, origin. It 
was on the standard of Pheidon that the Aeginetans first issued silver 
coins as substitutes for the bars of bronze and iron which had made up 
the earlier currency of Peloponnesus. These bars were dedicated at 
Argos, and some survive. The proportions of value were probably, iron 
1, bronze 5, silver 600, so that a silver obol of 16 grains was equiva- 
lent to 20 drachms of bronze or a mina of iron. The obol, the drachm, 
and the talent made up a system proper to Greece : the mina of 100 
drachms was interpolated. Origin of the didrachm, and the double 
talent. 

III. The cities of Euboea issued money in the seventh century on the gold 
standard of Babylon, which they divided according to the scheme of 
Pheidon. Their coins were uniform with those of Athens, and perhaps 
of Megara, bearing one type only. 

IV. The Corinthians began the issue of coin as early as the time of 
Cypselus. Often restruck in Italy. They divided the Euboic stater 
into 3, a fact which gives us valuable data in regard to the spread of 
Corinthian commerce. 

V. The earliest coins of Athens bore as types the owl or the amphora. 
They were introduced by Solon. Accounts by Aristotle and by Androtion 
of Solon's legislation. Their reconcilement. Solon's alteration of 
measures, and cutting down of debts, both of which were done from 
democratic motives. Solon adopted the Euboic standard for coin, 
which was raised to the level later called Attic by Peisistratus, who 
first struck the tetradrachms with the head of Athena. His motives. 
The result the foundation of Athenian commerce, and the victory of 
the Athenian silver coinage, to the weight of which Corinth, Eretria, 
and other cities were obliged to conform. Wide circulation of Athenian 
coin : the barbarous copies. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE 
PROPER 

BY PERCY GARDNER 

FELLOW OF THE ACADEMY 

I. SUPPOSED EUROPEAN COINS IN ELECTRUM 

THERE can be no question but that Asia Minor preceded European 
Greece in the introduction and use of coins ; and down to late in the 
seventh century the monetary issues of Asia Minor were of electrum 
only. Therefore, in inquiring what are the earliest coins of Hellas, 
we are bound first to consider certain electrum coins possibly issued 
on the European side of the Aegean, and having some claim to be 
regarded as outgrowths of the Ionian electrum coinage. Did the 
coinage of Europe, like that of Asia, begin with electrum? We 
must consider electrum coins which have been given to Thrace, 
Aegina, Euboea and Athens. 

An electrum coin attributed to Thrace bears on the obverse the type 
of a centaur carrying away a woman ; on the reverse a square incuse 
roughly divided into four (PL No. 1). It is a stater of Phocaean weight. 1 
The assignment to Thrace, however, rests on no solid basis. The 
reason for it is that on early silver coins of the people of the Pangaean 
range, the Orrescii, Zaeelii and Letaei, we have a not dissimilar type 
of a centaur carrying a woman in his arms. But a comparison of 
the electrum with the silver coins shows at once differences far more 
striking than the general likeness. On all the Thracian silver coins 
the Centaur kneels and bears the woman lying at length in both arms 
so that her head is in front of him. On the electrum coin he is 
walking, and turns round to greet the woman, who is seated on his 
back. The motive is thus quite different. The incuse of the 
reverse also is quite different from the flat millsail-like incuse of 
the Thracian silver coins, which are, in fact, quite a century later 
than the electrum coin. M. Babelon regards the coin as of Ionic 
provenance. 2 Whether it was actually struck in Ionia or Thrace, it 

1 Grains 252-5 (16-35 grammes). Sr. Mus. Cat. Ionia, p. 9, PL ii. 2. It 
contains some 64 per cent, of pure gold. 

8 Traitt des Monn. Gr. et Rom. ii. 134. Cited below as Traite. 



4 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

belongs, beyond doubt, to the Phocaean, or North Asia Minor circle 
of influence; and has no relation to the coins of Greece proper. 
Thrace, indeed, at that time was more exposed to the influence of 
Asia than to that of Europe. This is clearly indicated by the fact 
that when the cities of Thasos and Lete began striking silver coin, 
they struck it on a different standard from those of Aegina and of 
Corinth. 

We turn next to the electrum coin attributed to Aegina. It is an 
unique electrum stater weighing 207 grains (13-45 grammes) at Paris. 
The type of the obverse is a tortoise : on the reverse are two deep oblong 
incuses side by side (PI. No. 2). This particular form of incuse is rare : 
I know it only for Calymna, Cos, Rhodes, and other Carian mints, in 
the sixth century. This electrum coin has been regarded as the earliest 
coin of Aegina, and indeed as remains of the bridge by which coinage 
passed from Asia to Greece. But the type is not the sea-turtle as 
on the earliest Aeginetan money, but a land-tortoise, and neither the 
incuse nor the weight is Aeginetan. Its attribution is therefore very 
doubtful : it may be of Asia Minor : it is more probable that it is 
Asiatic than that it is European. 

Other electrum coins of the Euboic standard have been given to 
cities of Greece 1 : 

1. Owl to 1. Rev. incuse, wt. 21- grains (1-36 grammes) 

(PL No. 3). 

2. Eagle devouring hare 44-4 (2-87 ) 

(PI. No. 4). 

3. Eagle flying 22-1 (143 ) 

4. Wheel of four spokes 21-8 (1-41 ) 

(PI. No. 5). 

The reverse device of No. 1 is remarkable, consisting of two rect- 
angles and three triangles. These coins have sometimes been set 
aside as modern forgeries. U. Koehler, however, has maintained 
their genuineness. 2 He mentions several examples, one of which 
was found in the bed of the Ilissus, one at Piraeus, others at Athens. 
If we grant the genuineness of these coins, we must regard them 
as an attempt to introduce into Athens the electrum coinage of the 
Ionian coast. The coins are sixths of the Euboic stater of 130 grains ; 
they thus follow the Asiatic system of division by thirds and sixths, 
and not the European system of division by halves and quarters. 
They have not the appearance of being very early : certainly they are 
not as archaic as the earliest silver of Aegina. They stand apart 
1 Head, Hist. Num., ed. 2, p. 358. 2 Athen. Mittheil 1884, 359. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 5 

from the silver coinage of Athens, and seem to have exercised no in- 
fluence upon it. 

The other coins were by Mr. Head given to Chalcis in Euboea, 
mainly on account of silver coins of Chalcis: Eagle flying, with 
serpent' in beak = ^AU (XAA) wheel. Tetradrachms, tetrobols. 1 
But more recently he has retracted that attribution, 2 observing that 
they are found in Asia Minor, No. 2, for example, at Priene. The 
recent discovery of a hoard of electrum coins at Ephesus 3 with a great 
variety of types has decidedly increased our disinclination to regard 
type in early electrum coins as a satisfactory indication of mint. It 
is therefore far more probable that these eagle and wheel coins belong 
to Asia than to Europe. Thus it seems that any electrum issue in 
Europe is more than doubtful, or if any such took place (at Athens 
for example) it was rather in the way of a tentative issue for special 
purposes than as a regular state currency. It was certainly not on 
a bridge of electrum that coinage passed from Asia to Europe ; but 
the coins of Europe were from the first of silver. 

II. PHEIDON AND THE COINS OF AEGINA 
The problem as to which king or which city of Hellas first issued 
coin was much discussed in antiquity. Before considering the 
evidence offered by extant coins, which is of course by far our most 
valuable source of knowledge, we must consider the testimony 
bequeathed to us on the subject by ancient historians, and such 
historic documents as the Parian Chronicle. 

The grammarian Julius Pollux, though he wrote in the reign of 
Commodus, and can have had no direct knowledge of early Greek 
coins and weights, is yet of value to us, because he had access to 
a considerable range of literature, much of which has disappeared. 
He retails 4 to us a number of ancient views as to the earliest Greek 
coins. I have elsewhere 5 discussed the origin of the electrum coins 
of Asia, which were much earlier in date than the silver coins of 
Hellas. Only such of Pollux's statements as refer to coins of Greece 
Proper concern us here. He mentions an opinion that coins were 
first struck at Athens by Erichthonius and Lycus. It is, however, 
the universal opinion of modern numismatists that coins did not 
make their appearance at Athens until the sixth century, and that the 

1 B. M. Cat. Central Greece, p. lii, Num. Chron., N.S. xv, PI. viii. 16-18. Cf. 
Babelon, Trait6, ii. 1, p. 670. 

2 B.M. Cat. Ionia, p. xxzi. 

3 Brit. Mus. Excavations at Ephesics, p. 74 (Head). 

* Onomast. ix. 83. 

Proceedings of the British Academy, 1 908. 



6 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

money of various other cities is earlier in fabric. And, indeed, the 
very fact that two mythical heroes like Erichthonius and Lycus were 
credited with the first issue of coins appears to be in itself a proof 
that there was no tradition connecting the earliest issue of coins in 
Greece with historic persons at Athens. We are told by Plutarch 
that Theseus issued money with the type of a bull : but here again 
we are in mythic surroundings. The laws of Draco mention oxen as 
the measure of value in case of fines, which clearly shows that in his 
time (620 B. c.) the Athenians did not ordinarily use coins, though at 
that time they were certainly in use at Aegina and Corinth. Pollux 
also tells us that Aglosthenes ascribed the earliest issue of coins to 
Naxos, of which island the writer was probably an inhabitant. Early 
coins of Naxos are known to us ; but they appear to be imitations of 
those of Aegina, and less archaic. Both of these attributions are 
probably due to patriotic feeling, which often induced Greek writers 
to attribute to their own city the origin of great inventions. 

A more serious claim to the origination of a coinage in Europe is 
put forward on behalf of Pheidon of Argos. The whole question of 
the position of Pheidon in early Greek history and of the nature of 
his policy is a difficult one. Here we need only consider his date, 
and his connexion with early weights, measures, and coins. 

In reviewing the statements of ancient writers in regard to this 
matter, I propose first to mention them in historic order, and after- 
wards to examine them critically, to judge of their respective value 
and their truth. 1 Herodotus, our earliest authority in point of time, 
makes two statements. He says that Pheidon established the 
measures (TO fxe'rpa rcoiTjo-as) of Peloponnese 2 ; and that his son 
Leocedes was one of the suitors of Agariste, daughter of Cleisthenes 
of Sicyon (about 595 B. c.). The next authority in order of date is 
Ephorus, who is quoted in this connexion by Strabo. 3 He says that 
Pheidon of Argos, who was tenth in descent from Temenus, invented 
the measures called Pheidonian, and the weights, and struck coins, 
both silver and other, that is, presumably, gold or electrum. 

In another place 4 Strabo cites Ephorus as authority for the state- 
ment that silver was first issued by Pheidon at Aegina. The Etymo- 
logicum Magnum 5 makes the same assertion, and adds that Pheidon 
dedicated in the Argive Heraeum the spits (of iron or bronze) which 

1 This has already been done by M. Theodore Reinach (L'Histoire par les Mon- 
naies, p. 35 : Revue Numismatique, 1894) and others. I have preferred to make an 
independent investigation ; but my results are much like those of M. Reinach. 

2 Hdt. vi. 127. 3 P. 358. 

4 P. 376. e . t>. o/3eXio7cos ; cf. Orion, 6. v. opt\6s. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 7 

had hitherto served as a currency, but were now demonetized. 
Pausanias gives us a valuable statement as to the date of Pheidon 
when he says that that tyrant in conjunction with the people of Pisa 
celebrated at Olympia the eighth occasion of the festival : 748 B. c. 
The Parian Chronicle says that Pheidon was the eleventh in descent 
from Herakles, whereas Ephorus makes him the tenth from Temenus, 
and so the fourteenth from Herakles. The Parian Chronicle would 
thus date him to about the middle of the ninth century, according to 
the ordinary Greek way of reckoning by generations, Ephorus to the 
middle of the eighth century. Thus various authorities place Pheidon 
in the middle of the ninth, the middle of the eighth, and the end of 
the seventh centuries. 

