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CFA Institute

Chapters on the History of Money: Chapter II. The Early Greek and Ionians
Author(s): Jeremy C. Jenks
Source: Financial Analysts Journal, Vol. 21, No. 5 (Sep. - Oct., 1965), pp. 94-103
Published by: CFA Institute
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by Jeremy C. Jenks



of Greek Civilizationwas

around the shores of the Aegean Sea and the

numerous islands, such as the Cyclades, that
stretch southeastward from Attica. The land around
the Aegean is mountainous. Less than a quarter of
Greece Proper is cultivatable, and good bottom land
suitable for agriculture consists of small plains separated by mountains. The hill and mountain regions
support sheep and goats but little else. The arable land
is nothing like the fertile valleys of Mesopotamia and
Egypt. Rainfall is sharply seasonal, and never-failing
springs are rare and were usually the sites of the towns
and cities that developed. No point in Greece is more
than sixty miles from the sea.
The origin of the Greeks is not known with any precision. Greece was inhabited from early Neolithic times,
probably from the fifth millennium B.C., and there is
evidence that several waves of early settlers came down
through the mountains from Macedonia and the North.
Agricultural methods and many cultural influences,
however, came across the Aegean by sea from the early
civilizations of the Orient. It is only 200 miles from
Athens to Miletus at the mouth of the Maeander River
in Turkey and about the same distance from Athens to
Cnossus on the island of Crete. At no point in the
Aegean can a sailor be more than forty miles from land.
The Bronze Age in the Aegean began about 2800
B.C., and lasted to 1100 B.C. The Minoan culture in
Crete flowered by 2000 B.C. and the Achaean culture
in Greece came somewhat later and owed much to the
Cretans who, in turn, borrowed heavily from the cultures of Egypt and Babylonia. By 2000 B.C. the peoples
of Greece and the Aegean shore and islands had created
an agricultural society of village dwellers, used copper
and bronze tools, and were governed by local lords.
About this time (ca. 1950 B.C.) waves of Indo-European nomadic tribes invaded Greece. These barbarians
both conquered, and were assimilated by, the early
The author, a partner in the investment firm of Cyrus
J. Lawrence & Sons, has been President of The New York
Society of Security Analysts and the Financial Analysts
Federation. He is a student of economic history, a collector of ancient Greek and Roman coins, and a member
of the American Numismatic Society.
Chapter I on the History of Money was published in the
March-April 1964 issue of the Journal.

Greeks. The Greek language that developed was primarily that of the invaders, but it took over and kept
many old Greek words - seafaring terms and place
names such as Athens, Thebes and Corinth. Also, words
for spices and other luxuries that came from the East
were from the old tongue, as apparently these products
had not been known by the invading tribes.
The Achaean culture blossomed and first conquered
and then supplanted the Minoan culture by about 1400
B.C. We think of this civilization in terms of the Iliad,
Odyssey and other heroic legends such as those of Jason
and Hercules. The story of the early Greek Bronze Age
is now emerging rather rapidly from obscurity and coIntroversy due, in great measure, to the discovery of clay
tablets at Cnossus in Crete, Pylos in the southwestern
Peloponnese, Mycenae in the northeastern Peloponnese
and other places that were centers of this civilization.
The translation of this lost language and the surprising
discovery that it was an early form of Greek is an exciting story in itself. What has been revealed confirms the
broad outlines of the kind of civilization described in
the Iliad, but adds a most interesting insight into the
economic organization of these small fortress-states.
The principal commodities of trade appear to have
been wine, olive oil (which was frequently perfumed
and processed into unguents and ointments), cloth,
metals and metal products. Greece and Crete were, and
are today, the principal olive oil producing regions of
the eastern Mediterranean. These early Greeks were also
experts at vine culture and wine production. Big jars
in which wine was aged have been found with clay seals
identifying the vineyard and the vintage year. Olive oil
and wine were, of course, transported in pots and jars.
The Achaeans took great pride in their pottery which
was highly distinctive. Accordingly, we know from
shards and fragments of broken jars that by the middle
of the second millennium B.C. they had become a wideroving, far-trading people. Their pottery has been found
in Syria and Palestine, in Egypt as far south as Aswan,
around the shores and islands of the Aegean, Adriatic
and Hellespont, in Rhodes and Cyprus, westward at
coastal sites around the boot of Italy and in Sicily.
One of the important commodities imported by the
Greeks was tin, worth at times more than its weight in
silver. While copper was fairly common around the
Aegean, tin was very scarce. To make a good bronze
sword that would hold a cutting edge required 15 % tin.
Bronze with less than 5% was very soft. It is possible
that some tin mines were worked in the early centuries

