The Greeks adopted the idea of coinage from the Lydians during the closing years of the 7th century B.C. Greeks found the concept so useful that within 150 years coinage was being produced at nearly every Greek city and colony from southern France to the northern shores of the Black Sea. In fact, the Greeks adopted coinage so early and spread it so widely that they gave their name to the Western coinage tradition. In the process, the Greeks established the basic principles of what coins should look like, the information they should have engraved on them, and how they should be used — principles which are still with us today. These ideas they passed on to their neighbors including the Romans.

The Greek cities immediately associated coinage with political independence and civic pride, so it became important for even the smallest cities to issue coinage. Among the first Greek states to adopt coinage was the island of Aegina, whose “turtles” became famous throughout the Aegean Sea as a coinage whose consistent metal content and weight for trade could be relied upon for centuries. Coinage soon spread among the Greek states and their colonies and by the 5th century B.C., there were hundreds of cities issuing coins throughout the Mediterranean region and beyond. Today we are aware of more than 800 different ancient Greek mint cities, many known only through their coins.

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