Confused by these conflicting authorities, modern historians have 
given very various dates to Pheidon. Some, following Weissenborn 
and Curtius, have assigned him to the twenty-eighth Olympiad 
(668 B.C.) rather than the eighth. Others have accepted the date of 
Herodotus, 1 as determined by the appearance of Pheidon's son 
among the wooers of Agariste. But the date of Weissenborn is an 
unsatisfactory compromise, a mere correction of the text of Pausanias, 
and the whole story told by Herodotus of the wooing of Agariste has 
the air of fable rather than of fact. 2 It is not at all difficult to 
suppose that Herodotus may have missed out a few generations, or 
confused an earlier with a later Pheidon. On the other hand, the 
date given by Pausanias, 748 B.C., is consistent with that given by 
Ephorus, which works out as 757 B. c. And it is almost certain that 
Pausanias had seen at Olympia some documentary authority for his 
date ; though no doubt the records of the early Olympiads were of no 
great historic value. 3 On these grounds we may regard it as at least 
very probable that Pheidon belongs to the middle of the eighth cen- 
tury B.C. And it is even more probable that he had to do with a 
reform or regulation of the measures of Peloponnese. Not only 
Ephorus, but Aristotle 4 and the Parian Chronicle speak of certain 
measures as fixed by and named after Pheidon. So much then we 
may regard as historic fact. That he regulated weights as well as 
measures is extremely probable, since there is a close connexion 
between the two. We are justified in ascribing to him the weights 
used in commerce for a long time not only in Peloponnesus, but in 
Athens also, which are known to us by many extant examples,, 5 

1 So formerly did I. See Types of Greek Coint, p. 7. 

J Compare the note of E. Abbott on Hdt. vi. 127. 

* See especially Mahaffy in Journ. Hell. Stud. ii. 164. 

4 In Pollux, x, 179. B Smith, Diet. ofAntiq., art. Pandera, p. 452. 



8 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

following the so-called Aeginetan standard. The phrase of the Parian 
Chronicle is eS^fvo-e TO. /uterpa . . . cal aveo-Kevao-f. This regulation would 
naturally take the form of making weights and liquid measures con- 
sistent one with the other ; that is to say, equating his standard of 
weight with a certain cubic measure of water. This sounds a some- 
what complicated proceeding for so early a time, but it is the readiest 
way of producing a system of weights and measures: and it was 
probably by doing this that Pheidon attained his fame in Greece. It 
is probable that he merely regularized existing measures and weights, 
not inventing them, but making them systematic and consistent. 

These Pheidonian weights are in all probability the same that were 
used in Greek commerce, until the time of Alexander the Great and 
later, in Northern Greece and Peloponnesus. Several specimens have 
reached us from Athens. And they were no doubt used by Pheidon 
for bronze and iron, as for other commodities. According to them 
were regulated the old oboli in those metals which circulated in 
Greece before the invention of silver coin. And when silver coin 
came into existence it went by the same standard, though probably 
with new denominations. This standard is that which we are accus- 
tomed to call Aeginetan, because it is made familiar to us through its 
adoption by the people of Aegina. 

The assertion that Pheidon issued coins at Aegina is a statement 
which we cannot accept. In the first place, no coins of Greece 
proper seem to be so early as the eighth century ; and in the second 
place, Pheidon never had any authority in Aegina. Probably the 
Aeginetans were the first people in Greece to strike money ; and their 
money was on the Pheidonian standard : hence a natural confusion. 
It was the weights, not the coinage of Greece, which were due to 
Pheidon. 

We turn next from the literary to the archaeological evidence. 
It is at once clear that the compiler of the Etymologicum Magnum 
would scarcely have asserted that dedicated oboli were preserved 
in the Heraeum of Argos, unless one of his authorities had seen them 
there. The Heraeum, as we know, was burned in 423 B. c., when 
there is a probability that dedications of bronze would be melted and 
disappear, in which case the oboli preserved in the later temple 
could scarcely be genuine, but rather restorations. However that 
may be, it is certain that the recent excavations conducted by the 
American School of Athens on the site of the Heraeum have brought 
to light a great quantity of votive bronzes of early date. Many of 
these were spits, and many pins or nails for the hair or garments. 1 
1 TheArgive Heraeum, i. 61 ; ii. 330. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 9 

Dr. Waldstein suggests that these were the original bronze currency : 
but as there is no record of their weights the theory is hard to verify. 
On the other hand, a mass of iron was discovered, which was found to 
consist of numerous rounded bars of metal coming to a point, and 
which was held together at either end by an iron coil tightly twisted 
round. It is hard to regard these iron spits as anything but oboli dedi- 
cated after being demonetized. This discovery would seem to refute 
the suggestion of T. Reinach, 1 that the obols exhibited in the temple 
were really standard- weights kept in the temple for reference. Mr. 
Svoronos has made diligent search for these iron spits in the Museum 
at Athens, and discovered them. 2 They are much broken and de- 
cayed, so that their present weight gives us little information. It is, 
however, desirable to record that in Mr. Svoronos' opinion the length 
of the spits was about 1-20 metres (four feet) ; and the weight 495- 
302 grammes (7,650-4,675 grains), a Pheidonian mina being about 
622 grammes (9,600 grains). Supposing that these iron bars were 
a remnant of early currency, that currency, being dedicated in the 
Heraeum of Argos, would naturally be not Aeginetan but Argive. 
If I have rightly assigned the date of Pheidon, their dedication would 
be later than his time. For it appears that until the seventh century, 
and even later, the currency of Peloponnesus consisted of literal oboli 
or bars of metal. These were of bronze or of iron : the iron of 
course being heavier and less valuable. This currency was every- 
where except at Sparta replaced later by the Aeginetan coins, at all 
events in large payments. The dedication therefore, must belong to 
the seventh or sixth century. 

The Aeginetan standard as known to us from extant weights and 
coins is as follows : 

Talent 37,320 grammes 576,000 grains. 
Mina 622 9,600 

Drachm 6-22 96 

Obol 1-03 16 

But while this is certainly the standard which passed in later times 
as Pheidonian, and must have been connected with Pheidon, it is a 
system based upon the weight of the silver drachm. In discussing 
its origin, we had best take our start, not from the perplexing 
traditions as to Pheidon, but from the known facts as to the earliest 
coins. 

At a far earlier date even than that of Pheidon, regular systems of 
weights and measures had been in use in the great empires of the 

1 L'Hittoire par les Monnaies, p. 38. 

8 Journ. Internal, de Numism. ix, p. 196. 



10 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

East, Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt. That they were in use also in 
prehistoric times in Crete and Mycenae is in itself very probable, and 
seems to be established by Sir A. Evans in a paper contributed to 
Corolla Numismatica. 1 He shows that talent and shekel weights 
were in use at Cnossos, and that in every case the standard used was 
taken from Egypt, though in some cases it may be traced beyond 
Egypt to Babylon. That a system approximating to the light Baby- 
Ionic gold standard was in use in Egypt, in Crete, and in Argolis in 
the second millennium B.C. seems to be clearly made out. The 
use of a standard corresponding to that of Aegina is, however, not 
proved for prehistoric times. What Evans has called the heavy 
Egyptian gold standard is certainly followed in Crete in the case of 
several weights which bear marks of value, showing an unit of 12-30 
to 13-98 grammes (188 to 215 grains). At first sight this may seem 
a probable source for the weight known as Aeginetan, with a drachm 
of 96 grains (6-22 grammes), and a didrachm of 192 grains (1244 
grammes). But it is very doubtful whether there is here any line of 
connexion. In the first place, the weights generally are much nearer 
to the higher than to the lower limit, and so are not at all close to the 
Aeginetan standard. And in the second place, the break between 
Mycenaean and historic Greece is so complete ; it is so clear that a 
period of barbarism and poverty separates one from the other ; that 
we may well doubt whether so civilized an institution as a weight- 
standard would survive. 

Mr. Head 2 is disposed to regard a group of weights found at 
Naucratis, which seems to follow the Aeginetan standard, as in- 
dicating that that standard may have come from Egypt. But Nau- 
cratis was not of very early foundation ; and there is no reason for 
thinking that the weights in question are earlier than the date of 
Pheidon, or even than the first issue of coins at Aegina. 

Talents and minas of gold and silver and electrum, together with the 
stater of electrum, which was a fraction of the mina, and its divisions 
, ^, y^, -fa, had long been known in Asia, and used by the lonians 
of the coast of Asia Minor. But the comparatively rude inhabitants 
of Peloponnesus had been content with a currency of bronze pieces, 
sometimes round, in the shape of a ire'Xavop, but more often long, in 
the form of a bar or spit (o/3cAo's). A handful (six) of these bars made 
up a drachm (8paxn>w?). 3 In larger payments bronze was probably 
weighed out, as was the aes rude of Italy. 

1 Minoan Weights and Currency, pp. 336-367. 

J Hist. Num., 2nd edition, xliv ; cf. Petrie, Naukratis, i, p. 78. 

8 So Etym. Magn., s. t. Spax^ and ojScXtoxor. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 11 

It was this rude currency which Pheidon regulated, without, so far 
as we can judge, superseding it. But later, in the seventh century, this 
primitive system was out of date. Probably the bars of bronze were 
very irregular in shape, and perhaps in weight. They were not suited 
to the growing commerce of the Greek islands. The people of Aegina, 
at that time in the front ranks of commerce, must have known all 
about the electrum coins of Ionia. Electrum, however, was not 
native to Greece. Silver, on the other hand, was procurable from 
Spain, Thrace, and elsewhere. The Aeginetans decided to strike in 
silver coins which should represent the bronze oboli which were 
current. The silver obol would stand for one such bar ; the silver 
drachm for a handful of such bars, that is for six ; the silver didrachm 
would stand for twelve. 

Setting aside the notion that Pheidon was connected with the 
earliest coinage of Aegina, we may claim for Aegina the precedence 
in European coinage, on the ground of the extremely rude and 
primitive character of the oldest examples of Aeginetan coinage, 
and because they seem to have served as models for all the coins of 
the islands of the Aegean. In the noteworthy find at Santorin, in 
1821, 760 early coins of the Greek coast and islands were found, and 
of these 541 were of Aegina, while many other coins showed in 
fabric and type signs of an attempt to conform to the Aeginetan 
pattern. 1 To this find we will presently return. 

Though the question of the origin of the standard used at Aegina 
for silver coin has been a subject of much discussion, the dis- 
cussion has not been fruitful, mainly because it has not proceeded 
on scientific lines. It has been carried on by numismatists solely in 
relation to coins : the inquiry has been why the Aeginetans struck 
coins weighing 192 or 194 grains, when no people used that standard 
for money before. The question, however, is really a much wider 
one, including the whole question of the origin of currency in 
Peloponnesus. 

We may begin by dismissing the current views as to the origin 
of the silver weight of Aegina. One view 2 is that it is the weight 
of the South Ionian stater (224 grains), somewhat reduced. And in 
support of this theory the fact has been brought forward that one 
of the very early Aeginetan silver coins weighs as much as 211 grains. 
This coin, however, stands quite by itself, and as Mr. Head suggests, 
may be a mere accident. No reason for the degradation of weight- 

1 Num. Chron. 1884, pp. 269-280 (Wroth). 

2 So Head, Hist. Num., p. xxxviii. In the second edition of his great work, 
however, Mr. Head takes another view. 



12 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

standard by thirty grains has been given, nor any reason why the 
South Ionian standard should have been adopted at Aegina, when 
it was not adopted at any other European mint. It is a mere guess, 
without any evidence to justify it. The same may be said of 
Prof. Ridgeway's view that the object in issuing coins of the 
Aeginetan weight was that ten of them should be of the value of 
a Homeric talent or Euboic gold coin of 130 grains. He suggests 
that 130 grains of gold, at the rate of 15 to 1, would be equivalent 
to ten silver coins weighing 195 grains. This view is based upon 
two assumptions, both of which not merely are arbitrary, but can be 
definitely disproved. It is assumed that the standard of value in 
Aegina was a gold coin or talent. This was not the case ; the 
standard of value was, according to our authorities, a bar of bronze 
or of iron. And it is assumed that gold and silver passed in the 
proportion of 15 to 1. This was not the case. When the Athenians 
needed gold for the Parthenos statue of Pheidias, they bought it 
with silver at the rate of 14 to 1 : but this is the highest rate of 
exchange of which we hear in Greece Proper : the rate usual in the 
Persian Empire was 13 or 13| to I. 1 Passing these baseless con- 
jectures, let us consider the real circumstances of the case. 