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of the Greek Bronze Age in the Peloponnese. Mycenae,

the leading fortress-state of the period, may have owed
much of its wealth and power to the happy accident of
a local tin deposit. Most tin came from Bohemian,
Spanish and English mines by trade routes that frequently involved several intermediaries.
Because of the scarcity of tin, and accordingly good
bronze, only a small segment of the population could
afford bronze weapons. These were the aristocrats. The
king, with their support, controlled the bronze supply
and strictly organized the manufacturing, farming and
commerce of the state. The picture that emerges is that
the Homeric heroes, Agamemnon, Nestor, Menelaus
and the others, were merchant monopolists whose real
quarrel with Troy was, probably, King Priam's efforts
to tax the Greek merchant vessels that sailed through
the Hellespont.
That these Achaean kings were prosperous is well
attested by the objects found in their graves and by the
inventory lists that have survived on clay tablets. Beads
of amber from the North Sea, ebony from Egypt, ivory
from the great ivory carving centers in Syria and Palestine, rock crystal from Crete, and many other rare and
valuable objects were acquired as a result of the favorable trade balance.
Silver was mined in several areas of Greece, but gold
was relatively scarce. Accordingly, the gold costume
ornaments, hammered gold death masks, as well as the
rings, necklaces, diadems and drinking cups found in
Mycenaean graves and elsewhere were probably only a
token of the wealth this early Grecian civilization earned
through commerce.
As in the Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations,
every 'exchangeable' article or material was negotiable
as money. However, there early developed a preference
for metals in many forms which varied in region and
period. In Crete, for example, golden ox heads were
apparently used as money. The Achaean Greeks had
a preference for 'tool money.' In contrast to ancient
oriental practice which weighed out metal bars, these
old Grecian pieces were not carefully assayed and
weighed but were accepted at a standard value. The
most common forms were basins, tripods, sickles, axes
and spits made out of gold, silver, copper or iron. Tool
money appears to have had only a local use. Commerce was still done by barter with a money valuation,
and the balances were usually settled by weighing out
gold or silver on the Babylonian standards by weight
and value.
As indicated in Chapter I, the early standards of
value were weights of various metals, and gold was
worth about 13 1/3 times the same weight of silver.
The Bronze Age Greeks also used great ingots of copper, frequently in the shape of a bull's hide. The ratio
of gold to copper was about 3,000 to 1. Accordingly,
a small piece of gold weighing about 8.5 grammes was

