The Exchange : The Roots of Coinage

The Roots of Coinage

Historians love to talk and write about ancient Greece because of its rich history involving wars, mythology, architecture, culture, art and much more. Embedded in that vast array of historic art were some of the first and most beautiful coins ever produced in the world.


It is believed that the Greeks originally got the idea of coinage from the Lydians of Asia Minor. However, it was the Greeks who expanded coinage throughout the Mediterranean region and established the basic principles of coins. Ancient Greek history is important to understanding the roots of what and why we do many of the things we do today. That is why I chose to write this week's blog about the roots of coinage, which started in ancient Greece.


The idea of coinage in Greece was adopted around the closing years of the 7th century B.C. During those times Greece was characterized by the polis, which were city-states, several hundreds of which existed. These city-states shared the same language and culture, worshiped the same religious gods, and at times banded together to go to war. However, the city-states each had their own customs, governments and laws, and at times they would go to war with each other. It is easy to see that even though these city-states had commonalities, they also were very different from one another and wished to display their individuality and independence from one another. When coinage was first introduced, many city-states created their own specific coinage, which became associated with civic pride and political independence. This led to nearly every Greek city and colony producing coinage. 


The Greek cities established the basic principles of coinage that are still used today including how they should look, the information they should have engraved on them, and how they should be used. Much like our coins today, the coins were used as a mode of communication of religious devotion, civic pride, and expression of art that reflected historical portraits of objects such as people, temples, and important buildings. Take a moment to look at the U.S.  State Quarters to see how they communicate religious devotion, civic and state specific pride, and the expression of art for each state. 

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The Greeks would pass on their coinage ideas to the Romans, and through the years changes have occurred with coins. Nevertheless, if you look at coinage today, you will see striking comparisons to that of Greek coinage. Hence, Greece is credited with developing the roots of coinage.


If you are interesting in Ancient Greek coinage and want to learn more, then consider enrolling in ANA Money Museum curator Douglas Mudd's Summer Seminar course, "Ancient Greek Coinage: An Overview of the World's First Coins."  Or, if you just want to see a display of the coinage, then plan a visit to the Money Museum in Colorado Springs and check out the History of Money exhibit





Written by Brandon Ortega at 00:00



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