In adjusting the new silver currency to the existing currency of 
bronze, two courses were possible. The Aeginetans either could 
strike coins of such a weight that a round number of the bronze 
oboli, say ten or twenty, would go for one of them. In that case 
they might have originated a new standard of weight for coinage, 
other than the Pheidonian. Or they could strike silver coin on the 
Pheidonian standard, leaving the question of the number of bronze 
bars which would go for each to settle itself. 

We know that other States when they issued coins in a fresh 
metal, say in silver or in gold, sometimes, like the kings of Lydia 
and Persia, used different standards for the two metals, in order 
that a round number, ten or twenty, of the silver coins should 
pass for one of the gold. And sometimes, like the Athenians and 
like Alexander the Great, they used one standard for the two 
metals. 

It was the latter of these systems which was adopted by the people 
of Aegina. They issued their silver money on the already familiar 
Pheidonian standard (PI. No. 6). The weight of these early silver 
staters is well known to us. The didrachm weighed about 192 grains 
(grammes 12-44), the drachm 96 grains (grammes 6-22), the obol, 
which was the sixth of the drachm, 16 grains (grammes 1-03). These 
1 See T. Reinach's paper in L'Hist. par les Monnaiex, pp. 41-73. 



weights correspond with the standard of numerous weights of 
Pheidonian type which have come down to us. 

At the same time the Aeginetans fitted the new coins into the old 
currency by equating the new obol of silver with the old obolus or 
spit of -bronze. In primitive societies it is easy and usual to find 
some simple proportion between various objects used as measures 
of value; for example, a slave may be equated with three oxen, an 
ox with ten sheep, and so on. We have reason to think that the 
relation established between the values of silver and bronze at 
Aegina was 120 to 1. We have an indication of this in the facts of 
the regular currency of Sparta. At Sparta the current oboli were not 
of bronze ; the currency consisted of iron bars, which were of the 
weight of an Aeginetan mina. 1 According to Plutarch and Hesy- 
chius these minae of iron were worth only half an obol of silver. In 
that case iron would be in relation to silver only as 1 to 1200. 
Hultsch, however, gives reasons for thinking that the normal value 
of these bars was an obol, giving a relation of 1 to 600. Now bronze 
was in Greece about five times as valuable as iron. Haeberlin 2 has 
given reasons for thinking that in Italy in the third century the 
relations of value between silver and bronze were 120 to 1. If the 
same proportion held in Greece, the silver obol of 16 grains would be 
equivalent to an obol of bronze weighing 1,920 grains (124 grammes), 
or twenty Aeginetan drachms. This corresponds to the reason and 
probability of the matter. The bronze bars would in that case have 
weighed about a quarter of a pound; a drachm or handful of six 
of them would weigh about If pounds, somewhat less than a 
kilogram. 

The early currency of Peloponnesus seems to have consisted of 
bars both of bronze and iron, bronze for larger, and iron for smaller 
payments. At Sparta iron only was allowed. But it would appear 
that this regulation was not a primitive one, but introduced in the 
course of Spartan history : for in the Homeric age, as we know, iron 
was very valuable ; and its value could not have become despicable 
until well on in the iron age. At Byzantium, and in Peloponnesus 
iron bars or coins were retained for small payments until the fourth 
century B. c. 

The Aeginetan talent, consisting of 60 minae, or 6,000 drachms, 
or 48,000 obols, must have reference to minae, drachms, and obols of 
silver, not of bronze. For 48,000 x 16 grains weighs about eighty 
pounds, or forty kilograms, which would be about what a man might 

1 Hultsch, Metrologie, p. 535. 

8 Systematik des alt. rom. Miinxwesem (1905). 



14 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

easily lift. If a talent had been formed from the bronze obolus of 
1,920 grains, it would be a weight 120 times as great, which would 
be quite out of proportion to a man's capacity for lifting. So the 
drachm which was in weight the hundredth of a mina, and the obol 
which was in weight the sixth of a drachm only came into existence 
when silver began to be coined. The drachm and the obol as coins 
appear to have been invented by the Aeginetans. They were borrowed 
by all the systems of silver coinage which came into use in Hellas. 
This is abundantly proved by the marks of value which the coins of 
Peloponnese bear in the fifth century. 1 And even in Asia it became 
usual to strike drachms or obols of Persian or Phoenician standard- 
But originally, as the Aeginetans from the first went by the 
drachm and the obol, so the lonians of Asia used the stater and 
its parts. 

A difficulty remains. Why in that case should the Aeginetans 
have struck at first, not the drachm of 96 grains, but the didrachm 
of 192 grains? The answer I think is ultimately this, that man has 
two hands and not one only. A didrachm is the equivalent of the 
bars of bronze which a man carries when he has both his hands full 
of bars, six in each. It stands for a man, while a drachm represents 
only half a man. 

We may observe a parallel phenomenon in regard to the talent. 
Students of metrology are puzzled at finding that the various talents 
in use in Asia, and even in Europe, have two forms, light and heavy ; 
and the heavy is of exactly double the weight of the light. Now 
a talent, usually weighing some 60 or 80 of our pounds, is what 
a man can lift : the root of the word is r\a : T\ao> meaning I bear. 
But a man can lift in two hands double as much as he can lift in 
one. What a man can carry in one hand is a light talent : what he 
can carry in two hands is a heavy talent. 

At Aegina the mina is an arbitrary division, ^y of the talent, or 
100 silver drachms. The name shows it to be of Asiatic origin : 
it is a stepping-stone in European systems of weight between 
talent and drachm. But the talent is a natural weight, almost as 
natural as a weight, as the foot and the fathom are as measures of 
length. And like them it varies in various countries between certain 
limits, following the local notion as to what a man can be expected 
to lift. As the yard represents the length of the King's arm, 
measured from the breast-bone, so the royal talents of Assyria repre- 
sented what the King could comfortably lift in one hand or in two. 
In a sense the drachm also is a natural measure, for given the usual 
1 Br. Mas. Cat. Peloponnesus, p. xvii. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 15 

size of a bar of metal, it would not be convenient to carry more 
than a certain number of them in the hand : the bars of Peloponnese 
were of such a size that six could be carried. 

III. COINS OF EUBOEA. 

THE cities of Chalcis, Eretria, and Cyme in Euboea were among 
the great colonizing cities of Greece at the beginning of the Olym- 
piads. Cumae in Italy was a foundation of the people of Chalcis 
and Cyme, 1 and the earliest of all Greek settlements in Italy ; and 
Italy, Sicily, and Chalcidice in Macedon were dotted with Euboean 
colonies. The Euboeans would not be likely to be far behind the 
Aeginetans in the issue of coin. And being more detached from 
the Greek mainland, and in closer relations with the people of Ionia 
where Cyme in Aeolis was a colony of Euboea, it is probable that 
their earliest issues would have a closer resemblance to those of 
Asia Minor. 

The standard which was derived from Babylon and was largely 
used for gold coins in Asia, was known to the Greeks, including 
Herodotus, as the Euboic standard. This does not of course imply 
that the Babylonic standard was adopted from Euboea. The 
opposite line of derivation is the only one probable or indeed possible. 
It does, however, prove that it was through Euboea that the Greeks 
gained knowledge of the standard of Babylon. 

The issue of silver coins on a gold standard is a remarkable 
phenomenon. In Asia, gold and silver were in the sixth century, 
and probably earlier, minted on different standards, in order that 
a round number of the silver coins should exchange against one or 
two of the gold coins. The issues of Croesus and of the Persian 
kings, for example, are so arranged that twenty of the silver pieces 
pass for one of the gold pieces. And this custom has generally pre- 
vailed, down to our days. The Euboeans took another line, which 
was later adopted by the Athenians and by Alexander the Great. 
They issued silver money of the same weight as the gold which was 
current. Not much gold would pass in Greece, but such as there 
was would no doubt pass by the Babylonic weight, which indeed had 
struck such deep roots that no gold coins (with insignificant excep- 
tions) were struck on any other standard than the Euboic and its 
Attic variant down to Roman times. The price of the gold stater in 
silver coins of the same weight was left to be determined, not by any 
authority, but by the demand, and the circumstances of the time. 

1 Modern historians are generally agreed that it was Euboean Cyme, and not 
Cyme in Aeolis, which took part in this settlement. 



16 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

It is a characteristic difference between Asia, where the will of kings 
regulated all things, and Europe, with its free cities. 

This is a point of some importance, because some archaeologists 
have been disposed to see in the frequent changes at some cities of 
the standard used by them for silver coins, a series or succession of 
attempts to adjust the silver coinage to the gold, when the propor- 
tionate value of the two metals changed. It is in this direction that 
Professor Ridgeway has looked for the origin of some silver standards, 
notably the Aeginetan. 1 And Mr. Head 2 is disposed to see in the 
somewhat notable changes of the silver standards used in the fifth 
and fourth centuries at Abdera in Thrace, a series of adjustments of 
the silver coinage to a constantly rising value of silver in proportion 
to gold. I cannot in this place fully consider Mr. Head's theory. 
It will be sufficient to point out two preliminary objections to it. 
In the first place we can scarcely suppose Abdera to have adopted 
quite a different system of coinage, the bimetallic, when all the other 
cities of Thrace were monometallic. And in the second place, the 
standard of value in Abdera, in the fifth and fourth centuries, was 
not, as Mr. Head's theory assumes, the daric or gold stater, but the 
silver coins of Athens. 

But though the Euboeans accepted the Babylonic weight for their 
stater, they did not divide it, on the Asiatic plan, into thirds and 
sixths and twelfths, but into halves and twelfths, drachms and obols. 
This was the Pheidonian system of division. Herein, as we shall see, 
they differed from the Corinthians. 3 And they succeeded in making 
their coinage thoroughly European and national. 

This is the simplest, and I think the true, view of the origin of 
the Euboic weight. It is not, however, wholly free from difficulty. 
That it was bronze, not gold, which was the standard of value in 
Greece I have insisted in speaking of the early coins of Aegina. 
And the Aeginetans adapted their issues of silver to a bronze and not 
to a gold currency. Why should the Euboeans have taken another 
course ? Dr. Lehmann-Haupt 4 has maintained that the Euboeans 
also adapted their silver to bronze : but in my opinion he does not 
prove this satisfactorily. He supposes that C hale is, being as its name 
implies a city abounding in copper, and commanding copper mines, 4 
was able to force copper to a higher comparative value than it had 

1 See above, p. 12. 2 Hint. Num., ed. 2, p. xliii. 

8 In the trinal divisions of the silver coins of Chalcidice, I should see not 
Euboean influence, as Dr. Imhoof-Blumer, but Corinthian. See below, p. 25. 