worth the same as 25?/2 kilogrammes of copper (about

60 pounds) and both were the price of an ox. These
heavy bronze and copper talents were in use between
1600 B.C. and 1000 B.C. and have been found in
Greece, Crete, Cyprus, Sardinia, Egypt and other lands.
A coalition of Greek states destroyed Troy about
1260 B.C., and this long struggle may have contributed
to political troubles and the weakening of authority at
home. In any case, by 1200 B.C. the fortress-states
were under attack by barbarians from the North armed
with iron weapons. These Dorians came primarily by
sea from far northern and northwestern Greece. Epirus,
in particular, is thought of as a likely area of Dorian
occupation before the invasion. Pylos fell about 1200
B.C. and was looted and burned. The fact that taxes
were collected in olive oil, as well as other commodities,
and that the heat of the burning oil fired, and thus preserved, the clay tablets in an adjacent 'tax collector's
office' is responsible for much of our knowledge of this
era. Over the next one hundred years the fortress-states
of this civilization were overwhelmed one after another,
only the Acropolis of Athens never being conquered.
Mycenae fell about 1100 B.C. The strongly centralized
civilization collapsed. The art of writing was lost and
Greece descended into a dark age. While in Greece
many of the warrior aristocrats perished when their
citadels were overwhelmed, some escaped by sea to
Athens and thence to the coast of Anatolia where they
founded such great cities as Miletus, Colophon and
others. The Iliad and Odyssey probably were composed
in one or more of these Ionian cities, in the eighth century B.C., perhaps by descendants of these refugees.
The destruction of this Bronze Age Civilization was
not an isolated event. Egypt beat off an invasion by sea
about 1230 B.C. and an even more serious attack by
land around 1190-1185 B.C. Many powerful cities were
sacked on the coast of Cyprus, Syria and Palestine. The
Hittite kingdom in Asia Minor was overwhelmed, and
even the great warrior kingdom of Assyria had trouble
riding out the storm.
The Dorians had a racial background similar to the
Bronze Age Greeks of Mycenae or Pylos and spoke
Greek. The terms Dorian, lonian or Aeolian, as they
are used in history books, do not refer to any special
ethnic group but rather to the Greek dialects spoken.
These invaders were barbarians and were apparently
motivated by a lust for loot. They did not conquer because their iron weapons were better, quite the contrary.
The soft iron sword of that day was greatly inferior to
the keen bronze weapons of the Achaeans. For that
matter, after a few lusty whacks the Dorian would have
to bend his sword back into shape, which could be risky
in the middle of a hot fight. The reason they won was
that iron was cheaper and the whole tribe was armed
while as we have seen, bronze was expensive and only a
few had weapons.


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The Dark Ages in Greece lasted from 1100 B.C.

till about 800 B.C. The well organized economy was
totally destroyed and the population of the Aegean
basin dropped terrifically and many areas sank back
into a nomadic life as the survivors fled to the hills.
Within a few hundred years even the physical remains
of Mycenaean palaces were no longer understood. The
massive stone walls of Tiryns and Mycenae and the
roads that led northward to Corinth paved with stone
and with well built bridges, still standing in many cases,
seemed beyond the power of mortal man to build. They
had been built, it was thought, by a race of giants, the
The cultural center of Greece shifted to the Greek
colonies founded on the shore and nearby islands of
Anatolia. Apart from early settlements in Rhodes,
which go back before the Trojan wars, the first Greek
colonies were in the North, particularly the Island of
Lesbos and the adjacent mainland. A second wave of
settlers generally went to the Central part of the coast,
the area of Chios and Samos and the mainland nearby.
The northern group became known as Eolis; the middle
group, Jonia. The latter was more important and the
distinction was usually ignored. A later colonization in
the South by the Dorians from the eastern Peloponnese,
including the re-settlement of Rhodes, became known
as Doris.
With the breakup of Minoan sea power and later of
Achaean, the Phoenicians began to dominate the trade
of the eastern Mediterranean. Their principal product
was cloth dyed in shades ranging from crimson to
purple. These dyes were made from the juice of the
murex, a shellfish that flourished off the Phoenician
coast and was also found among the islands of the
Aegean. For a while, Sidon dominated the trade but
by the twelfth century B.C. a colony, Tyre, rivaled the
mother city. Between the tenth and eighth centuries
B.C., Tyre became the dominate city of the Phoenicians,
and they not only traded throughout the Mediterranean
but colonized. They founded Utica on the North coast
of Africa, settled in western Sicily and in Spain, both
on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. For a time they
dominated the tin trade. While iron was gradually replacing bronze, the process of hardening iron was not
well developed and tin was still in great demand.
Around 814 B.C. Carthage was founded and, after the
Assyrians conquered Phoenicia, became the great rival
of the Greeks. The most important result of early
commercial contacts between the Phoenicians and the
Greeks was the adaptation of the Phoenician alphabet
to the Greek language by the lonians in the ninth century. This was done by rearranging the letters in order
to add vowels.
As mentioned in Chapter I, the Greek settlers on the
coast of Anatolia soon entered into trade relations with
Lydia in the interior. Greek colonies beegan to pan

