Ancient Greek History

Ancient Greeks Were the First to Use Coin Money

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Ancient Athens Coin (reverse)There are certain things that we take for granted and coin money is one of those. Unless we use our credit cards, coins are something that we encounter nearly every day. Did you know that civilizations didn’t always use money to make purchases? There was a time when people would either create the goods themselves or trade for them for other goods. Money didn’t start being used until cultures became a lot more sophisticated.

Who Really Had the First Coin?

It’s fairly difficult to determine which ancient civilization was the absolute first to use coin money. It is widely acknowledged that the Ancient Greeks, Ancient Chinese, and Ancient Lydians all began using coins around the same time, beginning in the 8th Century BC.  Examples of money were found across all three civilizations, which is a strong indicated that they all started to use them around the same time.

Greek Drachma Started as Long Rods

One thing is for certain – Greeks have been using some form of money in exchange for goods and services since 1100 BC. Back then, however, the drachma wasn’t shaped like coins – it had the form of several long rods and offered a way for people to value their goods and services in a more standardized way. Trading for other goods and services is fairly inconsistent. Once the drachma was invented, it changed the nature of the economics in Greece.

Ancient Greeks Start Using Coin Money

As mentioned above, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the Ancient Greeks started using coin money. It is likely that they did so at the same time as other civilizations, such as the Chinese and the Ancient Lydians. In fact, the Lydian Lion, the ancient coin that came from Lydia, is shaped in a similar way to the Greek drachma, which suggests that the two forms of currency somehow influenced each other. Originally, the drachma coin was measured as 1/6 of a standard drachma rod, and offered an easy way to break the drachma up into smaller units.

The System Gets More Sophisticated

Even though the original drachma featured cylindrical rods, the system got a lot more sophisticated over time. The original system, which was entirely based on the value of these rods, eventually fell out of favor. Instead, a sophisticated system of coinage took its place. Here are some of the coins that were eventually available in Ancient Greece:

  • Dekadrachm – was the equivalent of 10 Drachma.
  • Tetradrachm – was the equivalent of 4 Drachma.
  • Didrachm -was the equivalent of 2 Drachma.
  • Drachma – was the equivalent of 6 obols.
  • Tetrobol – was the equivalent of 4 obols.
  • Triobol – was 3 obols, or 1/2 a drachma.
  • Diobol – was the equivalent of 2 obols.
  • Obol – was the equivalent of 4 tetartemoria, or 1/6 a drachma.
  • Tritartemorion – was the equivalent of 3 tetartemoria.
  • Hemiobol – was the equivalent of 3 tetartemoria.

The Greeks absolutely may have been the first to use coin money. However, it’s something that is difficult to trace for sure. No matter if they were the first or not, they definitely influenced their neighbors and they were also the first civilization in Europe to use coin money.


Wikipedia – Coin Money

Wikipedia – Greek Drachma

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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