* Copper and bronze are not clearly distinguished. Hermes, 1892, p. 549 ; 
Zeitschr.f. Numism., 27, 125. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 17 

elsewhere. The ordinary relation between copper and silver in the 
Levant being 120 to I, a mina of silver would ordinarily pass, where 
the Babylonic silver weight was used, for two talents (120 minae) of 
copper. But if the Chalcidians were able to force copper up to a value 
of 1 to 96 in comparison with silver, then these two talents of copper 
would be equivalent only to ^ 6 o or f of a Babylonic mina of silver. 
Now f of a Babylonic mina of silver is nearly a Euboic mina of 
436-6 grammes (6,750 grains). 1 Thus the writer supposes that the 
greater value given to copper resulted in the invention of a new and 
lighter standard for silver. It will however be observed that Dr. 
Lehmann-Haupt's theory is entirely conjectural; and is built upon 
the astonishing assumption that when you have a greater quantity of 
goods to dispose of, you can raise the price of the goods, which is 
entirely contrary to economic fact. Of course, if Chalcis had a 
monopoly of copper, it would be somewhat different : but even then, 
why should the people who bought copper at a high price in Euboea 
sell it at a lower price in Asia Minor ? Moreover, Chalcis had no 
monopoly : but only valuable mines. The theory in question there- 
fore is utterly baseless and inacceptable. Only one plausible argu- 
ment can be urged in its favour, that at Athens the X^KO^S was one 
ninety-sixth of the didrachm, since eight chalci went to the obol and 
six obols to the drachm. But this argument has no weight. The 
chalcus was probably a late-invented fraction of the obolus : in some 
places six went to the obol, in other places eight : there is no indica- 
tion that at Chalcis it was originally of the weight of a didrachm, as 
the theory requires. 

Mr. Head 2 is disposed to think that the Euboic standard came to 
Euboea from Samos, where it had already been used in early times 
for electrum ; and the use for electrum would be a natural stage on 
the way for its use in silver. The chief objection to this view is that 
the early electrum coins in question, attributed by Mr. Head to 
Samos, are not really struck on the Babylonic gold standard, but on 
a somewhat heavier standard, stater 135 or 270 grains, 17-50 or 8-75 
grammes, which was later in use at Cyrene and was introduced at 
Athens by Peisistratus. This standard I regard as of Egyptian 
origin : I consider it later, under Athens. Thus a Babylonic origin 
of the Euboic standard is by far the most probable. 

I have already discussed, and dismissed, the view that the earliest 
coins of Euboea were struck in electrum. 

1 This is a false value for the Euboic mina, which really weighed 421 grammes 
(6,500 grains). 

2 Hist. Num., ed. 2, p. xlvL 

B D 



18 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

The earliest silver coins which can be attributed with certainty to 
Chalcis are the tetradrachms, didrachms, and smaller divisions bearing 
as type on one side a flying eagle, on the other a wheel in a triangular 
incuse. 1 The weight of the tetradrachm is 258-7 grains (16-76 grm.) : 
that of the didrachm just half this. The attribution of these coins to 
Chalcis is guaranteed by the appearance on them of the letters (V AH') 
(XAA) in some later examples. 

These later examples, however, can scarcely be given to an earlier 
date than the middle of the sixth century ; and the uninscribed coins, 
some of which may perhaps belong to Chalcis, must begin at least 
half a century earlier. 

The earliest coins which can with certainty be attributed to Eretria 
are tetradrachms and lesser coins bearing on one side a cow scratching 
her head with a hind foot and the letter E ; on the other side a cuttle- 
fish in an incuse. The weight of the tetradrachms varies from 260 
to 267 grains (16-84-17-27 grm.) : their date would begin probably 
when Eretria was rebuilt after the Persian destruction of 490 B. c., 
say about 485 B.C. 2 These coins show the raising of the standard 
which is so general in Greek cities about the middle of the sixth 
century 3 ; that raising cannot be so clearly traced at Chalcis. 

It is, however, almost certain that the coins which I have men- 
tioned were not the earliest issues of Eretria. A large and varied 
series of uninscribed silver coins was first attributed to the cities of 
Euboea by F. Imhoof-Blumer and E. Curtius. 4 It consists of what 
have been called in Germany Wappenmunzen, didrachms of Euboic 
weight (130 grains, 8-42 grammes), bearing on one side a very simple 
type, often enclosed in a linear circle, on the other side an incuse 
square divided into four triangles by crossing lines. 

The types are as follows : * 

1. Gorgon-head Didrachm, obol, tetartemorion. 

2. Ox-head, facing Didrachm, hemiobol. 

3. Owl to 1. Didrachm, obol. 

4. Horse, standing, unbridled Didrachm. 

5. Forepart of bridled horse r. or 1. Didrachm. 

6. Hinder part of horse to r. Didrachm, drachm. 

7. Amphora Didrachm, obol. 

1 Babelon, Traite, p. 667. 

* As Mr. Head points out, Cat. Central Greece, Introd. p. Iviii, Eretria must 
have been speedily rebuilt, as Eretrian ships were present at the battle of 
Artemisium, 480 B. c. * See below, p. 39. 

4 Hermes, x. 215 ; Monatsber. der Pr. Akad. 1831. 

6 Babelon, Traite, ii. 1, pp. 674-723, Pis. xxxi-iiL 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 19 

8. Astragalus Didrachm. 

9. Wheel. Sometimes of archaic type, one transverse crossed by 
two supports : sometimes with four spokes, with or without supports 
Didrachm, drachm, obol. 

10. Triskele of human legs Didrachm, drachm, triobol. 

11. Scarabaeus Didrachm, obol. 

12. Frog Obol. 

These types are by Mr. Head conjecturally assigned as follows to 
the cities of Euboea: l 

Chalcis Wheel, triskele. 

Eretria Gorgon-head, bull's head. 

Cyme Horse ; fore- or hind-part of horse. 

Athenae Diades Owl, astragalus. 

Histiaea Amphora. 

These attributions, however, are anything but certain ; and the 
whole question must be seriously considered. 

We begin by identifying the coins of Eretria, which form the most 
important class of early Euboean money. They form a series 

thus : 2 

Didrachms. 

Gorgon-head = incuse (in one case, lion's head in incuse). 
Bull's head = incuse. 

Tetradrachms. 

Gorgon-head = Bull's head. 

= face and forepaws of panther. 

Later Coinage, after Persian wars. 
Cow scratching herself = Sepia in incuse square. 

As regards this later coinage, it can be given with confidence to 
Eretria, as we have seen. But the earlier series, between which and 
the later there is no point of direct contact, presents more difficulty. 
It stretches over a considerable period of time, the style showing 
gradual development, and the incuse giving way to a second type. 
Only two attributions are suggested for the series, Athens and Eretria. 
And the conclusive reason for assigning them to Eretria rather than 
to Athens is that many of them are certainly later than the earliest 
coins bearing the head of Athena and certainly of Athenian origin, 
and that it is not to be supposed that two sets of coins of quite 

1 Sr. Mus. Cat. Central Greece, p. xlix. 

2 Br. Mus. Cat. Central Greece, Introduction. 

B 2 



20 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

different types and fabric would be issued contemporaneously from 
the Athenian mint. 

This argument may be enforced and made more definite by a careful 
consideration of the weights of the coins. The earliest didrachms 
above mentioned seldom exceed 130 grains in weight. The specimens 
in the British Museum average 129-5 grains (8-39 grammes). The 
later tetradrachms bearing the Gorgon-head and another type, the 
head of a panther, are heavier, the average of six examples being 
2 x 130-6, or if we omit one abnormal example, 2 x 131-4; these 
latter, then, constitute the coinage of Eretria contemporary with the 
early Athena types at Athens. 

In treating of the coins of Athens I shall try to show that these 
two-type pieces are first struck in the time of Peisistratus, who raised 
the monetary standard from the Euboic level (130 grains for the 
didrachm) to the Attic level (135 x 2 grains for the tetradrachm.) 
If that view be correct, it will follow that the tetradrachms at Eretria 
are later than the middle of the sixth century, and the didrachms 
which preceded them presumably earlier than that date. We shall 
find in dealing with the coins of Corinth that in the middle of the 
sixth century Attic influence in that city also appreciably raised 
the weight of the coins. Thus the Peisistratid issue of tetradrachms 
turns out to be of great value as evidence for the arranging and 
dating of the coins of Greece Proper. 

On some of the tetradrachms given to Eretria there are two globules 
in the field. 1 These can scarcely be taken for anything but marks 
of value. M. Six and M. Babelon regard their presence as proving 
that the coins in question were issued as didrachms double, that is 
to say, of the drachm of 130 grains which they regard as used at 
Athens between the time of Solon and that of Hippias. M. Six 
draws the further conclusion that they were struck at Athens, there 
being no evidence for the existence of so heavy a drachm elsewhere. 
In my opinion, however, there is no satisfactory evidence for the 
currency, even at Athens, of a drachm of the weight mentioned. 
I regard the globules on the Eretrian coins as merely shewing that 
they were of double the value of the coins which had up to that time 
circulated at Eretria, and which were without doubt Euboic di- 
drachms. The people of Eretria in the archaic period, just like the 
people of Aegina, 2 thought not in drachms, but in staters or di- 
drachms. At Delphi, at a much later date, and at other places, 
expenses were ordinarily reckoned in staters. 

1 Br. Mus. Cat. Central Greece, p. 121 ; Babelon, TraM, PI. xxxi. 14. 

2 See above, p. 14. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 21 

Another series, that of the owl, has been attributed, not without 
reason, to Athens. As M. Babelon has well observed, if a numis- 
matist were asked what coinage would naturally at Athens precede 
the Athena-type, the only reply he could make, remembering the 
analogy of other series, would be, a coinage with owl for type. 1 
Examples have been found both in Attica and Euboea. The 
amphora type would also be very appropriate to Athens. On the 
later issues of the city the owl stands on an amphora ; and the am- 
phora naturally would represent the oil which was the great gift 
which Athena had bestowed upon men. The olive-spray marks the 
Athenian coinage almost throughout, and the amphora would have 
the same significance. The astragalus occurs frequently on the well- 
known weights and tesserae of Athens. 

M. Babelon tries to show the appropriateness to Athens of some 
of the other types. He would connect the horse-type and the wheel, 
as shorthand for a chariot, with the legend which narrated that 
Srechtheus was the inventor of chariots. It might have been 
better to seek in the types some allusion to the great festival of 
Athena, with its processions of chariots. But in any case, little 
weight can be assigned to what may be called literary or mythical 
arguments. If a type is actually used on Athenian monuments, as 
are the owl and the amphora, there is some reason to expect them on 
the early coins. But the mere fact that a type has a legendary 
connexion with the city goes for very little. I would therefore 
regard the horse coins as rather Euboean than Attic. 

The wheel series has been given by Mr. Svoronos to Megara. 2 For 
this also there is some show of reason. The type of Mesembria, 
a Megarian colony in Thrace, is a radiate wheel, apparently a symbol 
of the sun-god. The types at Megara would certainly be Apolline ; 
on the coins of the fourth century they are the head of Apollo and 
the lyre : but it is possible that the wheel may have been an earlier 
type at Megara. It is scarcely to be supposed that Megara, the 
outpost of the Dorians against Athens, and a great colonizing city in 
the seventh century B. c., should have been without coins when Aegina, 
Corinth, and Athens, her three neighbours, were all issuing them. 

In view of the occurrence of the wheel on coins given with certainty 
to Chalcis one might be disposed to give these wheel coins to that city. 
But they are not earlier than the coins of Chalcis of which I have 
spoken : and it is improbable that the city would issue at the same 
time two dissimilar sets of coins. 