electrum from the streams and rivers and gradually to

open up mines in the mountains. Coinage in lonia began
very shortly after Lydia and on the same weight standard. The history of this standard can be traced back to
the Bronze Age Greeks. As discussed, the Achaeans
employed large ingots of copper weighing 251/2 kilogrammes which were their heaviest weight unit and were
called talents of copper. The metal was mined, in those
days, mainly from rich mines on the island of Euboea,
separated from Attica and the Greek mainland by a
narrow stretch of water. The Achaeans took this standard of measurement with them when they migrated to
Ionia and, in turn, gave it to the Lydians, and it became
known as an Euboic talent. The talent, as explained,
was composed of sixty mina which in turn was 60
shekels, or sigloi. So, 3,600 went to make up an Euboic
talent and each shekel weighed 7 to 7.08 grammes. A
stater equalled two shekels and weighed about 14.1
Most students of Ionian coinage ascribe the first
known coins to Miletus. This Ionian Greek city was
strategically situated on a promontory with four sheltered harbors and easy communication by boat inland
via the Maeander River. There was flat fertile land for
grain, flanked by hillside vineyards. On the plateau
behind was ample pasturage for the sheep whose wool
supplied the city's famous cloth manufacture. By 700
B.C. Miletus had become the busiest and largest Greek
city anywhere around the Aegean with sixty colonies
and trading posts around the Black Sea, and even on
the coast of Egypt. In addition to textiles and rugs, the
Milesians turned out metal products, furniture, especially beds, and oil and wine shipped in distinctive
pottery. Miletus was also famous for its philosophers,
such as Thales,1 who introduced mathematical and
astronomical sciences into Greece, and Anaximander,2
his pupil.
The early coins of Miletus were electrum and were on
1. Thales, (640?-546 B.C.) Greek philosopher and scientist of Miletus. One of the Seven Wise Men of Greece.
Recognized as founder of Greek geometry, astronomy and
philosophy. Gained fame by predicting an eclipse of the
sun for May 28, 585 B.C. Aristotle tells this story: "They
say that Thales, perceiving by his skill in astrology
(astronomy) that there would be a great plenty of olives
that year, while it was yet winter hired at a low price all
the oil presses in Miletus and Chios, there being no one to
bid against him. But when the season came for making oil,
many persons wanting them he all at once let them upon
what terms he pleased; and raising a large sum of money
by that means, convinced them that it was easy for philosophers to be rich if they choose it." Solon studied under
(Author's note-Perhaps the "If you are so smart why
aren't you rich?" question came, also, to his attention.)
2. Anaximander, (611-547 B.C.) Greek astronomer and
philosopher of Miletus; disciple of Thales. Discovered the
obliquity of the ecliptic, introduced the sundial, and geographical maps. Expounded his doctrines in prose.

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This electrum hecte, or 1/6th stater, is attributed to Phocaeabut as with manyIonian

coins definite identificationis difficult; the
head is a goddessand the reverseis a windmill-like punch mark. Probablybefore 500lott
Lda caia_fSri.Te
(Twoand a half times actual

i mnrls




the same weight standard as the Lydian coins. Smaller

fractions were minted. A hecte (or hektai) was onethird of a sigloi, or one-sixth of a stater. Even smaller
coins were used. This coinage started around 670 B.C.
The earliest coins of Miletus had heraldic devices on the
obverse and merely punch marks on the reverse. For
example, a very early coin had an archaic, geometriclooking stag and the legend: "I am the badge of
Phanes." Miletus at that time was an oligarchy, and
Phanes was apparently a very important citizen who
was given charge of the coinage, as mint-master.
The next lonian Greek cities to open mints were
Phocaea, Chios, Ephesus, Samos, and Lesbos, but not
necessarily in that order. The Phocaic-Chian staters
were of a different standard as follows:
1 di.achmn
4 di-achni