1 Babelon, Traite, ii. 1, p. 705. 

2 Journ. int. d'archtol. numism. 1898, p. 273. 



22 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

It is doubtful whether in the case of these series, just as in the 
case of the early electrum of Asia, we are justified in regarding the 
types as regular civic stamps. Indeed, the variety of types is so 
considerable, and the similarity of fabric so great, that Beule de- 
clared they must all of them, or none, come from the mint of 
Athens. They seem from the evidence of finds to have circulated 
together with the regular early tetradrachms of Athens and Euboea. 
For example, a hoard found at Eleusis l consisted of an early triobol 
of Athens, a didrachm and triobol of Eretria, three obols bearing the 
wheel, one the Gorgon-head, and a half obol bearing the bull's head. 
A hoard found near Cyme in Euboea consisted of tetradrachms and 
lesser coins of Eretria, many archaic tetradrachms of Athens, and 
the following Wappenmunzen, wheel (1), owl (1), hind-part of 
horse (1), fore-part of horse (1), standing horse (1), Gorgon-head 
(2). Another hoard found at Eretria contained tetradrachms and 
didrachms of Eretria, early Athenian tetradrachms, a tetradrachm 
with Gorgon-head, and several examples of Wappenmunzen (types 
not stated). 2 

It is thus clear that these coins had a wide and general circulation ; 
and it seems almost certain that they belong to a monetary con- 
vention of some kind. In the sixth century Athens and Eretria 
were closely associated. But on the other hand there was hostility 
between Athens and Megara. 

To Euboea and Athens therefore I would attribute the series, 
though certainty is impossible. We can separate one class as 
Euboean, and another as probably Attic; but such types as the 
horse, the wheel, the frog must remain of doubtful attribution. 

IV. COINS OF CORINTH AND CORCYRA. 

That the coinage of Corinth began very early is sufficiently proved 
by its extremely archaic art and fabric. It is easy to prove that it 
began at an earlier time than that of Athens. For the earliest tetra- 
drachms of Athens are almost on the same level of art as the coins 
of Corinth on which the head of Athena appears on the reverse, and 
these are preceded by at least two regular series of coins, stretching 
over a considerable space of time, as is shown by their variety and 
abundance. 

Now these coins of Athens can be dated with reasonable certainty 

1 Kohler, Athen. Mitth. 1884, p. 357. 

2 Kohler I.e. It is noteworthy that in these hoards there were found no coins 
of Chalcis. Eretria and Athens stood together : Chalcis stood apart from them, 
with Corinth. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 23 

to the middle of the sixth century. The coins of Corinth then must 
reach back to the early part of the seventh century, certainly to the 
reign of Cypselus. They can scarcely, however, be so early as the 
time of the foundation of Corcyra, or the Corcyrean coin would have 
probably started under their influence. 

Mr. Head's assignment of the early coins of Corinth is as 
follows : 

Time of Cypselus, 657-625 B.C. 

1. 9 Pegasus with curled wing = incuse square, of similar pattern 
to that on coins of Aegina. Stater (130 grains, 8-42 grammes). (PI. 
No. 9.) 

Time of Periander and later, 625-500 B. c. 

2. 9 As last = incuse developing into the croix gamme'e pattern. 
Stater and drachm (43 grains ; 2-78 grammes). (PI. No. 10.) 

On the hemidrachm of this class, a half Pegasus occurs, on the 
obols a Pegasus, on the hemiobol, the head of Pegasus. 

After 500 B.C. 

3. An archaic head of Athena appears on the reverse of the 
staters ; an archaic head of Aphrodite on the drachm. The diobol 
bears the mark of value A, the trihemiobol the letters TPIH, the 
hemiobol H. (PL No. 11.) 

It appears to me that as Mr. Head has placed the archaic coins 
of Athens bearing the head of Athena too early, so he has placed 
the earliest staters of Corinth bearing the same head too late. Von 
Fritze l has well pointed out that there cannot be much difference 
in date between the two series, as the style of art is closely similar. 
We cannot place the Athenian series earlier than, nor the Corinthian 
series much later than, the middle of the sixth century. 

Some of the earliest flat coins of Metapontum (Br. Mus. Cat. 
Italy, p. 239) are restruck on coins of Corinth of the second type. 
These Metapontine coins belong to the second half of the sixth 
century. Somewhat later coins of Metapontum of thicker fabric 
and belonging to the early years of the fifth century are restruck 
on coins of Corinth of the third type, bearing the head of Athena. 2 
This evidence is however indefinite; it only shows the coins of 
Corinth in each case to be older than the Metapontine restriking; 
but does not tell us how much older. 

1 Von Fritze, Zeitschr.f. Numism. xx. 143. 
1 Babelon, Traitf, ii. 1, p. 1405. 



24 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

I should modify Mr. Head's dates, which in any case are too 
precise, in the following way : 

Class 1 (about) 650-600 B.C. 

2 600-550 

3 550- 

As we have no reason for connecting a change of fabric with any 
special events in the history of Corinth, any attempt at great accuracy 
cannot be successful. 

There is however one indication, that of weight, which Mr. Head 
does not seem to have used. If we compare the coins of Class 2 
with those of Class 3 we shall find that the latter are distinctly the 
heavier. From the collection in the British Museum, which contains 
only coins in good condition, we reach the following results. 

Of 21 staters of Class II, the average weight is 127 grains. 

Of 28 staters of Class III, the average weight is 132 grains. 
That proves that at about the time when Class III came in, the 
standard of the stater was raised by about five grains. A precisely 
similar rise in the standard from 130 grains to 135 x 2 grains, took 
place at Athens in the time of Peisistratus, as I shall presently try 
to prove. I conjecture that the occasion of raising the standard at 
Athens was the acquisition by Peisistratus of the silver mines on the 
Strymon and at Laurium. Corinth seems to have followed the lead 
of Athens, probably because she could not help herself. This little 
investigation of weights strongly confirms the fixing of the middle of 
the sixth century at Corinth as the time of the introduction of the 
head of Athena as reverse type. One may even suspect that the type 
itself was borrowed from the fine coinage of Peisistratus. 

To go back. It is safe to attribute the origin of coinage at Corinth 
to Cypselus. Generally speaking, we find the wealthy and art-loving 
tyrants of Greece responsible for such innovations. We have next 
to consider the monetary standard, and the reason for selecting it. 

The Corinthian stater of 130 grains is of the weight of the Daric 
or gold shekel of Persia, and of pre-Persian times. Like the 
people of Euboea, those of Corinth transferred a gold standard 
directly to silver, as the people of Phocaea had transferred it to 
electrum. But they did so with a difference. The Euboeans, as we 
have seen, took the stater as a didrachm, and divided it into two 
drachms of sixty-five grains or twelve obols of eleven grains. They 
thus completely Europeanized it, following the system of Pheidon. 
The Corinthians retained the Asiatic system of division by three. 
They divided their stater into three drachms of forty-three grains, 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 25 

and eighteen obols of seven grains. This fact was already known 
from the statements of ancient metrologists, and received final con- 
firmation when inscriptions on the coins were read as marks of value, 1 
A or AIO standing for diobol, TP1H for trihemiobol, and H for 
hemiobol. As the weights of these diobols, trihemiobols, and hemi- 
obols are just what they should be when the drachm weighs forty-three 
grains, the proof that this was the standard is beyond doubt. 

If we seek a reason for this combined system, one may easily be 
found. The object of Cypselus seems to have been to make terms 
with the two systems of weight in use in Greece, the Euboic 2 and 
the Aeginetan. The Corinthian stater of 130 grains would pass not 
only as an Euboic stater, but as two-thirds of the Aeginetan stater of 
196 grains. The Corinthian drachm of forty-three grains would be 
equivalent to two-thirds of the Euboic drachm of sixty-five grains, 
and four-ninths of the Aeginetan drachm of ninety-six grains. 
Mr. Head 3 has suggested that the Corinthian drachms may have 
been regarded as practically the equivalent of an Aeginetan hemi- 
drachm of forty-eight grains. It is, however, difficult to believe that 
the drachm when equated with Aeginetan currency would pass at 
a higher rate than the stater or tridrachm ; and this is implied in 
Mr. Head's view. It is, however, quite probable that in some places 
in later periods of Greek history, the Corinthian drachm and the 
Aeginetan hemidrachm were equated. The fact is that we know 
very little indeed as to the way in which Greek coins of various 
systems were related in value on the tables of the money-changers : 
there may have been a fixed convention in the matter, or there may 
have been continual fluctuations according to demand and supply. 
This is a matter for further investigation. 

The trinal division of the Corinthian stater is valuable to the 
numismatist, as it enables him to discern, in the Greek colonies of 
Italy, Sicily, and Chalcidice in Macedonia, the influence of Corin- 
thian commerce. There is a natural presumption that when cities 
which adhere to the Attic standard divide their stater of 135 grains 
by two they belong to the sphere of Euboean or Athenian commerce ; 
when they divide it by three, they seem rather to be under Corinthian 
influence. This reasonable view, however, has not been accepted by 
Dr. Imhoof-Blumer, who sees in the trinal division of the stater in 
Chalcidice a trace of Asiatic influence. The point is a fine one, but 

1 First by myself, in Num. Chron. 1871. 

8 The coins of Cypselus seem to be earlier than any extant coins of Euboea : 
but we may well suppose the Euboic standard to have been already in existence. 
3 Hist. Num., ed. 2, p. 399. 



26 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

not unimportant. I prefer to consider the actual facts of exchange 
and commerce as more important to the people of Chalcidice than 
mere traditions of Asiatic procedure. That some of the cities of 
Chalcidice and of South Italy use a drachm of 43-45 grains is there- 
fore an important fact in the history of commerce. This investigation, 
however, cannot be carried further in this place, as it is remote from 
our immediate object. 

Corcyra. 

In the case of Corcyra also there is an interesting clashing between 
the Aeginetan, the Corinthian, and the Euboic systems. We might 
naturally have expected the city, when it first issued coins, to take as 
its model the Corinthian coinage, which was certainly then in exist- 
ence. But the relations of Corcyra to the mother-city were never 
from the first cordial : and the first issue of coin probably took place 
at the time when the people of Corcyra asserted their independence 
about 585 B. c., after the death of Periander. The type of the 
obverse, a cow suckling a calf, seems to refer to the early settlement 
of the island from Euboea, that being an ordinary type of Carystus, 
and referring probably to the worship of the Mother-Goddess. 1 The 
reverse type, a stellar pattern, is unlike anything in Greece Proper, 
and bears a nearer likeness to devices used in Ionia. The weight is 
the Aeginetic, but somewhat light ; probably through the influence 
of the Corinthian standard, which was in use at Anactorium and 
about the mouth of the Corinthian gulf. The Corinthian drachm, it 
must be remembered, 43-45 grains, is distinctly lighter than the 
Aeginetan hemidrachm of forty-eight grains. The coins of Corcyra do 
not from the beginning exceed 180 grains (grm. 11-66) for the stater, 
and 90 grains (grm. 5-83) for the drachm. If the above conjecture is 
correct, these would pass as four and two drachms of Corinth. 2 As 
the coinage of Corinth was closely copied by the cities of Acarnania, 
Anactorium, Leucas, and the rest, so the cities founded by Corcyra 
in the north, on the coast of the Adriatic, notably Dyrrhachium and 
Apollonia, closely copied the coins of Corcyra, from which their 
money only differs in virtue of the inscriptions which it bears. The 
coins give us a vivid impression of the clear geographical line which 
separated the commercial sphere of Corcyra from that of Corinth. 
That the Corcyrean standard had no influence in Italy or Sicily, but 
only in the Adriatic is an important fact, indicating that the course of 
Corcyrean trade ran northwards only. 

1 Br. Mus. Cat. Thessaly to Aetolia, p. xlvii. 

2 In Hist. Num. , ed. 2, p. xlix, Mr. Head has come to the same conclusion. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 27 

It has been suggested 1 that the coin-standard of Corcyra might not 
be connected with that of Aegina, but directly derived from some of 
the cities of Asia, such as Miletus or Camirus. But all likelihood is 
taken from this conjecture by the fact that it does not correspond with 
any Asiatic standard. It is too heavy for the official standard of 
Persia ; too light for that of Miletus. It is therefore better to derive 
it from the Pheidonian standard which had course in all Greece Proper, 
from Thessaly to Sparta. 

V. EARLY COINS OF ATHENS. 

There is no subject in Greek Numismatics which has been so fully 
discussed as the earliest coinage of Athens ; and there are few 
subjects in which a greater variety of opinion prevails. The discussion 
has not been confined to numismatists, but has been taken up by 
philologists and historians. Without going into all the by-ways of 
the subject, I shall try briefly to portray its main features. 

i. The earliest coinage. 