4.1 grammes
1 stater, or 16.4 girammes

Accordingly, I Milesian stater of 14.1 grammes plus

1 hecte of 2.3 grammes equalled 1 Phocaic-Chian stater
of 16.4 grammes.-Phocaea was situated at the mouth of


from which it rose were apparently controlled by the

Phocaean Greeks. Phocaea was the mother city of
Massilia (Marseilles) which was founded in the early
sixth century, B.C. These colonists carried Greek goods
up the Rhone as far as Arles and Mines. They introduced the olive tree and the grapevine and settled all
along the coast in Nice, Monaco and into Spain as far
as Tartessus where there were silver mines. In 535 B.C.
the Carthaginians and Etruscans combined to destroy
the Phocaean fleet and from then on Greek power in the
Western Mediterranean waned.
Ephesus and Samos began to strike coins soon after
Miletus on the same standard. The Aeolian Isle of
Lesbos rivaled the Ionian centers to the south. Of its
five cities, Mytilene, the home of the poetess, Sappho,3
was the greatest. Mytilene was famous for its vineyards
and its perfumed wines. The following four electrum
hecte are probably from Mytilene. They are arranged
in order of their probable age with the oldest, perhaps
back near 500 B.C.
The metal electrum was supposed to be about 75%
gold and 25% silver, and apparently this was the natural combination of metals found in the early days of
Lydian and Ionian coinage. With this proportion electrum was worth approximately ten times as much as
silver by weight and about three quarters as much as
gold. The Greeks shortly learned to artificially mix gold
and silver for this coinage which was confined primarily
to lonia and Greek cities around the Bosporus and
Black Sea at that time. An analysis of Greek electrum
coins indicates a gradual reduction in the gold content
to about 50% and in some cases to as little as 25%
and, while electrum lasted for several hundred years as
a monetary metal in local areas, it soon lost its international utility in commerce to gold and silver coins.
The nature of the Aegean and the land around it
encouraged trade by sea rather than by land. Those
roads built by the 'Cyclopes' remained almost the only
ones in Greece for many centuries. The Greeks attempted to adapt ox harnesses used for plowing to
horses and mules for pulling carts. A draft animal with
a properly designed harness putting the load on the
animal's shoulders is able to pull fifteen times as much
as a man. With the strain on the animal's throat, as
with these harnesses, a mule could pull only four times
as much as a man and could carry that much as a pack
animal. Also, the early Greeks never developed good
3. Sappho, (612?-? B.C.) Greek lyric poet of Lesbos.
Little is known of her life history except that she was
banished from Mytilene with other aristocrats in 593 B.C.
and she went to Sicily. After some years she returned to
Lesbos and became a leader in society. Among the ancients
she was ranked with Homer. Plato refers to her as the
"Tenth Muse." Of her nine books of lyric poems all are
lost except one ode to Aphrodite and a few fragments.
poetry was publicly burned by ecclesiastical
authorities in
1073 A.D.


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1. Head of Pan-Gorgonian head

2. Persephone-butting bull

3. Hermes-panther

4. Zeus Ammon-eagle

(Twoand a half times actual size)

horseshoes to increase the animal's traction. So, in contrast to the great road systems and caravan trade of the
Middle East, the Greek's carried their goods mainly
by sea.
The large Greek ship of the seventh century B.C. was
normally a penteconter, that is, a 50 oared ship with
25 men on each side and two sweeps at the stern to
serve as rudders. The ship carried sail but could not
tack against the wind. She was shallow draft with very
little keel and could be beached. After the development
of anchors, ships became larger, first the bireme and
later the trireme.
With the development of commerce and trade, the
Greeks gained knowledge of the rich farm lands around
the Mediterranean and began to colonize. First trading
posts were established especially in areas rich in metals.
The first Greek settlement in Italy, for example, was the
northernmost at Cumae, north of Naples, where there
was active metal trade with the Etruscans. The second
stage was simply that the poorer people in Greece
sought farm land, and they went out in all directions
especially to southern Italy, Sicily, southern France,
north Africa and all around the Black Sea. Accordingly,
the Greek cities of the motherland became dependent
on the colonies for wheat, meat, fish, and timber, for