There are three views as to what were the earliest coins of Athens. 
If we could settle this question, which is a purely numismatic one, we 
could with more confidence approach the other questions, philological, 
economic and historic, which are involved. 

The first claimants are certain coins of electrum, small pieces of 
the weight of about twenty-one grains, having on one side an owl, 
and on the other side an incuse. These we have already discussed 
and shown that they lie outside the regular Athenian coinage. 

The next claimant is the silver coins of various types, the so-called 
Wappenmunzen, of the weight of 130 grains, which are found in 
Euboea, Attica and Boeotia. I have spoken of them already under 
Euboea, and claimed them mostly for Chalcis, Eretria, and other 
cities of that island. But it is probable that some of them may 
belong to Athens, and that Athens, early in the sixth century may 
have issued coin closely like that of the cities of Euboea. 

As we have seen, the coins of this class which can best claim 
Athenian parentage are those of the type of the owl. M. Babelon 
mentions 2 the following examples : 

Didrachms 124-1 grains (8-04 grammes) British Museum. (PI. No. 7.) 
130-8 (8-47 ) De Luynes 
130- (8-42 ) 

Obols 11-9-6 grains (-72 to -60 grammes) Several examples. 

1 Hist. Num., ed. 2, p. 326. 2 Traite, ii. 1, p. 701. 



28 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

The best indication what early uninscribed coins belong to a city 
is to be found by comparing the types with those of the later and 
recognized coins of that city. As the acknowledged coins of Athens 
are stamped with an owl, we may claim the uninscribed coins with 
that type for Athenian. As the later tetradrachms of Athens have 
an amphora, on which the owl stands, for type, and many weights 
have an amphora as type, we may fairly claim for Athens also the 
uninscribed coins stamped with an amphora. (PI. No. 8.) 

While we may attribute the owl coins, and the amphora coins to 
Athens, I should stop there. I think M. Babelon's l attempts to find 
mythological justification for the assignment of such types as the 
horse and the wheel to Athens are fanciful. The bull's head type, 
which some writers would assign to Athens is so closely connected 
with the Gorgon-head, which almost certainly belongs to Eretria, that 
we must refuse it to Athens. 

Some numismatists attach value to the statement of Plutarch that 
Theseus struck coins bearing the type of a bull. Pollux 2 also says 
that the didrachm was of old the coin of the Athenians, and was 
called a bull, because it had a bull stamped on it. In consequence 
of these statements those coins have been attributed to Athens which 
have as type a bull's head. It is however very probable that the 
statements arose from a misunderstanding of the laws of Draco, in 
which fines are stated in oxen. Later writers fancied that by oxen 
Draco must have meant some kind of coin, knowing that the coins 
of Aegina were called tortoises, those of Corinth horses, and those 
of Athens owls. But we know that Draco was speaking of real 
oxen. And it may be added that the head of an ox is a very different 
thing from an ox. 

The earliest coins, then, of Athens, appear to be silver didrachms 
of Euboic weight, bearing as type the owl, or the amphora. These 
may be safely given to the time of Solon, and connected with his 
reforms. The tetradrachms bearing the head of Athena were almost 
certainly, as I shall try to show, first issued in the time of Peisistratus. 
Thus the coinage of Athens, during the first half of the sixth century, 
seems to exhibit the city as closely related to Eretria in Euboea, and 
a member of a monetary union including a group of cities in the 
region. The fact is not uninstructive. In the time of Solon Athens 
was still struggling with Megara for the possession of Salamis, and 
dreams of the headship of Hellas, whether in letters, in commerce, or 
in arms, had not yet risen above the horizon. It was the legislation 

1 Traitt, ii. 1, p. 707. a ix. 60. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 29 

of Solon, and still more the ambition of Peisistratus, which turned 
Athens from a small city into a great one. 

ii. The Reforms of Solon. 

The question of the Solonic reform of the Athenian coinage is 
one which has aroused more controversy than any other in Greek 
numismatic history. Numismatists used to think that they had 
a satisfactory account of the matter in a passage of Androtion 
(probably from his 'ArOts) quoted by Plutarch in his Life of Solon (xv). 
But certain statements in Aristotle's Constitution of Athens, since 
brought to light, have been held to be quite irreconcilable with those 
of Androtion. Some writers, such as W. Christ, 1 still regard 
Androtion as the preferable authority, thinking an archaeologist more 
likely to be accurate in such matters than a philosopher. But the 
great majority of the commentators on the work of Aristotle 2 main- 
tain that his authority is final. In my opinion it is possible to 
reconcile the statements of the two authorities, except in one or two 
points. This I shall proceed to do. 

The text of Plutarch runs as follows : KcuYoi TIV^S Zypa\\rav y &v 
tcmv 'Avbporitov, OVK aTTOKOTTTj xpe<2r, dAAa TOKtov /merptoTTjn 
ayaTTTjo-ai TOVS TT^rjra?, KCU a-ficra^dfiav oVojudVai TO 
TOUTO, KCU rr\v fijt*a TOVT<J> yevo^vt]v r&v re /nrpa>i> cirav^ria-iv /cat TOU 
vontvfjiaTOS rifj.r)v. 'EKO.TOV yap ^7ro^7j(re bpa\p.(av TTJI> fj.vav, TrpoYepoy 
e/38ofATjKOi'Ta Kai rpiStv ovaav' COOT' d/H0/u p.ev tcroy, bvvdp,fi 5' eAarroy 
&TTobLbovT<t)v &^eXci<r^at pJkv TOVS l/crfroiras /xeydXa, prjbev b% /3Ad > 7rrecr0ai 
TOVS KOjixi^bjuefous. 

According to Androtion, then, the alteration in the coinage was 
part of Solon's Seisachtheia or relief of debtors. Solon, says Andro- 
tion, did not cancel the debts but moderated the interest. He caused 
the mina which before had been of the weight of 73 drachms to be 
equivalent to 100, so that debtors paid the same number of drachms 
which they had borrowed, but in drachms of less weight ; thus those 
who had sums to pay were gainers while those who received them 
were no losers. It was this operation which gained for Solon and 
his friends the name of \pedtKoiribai. or debt-cutters. Androtion, how- 
ever, adds that at the same time Solon made an increase of measures, 
that is, no doubt, measures of capacity. Apart from this phrase, 
to which we will return later, the passage seems quite clear. As the 
proportion of 73 to 100 is just the proportion in weight between the 

1 Milnchener Sitzungsber. 1900, 118. 

2 The literature of the subject, which is extensive, is given in Head's Historii 
Numorum, ed. 2, p. 366. 



30 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

mina and drachm of the Athenian coinage and those of Aegina, 
numismatists naturally concluded that the Aeginetan standard was 
before Solon's time in use at Athens, and that he lowered the standard 
from Aeginetan to what may be called Solonic or Attic level, in 
order that debtors should save 27 per cent, in their repayments. To 
say that the creditors would lose nothing is of course absurd : what- 
ever the debtors would gain they would lose : but it is very natural 
that Solon should not have realized this fact. M. Babelon has no 
difficulty in showing that the measure attributed to Solon was 
financially unsound ; 1 but that is scarcely to the point. It is quite 
certain that, all through the course of history, coinage has been 
debased in order to accommodate debtors or to relieve the financial 
straits of governments ; and we have no reason to think that Solon 
would be too wise to attempt such things. 

We must next turn to the passage bearing on the question in the 
recently discovered work by Aristotle on The Constitution of 
Athens, 

The text of Aristotle, as determined by Blass and Kenyon, runs 2 : 
'Ev fjLfv ovv rots vdfJ-ois ravra So/cei 6tlvai SrjjuoTiicti, irpd oe rrjs vo/ioflecnas 
Troi7j<ra[i] rr\v T&V X[P] C ^[ J; ^7ro]K07T7ji>, icai jmera raura TTJV re rStv ^rpa>v 
Kal <TTaOp.&v, Kal TTjy TOV rop.((T^aTos avr)(riv. U intivov yap eyWro Kal 
TO ju^rpa fxc^a) T&V <I>ei5&>veia>i> Kai 77 fjiva -nporcpov [#yo]v<ra <TTa[0^]6v 

rats knarov. %v 8' 6 ap-^alos 



TO rdXavrov dyouo-a?, cac ^"nibicvp.^drj(rav [at rjpcis [aval r 
KOI TOIS aXXot? <rrad/LioT;. 

The only serious question as to the reading arises over the phrase 
beginning rf\v T ro>i> /xeVpooi/ with the repetition of the article T*\V 
before TOU i/o/u^o-juiaTos. Hill had already remarked on the oddness 
of the phrase, and suggested as a possible emendation TTJZ; re TWV 
fj.^Tpo)v KOI (TTadp.&v (av^ritnv), Kal ri\v roC vofx^ir/xaros {^fiaxnv). This 
may be the original reading : but in any case the word QU^TJO-IS if 
applied to coin need not mean its increase in weight, but may, as 
some commentators have pointed out, only imply a greater abundance. 
I shall presently, however, suggest a better explanation, namely that 
Aristotle somewhat misread his authority. 

Let me, however, give a paraphrase to show how I would interpret 
the passage : 

Such were the democratic features of his lawgiving ; before which 

1 Journ. Intern, de Numitm. vii. 228. 

* Quoted from Hill in Num. Ohron. 1897, 285, 'A0. IIoX. c. 10. I have not 
thought it necessary to mark the editors' restorations where they are certain. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 31 



he arranged (1) the cutting-down l of the debts ; and after it (2) the 
increase in weights and measures and the multiplication 2 of the 
coins. For under him the measures became greater than those of 
Pheidon ; (3) and the mina which formerly weighed seventy drachms 
was filled up with the hundred drachms. (4) The early stater was 
a didrachm. (5) He made also weights to go with the coinage, a 
talent weighing 63 minae, which extra three minae were distributed 
over the stater and other weights. 

I am not at all convinced that Aristotle means to say anything 
very different from what Androtion says. If we put the two sets of 
statements in parallel columns there will appear a remarkable likeness 
between them. 



Aristotle. 

He arranged the cutting down 
of the debts ; 



after that, an increase in weights 
and measures, and increase (?) of 
coin, the measures becoming 
greater than those of Pheidon. 

The mina which formerly 
weighed 70 drachms, was filled 
up with the hundred drachms. 



Androtion. 

(1) He favoured the poor and 
lightened their burden, not by 
cutting down the debts, but by 
moderating the interest : this 
benevolence they called Seisach- 
theia. 

(2) It was accompanied by an 
increase of the measures, and 
a change in the value of the 
coins. 

(3) He made the mina which 
before had contained 73 drachms 
consist of 100 drachms, 

so that, when men repaid coins 
equal in number but less in 
weight, they were greatly advan- 
taged, while those who received 
were not injured. 

(4) The early stater was a di- 
drachm. 

(5) He also made weights to go 

with the coinage, a talent weigh- 
ing 63 minae, which extra 3 
minae were distributed over the 
stater and other weights. 

In passage (1) no doubt there seems a formal contradiction between 
the authorities: but it is not deep, since the proceeding of Solon 

1 airoKOTrf) means mutilation rather than destruction. 
3 Or decrease, (uiuoiv, as above suggested. 