which they sent in return manufactured goods of various

kinds and wine and oil.
The commercial and financial development of the
Greek mainland began to flourish by about 750 B.C.
The Iron Age Dorians had established their great
stronghold in the southern Peloponnese, a fertile valley
between two mountain ranges. This area was poor in
copper bearing ores, gold was non-existent and silver
was scarce. However, iron ore was plentiful in Laconia
especially in the central and eastern capes of Taenarum
and Malea. In contrast to other Dorian settlements,
the Spartans subjugated the natives of the regions and
abjured intermarriage or any form of assimilation and
this small minority was supported by restless and rebellious subjects. The early history of Sparta shows a
normal Grecian interest in art, sculpture, poetry and
especially music. However, the need to keep the Helots
under control resulted in a severe code of laws ascribed
to Lycurgus4 which in part says:
"He commanded that all gold and silver coins
4. Lyeurgus, according to tradition, a Spartan lawgiver
of the ninth century B.C. who by decree imposed upon
Sparta institutions designed to produce tough and able

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should be called in and that only a sort of money

made of iron should be current, a great weight and
quantity of which was very little worth; so that, to
lay up 20 to 30 pounds (English pound sterling,
or ten minas in the original Greek) there was required a pretty large closet and to remove it nothing less than a yoke of oxen.".'
This stricture effectively reduced Sparta's foreign trade
to very little and, of course, removed this military state
from the main stream of Grecian culture. Sparta's iron
money became symbolic of the iron discipline and hard
life of the Spartans.
At this time, Sparta's great rival, Argos, in the northeastern Peloponnese also used iron money as currency.
This iron money was in various forms, the best known
of which were iron rods or spits suitable for roasting
meats but for little else. Iron bars represented a larger
unit of value. Pheidon~ was king in the first half of the
seventh century at Argos. He extended his rule over the
island of Aegina in the Saronic Gulf, at that time the
most important trading center on the western side of
the Aegean Sea. In contrast to Sparta, which maintained
its iron money for four centuries after the other Greek
cities adopted coinage of precious metals, Pheidon
adopted coin money which he had learned about in
trade with the lonians. A single iron spit was known
as an obolos. Six iron spits were known as a drachm
or literally, a graspful. Four hundred units of iron
became worth, by his decree, one unit of silver as follows: an obolos of iron weighing 403 grammes became
worth 1 Pheidonian obol of 1.008 grammes; a 'drax' of
6 iron spits weighing 2,418 grammes became equal to
6.03 grammes of silver, or 1 drachm. As these coins
were lighter than the Ionian coins of Miletus it took 70
to equal a mina.
Aegina had substantial silver mines under her control
on the island of Siphnos which, before the full development of the mines of Athens at Laurium, were the
richest in the Aegean. We can distinguish the source
of the silver used in the sixth century, B.C., 'turtle' coins
of Aegina from silver used in other coinage because it
was relatively high in gold content. The gold content
was, apparently, not sufficient to make extraction economic. Accordingly, silver rather than electrum or gold
became the standard money of Greece.
Aegina and her allies had early in the century roundly
defeated Athens in a naval war. The result was that
Aegina and later Corinth were the first great commercial
Lives, page 55.
6. Pheidon, (ca. 680 B.C.) Dictator of Argos, with the
support of the rising merchant class. Went to the rescue
of Aegina when threatened by Athens and Epidaurus and
took it for himself. Established a coinage and weights and
measures. Promoted the arts, built theaters and the Temple
of Hera, the most ancient in Greece. Took the management
of the games at Olympia from Elis and returned it to Pisa.
5. Plutarch's




A didrachmof Aeginawith a land tortoise on the obverse

and an incuse with letters signifyingthe city's name on
the reverse. After 404 B.C.