32 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

might be regarded equally well in either aspect, as a diminution of 
the debt, or as a lightening of the interest. A reduction in the 
value of the coin would serve both purposes, since interest as well 
as principal would be paid in the reduced coinage. (2) Here both 
authorities are confused. Both are clear that the measures of 
capacity were increased, so as to become, as Aristotle says, larger 
than those of Pheidon, but as to what happened to the coin they are 
less explicit. The phrase in Plutarch is -/(vofjilvrjv T&V re fxlrpow eirat;- 
Kal TOV voplor paras uji?jj>. The phrase in Aristotle is TIJV T T&V 
i/ Kal (TTad^Stv KOI Tr)v TOV vopfofjiaTos avri<nv. The phrases 
sound as if the writers were following the same authority, but did 
not understand precisely what happened to the coins. But Plutarch 
(or Androtion) goes on to show clearly what he supposed to have 
taken place, and we have no reason for thinking that Aristotle would 
have rejected his explanation, which obviously implies that the value 
of the coins was lessened. (3) Commentators have commonly sup- 
posed that here there is no real conflict of the two authorities, but 
that while Aristotle uses the round number 70, Plutarch gives the 
more precise figure of 73. But the difference is in my view im- 
portant. The proportion between 70 and 100 is nearly that between 
the Euboic mina and the Aeginetan ; the proportion between 73 and 
100 is nearly that between the Attic mina and the Aeginetan. 1 
Metrologists have not usually distinguished between the Euboic and 
the Attic mina, calling it the Euboic-Attic. But if we discriminate 
between the two, as I think we are bound by undeniable facts to do, 
then we must consider Aristotle's statement as the more correct. 
It is very natural that Plutarch's authority, writing at a time when 
the Attic standard was in universal use, should have supposed that 
it was that which was introduced by Solon. But we have in 
Aristotle a valuable record of the real facts of the case : if we may 
believe him, it was not the later Attic standard which Solon intro- 
duced, but the real Euboic, which was appreciably lighter. The 
coins bear out this view, and not the other. 

Turning to the coins themselves, as the only safe test where 
authorities differ, we are justified in saying that there were at Athens 
none at all before the time of Solon. The fines in the laws of Draco 
are given in oxen ; and as in the time of Draco the coins of Aegina 

1 As we have seen above (p. 20) the Euboic drachm weighed 65 grains 
(4-21 grammes) : the Attic 67-5 grains (4-37 grammes). The difference between 
them is 3-6 per cent. Taking the Aeginetan drachm at 94 grains (6-09 grammes) 
a mina weighing 70 such drachms would give 100 drachms weighing 65-8 
grains, and a mina weighing 73 such drachms 100 drachms of 68-6 grains. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 33 

were widely circulated, we may be sure that Athens was dilatory in 
the introduction of coinage. As we are expressly told that the 
measures which Solon introduced superseded the Pheidonian, we may 
fairly assume the same in regard to the coins, and conclude that the 
Aeginetan mina and drachm were in use at Athens in 600 B.C. For 
the current didrachms of Aegina, Solon substituted coins weighing 

130 grains, that is staters of the Euboic standard, which was already 
accepted at Chalcis and Eretria, and (with a different system of divi- 
sion) at Corinth. The whole question then narrows itself down to 
this, were these staters, as Androtion asserted, didrachms intended to 
pass in place of the heavier Aeginetan didrachms, or were they 
drachms, as Aristotle is supposed by some recent authorities, such as 
Six, Head, Hill, Babelon, and others to assert ? They suppose that 
for some reason Solon introduced a mina not of the Euboic 
weight, but of double that weight, which mina was again lowered 
by the half by Hippias. They allow that at the end of the sixth 
century a coin of 130 or 135 grains was a didrachm, but they 
think that for the first three-quarters of that century it was called 
a drachm. 

Their reasons are twofold. In the first place they insist on inter- 
preting the word av^trts as implying an addition to the weight of 
the coins. In the second place they appeal to the testimony of 
extant Athenian weights. 1 They cite one of archaic style, bearing the 
inscription rjiua-v lepov brnj.6(nov ' A6t]vai(av, weighing 426-6 grammes 
(6,585 grains) which yields a mina of 13,170 grains and a drachm of 

131 grains, and another inscribed bcKaaT&Tripov, weighing 177-52 
grammes (2,738 grains) yielding a stater (or didrachm ?) of 273 
grains. The second of these, however, proves little, as the familiar 
tetradrachm of Athens of the usual type, and weighing 270 grains, 
might well be called a stater. And the first in fact only confirms 
what we knew before, that there was in use at Athens for some un- 
unknown purposes, a mina and drachm of double the weight of those 
ordinarily used for coins. But the use of this double mina was by 
no means confined to the period between Solon and Hippias, as it 
should be to give it any value in the present connexion. On the 
contrary, it was used contemporaneously with the ordinary Solonic 
weights in the fifth and fourth centuries. 2 It can, therefore, have 
had nothing to do with the Solonic reform of the coinage. 

There is then no argument to be drawn from existing coins or 

1 Num. Chron. 1895, 177 ; 1897, 288 ; Pernice, Griech. Gewichte, pp. 81, 82. 

2 Murray, Greek Weights in Num. Chron. 1868, 68, 69 ; cf. Article Pondera iu 
Smith's Diet, of Antiquities. 

C D 



34 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

weights to overthrow the view which I read in our ancient authorities. 
Let us next turn to the historic probabilities of the case. 

These seem to me entirely on the side of the reduction of weight. 
Solon was essentially a moderate, wishing to destroy neither rich nor 
poor, but to find for them a way of living together. But the poor 
were overwhelmed with debt, and had largely mortgaged their land. 
In such a case, to reduce the debt without abolishing it would be the 
natural plan for a mediator. And although Solon was, doubtless, a 
very great and wise man, I cannot see why he should not have 
thought that he could most fairly accomplish this by reducing the 
weight of the coinage. It is a process which has been resorted to by 
financial reformers in all ages, until the English pound of silver 
weighs a third of a pound, while the French livre weighs but a frac- 
tion of an ounce. We have no reason to think that Solon's wisdom 
lifted him above all the ways of thought of the time. 

On the other hand it is hard to imagine any reason which Solon 
could have had for raising the standard of the coin. The only sug- 
gestion I find as to a motive is given by M. Babelon, who observes * 
that he would by this means give an advantage to Athenian coin, and 
promote its circulation. This will scarcely stand. In the first place, 
in the time of Solon the Athenians had not discovered the mines of 
Laurium, which were first worked in the time of Peisistratus, and so 
had no particular motive for pushing their coin. In the second place, 
if the Athenians were prepared to exchange their own coin of 130 
grains for the Aeginetan drachm of 96 grains they must have been 
very bad men of business. A slight addition to the weight of the 
drachm would bring the coinage of Athens into request; but 
an addition of 40 per cent, would not have had this effect at all. 
It would be simply introducing a new monetary standard without 
any visible reason. 

We come now to statement No. 4, that the old standard coin was 
a didrachm. I have translated x a P aK1 "nP by ' standard coin y ; for 
though the word properly means the type stamped on a coin, it may 
also stand for the coin which bore the type. Six, Babelon, and Hill 
have taken the phrase as proving that the early Athenian tetra- 
drachms really passed as didrachms. But if in Solon's time, as I 
have maintained, only didrachms of the ordinary Euboic weight 
of 130 grains were issued, then Aristotle's assertion exactly corre- 
sponds with the fact. Indeed, it entirely confirms my con- 
tention. 

We return to paragraph No. 2, in which we have again a valuable 
1 Journ. Int. de Num. vii. 226. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 35 

historic record which modern commentators have misunderstood. 
We can scarcely suppose the statement of Aristotle that Solon in- 
creased the measures and weights of Pheidon to be quite baseless. 
This is in itself unlikely, and is rendered less so by the fact that even 
Androtion also speaks of an enlargement of measures, at the same 
time that he speaks of the lightening of the coinage. Aristotle 
calls the enlargement of the measures a democratic measure, and it 
is clear that from the point of view of the man in the street the en- 
largement of measures was as much in his favour as the depreciation 
of the coin, in which he had to pay for such measures. 1 

The measures and weights of Pheidon being in use at Athens at 
the time, it would seem that Solon somewhat augmented them at the 
same time that he lowered the weight of the coins. That Pheidonian 
weights for goods were in use in later times we already knew : but 
Solon, perhaps temporarily, raised them in a small degree. 

The probable nature of his proceeding is made clear by comparison 
with an Attic decree of some centuries later (C. I. G. i. 123, /. G. ii. 
476) which runs as follows : ' The mina of commerce shall weigh 
138 drachms of the Stephanephoros ' (i. e. Attic drachms, and so be 
of the Pheidonian standard) ' and there shall be added (thrown in) 12 
drachms/ It goes on to say that in every 5 minae, one mina shall be 
thrown in in like manner, and in every talent 5 minae. Thus in case 
of the talent, by this extraordinary decree, every seller was bound to 
add y 1 ^, in case of 5 minae ^, in case of a mina T ^. The date of the 
decree is the second or first century B.C. 

Though it is difficult to understand the procedure in case of the 
5 mina weight, which seems exceptional, it is impossible to regard 
this decree as anything but a deliberate attempt to make the sellers 
in the market give more than full weight. Probably a custom had 
arisen of adding a little beyond the exact weight, as indeed often 
happens among ourselves, and this is made compulsory, by a really 
democratic law, a law which would have satisfied Shakespeare's 
Jack Cade. Of course it was futile ; but the mere fact that it was 
passed throws a remarkable light on the nature of the later democracy 
of Athens. If such laws could be made in the Hellenistic age, after 
centuries of successful Athenian trading, we can scarcely be surprised 
that in the simple and unpractised sixth century B.C., even a wise 
lawgiver who wished to conciliate the people should legislate to a 
similar effect, and ordain that the seller should give the buyer full 
weight and a little more. 

1 This has already been pointed out by Prof. v. Wilamowitz-Mollendorff, 
Aristoteles und Athen, i, p. 43. 



36 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

And this may explain a fact which I have elsewhere l noted, that it 
is quite usual in the case of Greek weights, and especially in the case 
of the numerous Athenian weights which have come down to us, that 
they should be appreciably heavier than the standard. A people so 
fond of bargaining as the Greeks, whether ancient or modern, would 
greatly appreciate a liberal measure ; and by using such weights and 
measures a dealer in the market would be sure to increase his clientele. 
We must not hastily apply modern scientific notions on such subjects 
in the case of the ancient world. 

All through the course of history the tendency of coins is to 
deteriorate in weight and quality, unless when some fully organized 
State with a commercial instinct makes it a part of its policy to keep 
up the standard, and in so doing perhaps to keep up the standard 
of its neighbours. But the tendency in weights and measures is 
quite different ; competition keeps them up or even raises them. 
Tnis may explain how it was that Solon, while he increased the 
measures and the commercial weights, lowered the standard of the 
coin. Formerly I supposed that his standard was slightly heavier 
than the Euboic, 67-5 grains for the drachm, in place of 65. But 
I am now convinced that this slight increase in the weight came in 
the time, not of Solon, but of Peisistratus, as shall be presently shown. 

Paragraph (5) is made somewhat obscure by the addition of the 
phrase itpbs TO vo^iv^a. Apart from that, we might naturally have 
supposed that it gives one the exact percentage by which the 
Pheidonian weights were increased, namely three minae to the talent, 
or five per cent. And this must, in spite of the additional words, 
be what is meant. We must therefore take the phrase Trpds rd 
vo/Aio-jLia to imply not that the coin-weights were raised, which is 
clearly not the fact, but that the weight of commodities which were 
bought and sold for money was raised. It seems to me that these 
interpretations give us for the first time a reasonable and probable 
view of the monetary reform of Solon. 

in. The Coinage of Peisistratus. 

The date of the first issue of the well-known tetradrachms of 
Athens, which bear on one side the head of Athena, on the other an 
owl and an olive-twig, has been much disputed. The opinion of 
Mr. Head, an opinion always entitled to great weight, assigns this 
issue to the early years of the sixth century, and to the reform of 
Solon. He observes that 2 f among them are the oldest and rudest 

1 Article Pondera, in Smith's Diet, of Antiquities. 
Hist. Num., ed. 2, p. 369. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 37 

examples of a human head on any ancient coins . . . and I take these 
to be quite the earliest Greek coins which were struck with both 
obverse and reverse types.' 

On the other hand Dr. Imhoof-Blumer and M. J. P. Six regard 
it as impossible that coins with two types on obverse and reverse, 
should make their appearance so early. These excellent authorities 
think that the coinage did not arise until the time of Hippias 
520-514 B.C. The coins which appear to Head so rude, and which 
are indeed of very careless and primitive style, are regarded by them 
as barbarous copies, or coins issued at a time of stress, and not really 
very archaic. Imhoof regards them as struck during the democracy 
which followed the fall of Hippias : Six prefers to suppose that they 
were struck when Hippias was besieged in the Acropolis. 

I have no hesitation in a partial acceptance of this view. It 
seems to me clear that a great proportion of the extant early tetra- 
drachms is really of barbarous and imitative character. Such coins 
are Babelon pi. xxxiv, nos. 2-11 and Brit. Mus. Cat. pi. i, 3, 5, 6 
(our PL Nos. 14, 15). These must be distinguished from the really 
fine archaic coins of Athens, which certainly preceded them. The 
fabric of the two classes of coins is very different ; in the one case 
we have fine and careful work, in the other great carelessness and 
irregularity. 

It is to be observed that the theta with crossed bar , which is 
a really archaic form, is found, so far as I am aware, only on coins 
of the finer and more careful type, 1 which I regard as struck at 
Athens itself. The other form of O is found invariably on the 
ruder coins, which may be barbarous copies. Although archaic 
forms of letters often reappear at a time when one would suppose 
them obsolete, and so are not a very trustworthy guide in the assign- 
ment of dates by inscriptions, yet the facts which I have noted fall 
in rather with the theory that these rude coins are late in date than 
with the view that they belong to the time of Solon. 

The barbarous class may very possibly have been struck by the 
Persian army when in Greece. The troops of Xerxes would need 
silver money as well as the gold darics to pay for such necessaries 
as they could not procure without payment. And this view is 
actually confirmed by the discovery of coins of the class in the canal 
of Xerxes by Mount Athos, 2 and on the Acropolis itself. 3 This 

1 Such as Brit. Mus. Cat., PL ii. 6-7 ; Babelon, Traite, PL xxxiv. 15-17. 
This is found in the very early inscriptions of Athens, down to the time of 
Euphronius. See Droysen, Prcuss. Akad. der Wiss. , Sitzungsber. 1882, p. 8. 

2 Babelon, Traite, ii. 1, p. 765. * Babelon, pi. xxxiv. 2-8, 10, 11. 



38 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

theory had already occurred to Beule and F. Lenormant. Such 
coins as I am considering may then fairly be given to the end of the 
sixth or the beginning of the fifth century. 

But what is the date of the really earliest coins of Athena type, 
those pieces of fine archaic type the style of which is so distinctive 
that we can venture with confidence to give them a date ? I refer to 
such coins as Babelon pi. xxxiv. 14-18; xxv. 1, 2; Brit. Mus. 
Cat. pi. i. 11, pi. ii. 2, 7 (our PL Nos. 12, 13). We must briefly 
consider their fabric and style. In regard to fabric the most note- 
worthy fact is that they have a reverse as well as an obverse type. 
This is a rare phenomenon in the sixth century, east of the Adriatic. 
But two types were in use in Italy at the middle of the sixth 
century ; and some coins of Samos, which must be given to the 
same date, have a reverse type enclosed in an incuse square. 1 But 
we know of no coins earlier than about 550 B.C. which have two 
types. In regard to style we have a great range of Athenian 
sculpture in the sixth century for comparison. The coins do not 
exhibit the so-called island style, notable in the case of the dedicated 
Corae; but they may well be set beside the head of Athena from 
the pedimental Gigantomachy, which may date from about 530- 
520 B. c., the head of the Calf-bearer, and the heads of the bronze 
statuettes of Athena from the Perserschutt. 

I therefore accept the view of several authorities, perhaps best 
defended by von Fritze, 2 that the earliest tetradrachms of Athens 
belong to the middle of the sixth century. Von Fritze shows that 
the head of Athena on them is about contemporary with that on the 
coins of Corinth of 550-500 B.C. 3 There can I think be little doubt 
that this coinage was initiated by Peisistratus. That Tyrant had, as 
every one knows, a special cult of Athena. He obtained possession 
of extensive mines of silver, both at Laurium, and in the valley of 
the Strymon, 4 and required large issues of silver for the payment 
of his mercenaries. He filled Athens with artists, brought from 
Ionia and the Islands, and employed them on great works. He made 
the Panathenaic festival more splendid. In short, he was precisely 
the man to initiate a great coinage. It is possible that a great cele- 
bration of the Panathenaea by Peisistratus was the occasion of its 
first appearance. 

The Athena coinage of Athens, from its first appearance, is 
regulated by a standard somewhat heavier than the Euboic drachm 

1 Gardner, Samos, pi. i. 8-12. 

2 Zeitschr.f. Num. xx. 143. So also Perrot and Lermann. 

s See above, p. 24. 4 Hdt. i. 64. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 39 

67-5 grains (grammes 4-37), instead of 65 grains (grammes 4-20). This 
is easily explicable if they were issued by a tyrant of magnificent ideas, 
anxious to make his city, his temple, his coins, the best in the world. 
The coins were of fine silver, almost without alloy; and they very 
speedily gained a reputation which they never lost. They seem to 
have given rise, almost at once, to barbarous imitations; and 
barbarous imitations abounded until Hellenistic times, when the 
mint of Athens took careful measures to exclude such. Indeed they 
were remarkably easy to copy ; and there was no reason why they 
should not be copied by any tyrant or state which wished to put 
silver into circulation. 

The raising of the monetary standard by Peisistratus is one of the 
land-marks of the early coinage of Hellas. We have seen, in dealing with 
coins of Euboea, Corinth, and other cities that the action of Athens 
compelled them also to raise the weight of their coins, which other- 
wise would have stood in an unfavourable position in the neutral 
markets. And thus we are furnished with a date in arranging the 
early series of coins which is as valuable for the money of the sixth 
century as is the introduction of the Rhodian standard for the 
classification of the money of the early fourth century. Numismatists 
generally have missed this clue, because they have identified the 
Euboic and Attic standards, whereas the evidence of the coins them- 
selves proves them to have been perceptibly different. 

The standard introduced by Peisistratus was used in the earliest 
times of coinage, the sixth or even the seventh century, at Samos or 
some neighbouring city, for electrum and for silver. 1 It was also 
used at Cyrene for silver from 600 B.C. It appears to have been 
derived from Egypt, where a kat of the weight of 135-140 grains 
(grammes 8-74-9-07) was in use in the Delta. Through Naucratis 
this weight spread in one direction to Cyrene, in another to Samos. 
Peisistratus adopted it partly perhaps with a view to trade in Egypt. 
It is a suggestive fact that large numbers of early Athenian coins 
have been found in Egypt, on the site of Naucratis and elsewhere. 

Another explanation of the raising of the standard by Peisistratus 
may be found in the fact of his working mines of silver in Thrace. 
We see in examining the coins of Thasos and the neighbouring 
coast, that the stater in ordinary use there in the sixth century weighed 
from 140 grains (9-07 grammes) upwards. Whence this standard was 
derived is uncertain ; but the source may very possibly be Egyptian. 

Whencesoever Peisistratus derived his coin-standard, it is certain 
that its adoption at Athens was the beginning and foundation of 
1 Head, Num. Chron. 1876, 273 ; Cat. Ionia, pp. xxiii, xli. 



40 PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY 

Attic commercial supremacy. Thenceforward the Attic silver coin 
dominated more and more the trade of the Aegean. The pure and 
heavy coins of Athens tended to drive out inferior issues. When the 
reign of the Tyrants at Athens gave way to that of the democracy, 
the determination of the people to force the circulation of their money 
grew stronger. Recently published inscriptions have proved to what 
a degree the Athenian Demos hindered and prohibited the issue of 
coins by the subject allies in the time of the Delian League. 1 In 
a well-known passage in the Frogs (405 B.C.) Aristophanes 
speaks of the Athenian coinage as everywhere dominant, received 
both by Greeks and barbarians. Even after the political fall of 
Athens, Xenophon could write 2 that foreign merchants who carried 
away from Athens not goods but the silver owls did a good business, 
for they could anywhere part with them at a premium. 

The roots of the flourishing Athenian Empire were fed largely by 
the silver of Laurium. The Peisistratid coinage presents a striking 
contrast to the modest issues of Solon, scarcely to be distinguished 
from those of Euboea. It marks what Shakespeare calls ( the tide 
in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.' 
None of the triumphs of the Athenian tetradrachms was greater than 
that which they won when the powerful tyrants of Sicily, Gelon and 
Hieron and Theron accepted their lead and initiated the splendid 
coinage of Sicily. 

In the time of the tyrant Hippias (527-511 B.C.) a fresh crisis 
took place in the Athenian coinage, if we may trust an obscure 
passage in the Oeconomica attributed to Aristotle, which runs f he 
made the current money of Athens no longer legal tender, and fixing 
a rate of purchase ordered the people to bring it in to him, but when 
they were assembled in expectation of the issue of a new type he gave 
back the same money/ 3 

The natural way of taking this passage is as a statement that 
Hippias called in the current money, valuing it at a certain rate of 
discount, and crediting at that rate those who brought it in : but 
afterwards he paid these persons not in a new and full-weighted 
coinage, but in the old currency. This of course is a procedure the 
first part of which has been followed from time to time in all countries, 
when a coinage has become outworn or debased, though more usually 

1 Weil, in Zeitschr.f. Numism., xxv, p. 52. 2 De Vectigal. iii. 2. 

8 TO re po/xtoyui TO ov 'Adijvaiois a&oKipov fnoirjtrf, rdas 8e ripr/p fVceXeucre irpbs 
aiirov dj/cuco^i'feiv* avv(\B6vTu>v 8t eVi TO> KOX//-CU trfpov x (1 P aKT 'lP a t f^Sa>Kf TO aiiro 
apyvptov. Oecon. ii. 4. A similar story is told of Dionysius of Syracuse. 

* Num. Chron. 1895, p. 178 ; cf. Num. Chron. 1897, p. 292. So M. Babelon, 
Traitt, p. 742. 



THE EARLIEST COINS OF GREECE PROPER 41 

in modern times it is the state and not the individual which bears the 
loss. But there are difficulties in supposing that this is the meaning 
of the writer, or at all events in supposing that this really took place 
at Athens. For the early money of Athens is of full weight and 
great purity, so that there could be no excuse for calling it in as 
debased, and it is difficult to see what could have been the motive of 
the tyrant. 

M. Six, followed by Mr. Hill, has supposed that though Hippias 
gave back the same coin, he did not give it back at the same rate ; 
but that he reduced the standard of the drachm from the earlier level 
of 135 grains to the later level of 67-5 grains, thus halving its weight ; 
and while he had accepted the ordinary Athena and owl coins as 
didrachms he returned them as tetradrachms, thus making a gain of 
50 per cent. We have however seen that there is no valid reason for 
supposing the drachm between the times of Solon and Hippias to 
have been of double the weight of the later Athenian drachm. The 
view of M. Six therefore lacks foundation. 

Mr. Head has suggested 1 that Hippias may have improved and 
modernized the types of the coinage ; although to the people who 
were expecting something quite different it might well seem the same 
coin over again. Perhaps this suggestion is the best. If we are to 
accept the statement of the Oeconomica as historic, the best plan is 
to take it quite literally and simply. Hippias, on some pretext, called 
in the money of the Athenians at a discount, and then, instead of 
issuing an entirely fresh coinage, gave out coins of the old types at 
full value. A possibility which occurs to us is that his object may 
have been to exclude from the coinage the barbarous imitations which 
seem to have been so abundant. In any case the extant coins 
sufficiently prove that no great change took place at that time in the 
Athenian issues. 

1 Num. Chron. 1893, p. 249. 



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