(Oneand a half times actual size)

cities of Greece Proper. The coinage of Aegina was at

first a sea turtle, sacred to Poseidon, with an incuse
punch mark on the reverse. Later Athens reversed the
earlier naval decision and from that time Aegina's coinage, still welcomely accepted in trade, became the land
Aegina's weights and measures remained standard in
much of Greece till its conquest by Rome.
Corinth controlled the isthmus and accordingly the
land trade between the Peloponnese and northern
Greece. She had good harbors on both the Saronic and
Corinthian Gulfs, and between these she built a wooden
tramway along which ships were drawn on rollers over
the four miles of land between the gulfs. The city was
built around a fortress on a peak 2000 feet high, Acrocorinthus, which had its own inexhaustible spring. In
7 seized the government, with the
655 B.C. CypseluSr
7. Cypselus, Tyrant of Corinth (655?-625 B.C.) overthrew the ruling clan, the Bacchiads. Defeated Corcyra in
the first naval battle between Greek cities. Promoted commercial activity and colonization. Introduced a coinage.
Established a beauty contest for women.


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A stater of Corinthwith head of Athena-Chalinitis and a chimaeraas a symbolon the obverse

and the flying horseon the reverse-a fairly late
coin probablyafter 400 B.C.
(Oneand a half times actual size)

help of the middle and lower classes, from the control

of the landed aristocracy. He established the state coinage. He was followed by his son, Periander,8 who ruled
forty years from 625-5 85 B.C. He made Corinth the
foremost commercial city in Greece, promoted trade by
lowering taxes, supported Corinthian colonies abroad
and established new ones. Corinth naturally expanded
to the West, as Athens to the East, and Syracuse, on the
island of Sicily, founded by Corinth in 734 B.C. became
in time the greatest Greek city of them all.
The early Corinthians had Pegasus, the divine
horse, who was intimately connected in myth with the
Citadel and springs of Corinth, on the obverse and
punch marks on the reverse. The Corinthian stater was
divided into three, not two, drachm. From about 540
B.C. they added the head of Athena with a helmet of
Corinthian shape. The coinages of Corinth and Athens
8. Periander, (?-585 B.C.) Son of Cypselus, Tyrant of
Corinth (625-585 B.C.) Conquered Epidaurus and annexed
Corcyra. Stimulated trade and industry by lowering taxes.
Limited slavery. Encouraged art and literature. Formed
an alliance with Thrasubulus, the Tyrant of Miletus. Built
the Temple of Apollo.

were competitive in commerce, and two Corinthian

staters exactly equalled an Athenian tetradrachm.
Attica, perhapsbecauseof the povertyof its soil, was
spared the full brunt of the Dorian invasion which
flowed by to the West. Only adventuroustrade and
patientcultivationof the olive and the grape made the
civilizationof Athens possible. Here was not a small
groupof conquerorsimposingtheirwill on a largenumber of serfs, but four tribeswho in time learnedto work
togetherfor theircommonwelfareand defense. Athens
grewaroundthe ancientAchaeanAcropolis,and all the
land owners of Attica were its citizens. After King
Docrus had died in heroic self-sacrificeagainst the invading Dorians in 1068 B.C., as the legends have the
story,the citizensdecidedthat no man was good enough
to succeed him and replacedthe king with an archon,
chosen for life. Successively,they limited and divided
the archon'spowers, and the governmentgraduallybecame a feudal aristocracywhich lasted for nearly five
In Attica, and in much of the rest of Greece, economic problemsbegan to develop to the point of class
warfare. In the country the land was divided into
smallerand smallerholdingsas the farms were apportioned among the sons. Emigrationrelieved the pressure for a time, but eventuallycheap grain and other
farm productsbegan to flow back from the colonies,
and the plightof the smallfarmerbecamedesperate.To
convertgrainland to grapesor olives took capital. An
olive tree takes sixteen years to bear fruit and forty
years to reach full yield. The aristocratslent money at
high ratesto the poor farmerwith not only his farmbut
himself and his family as security. For failure to pay
his debts the individualand his family could be sold
into slavery.
In the town,the free laborerswere being reducedalso
to destitutionby the competitionof slave labor. By the
end of the seventhcentury,B.C., Athenswas at the edge
of revolution.
A scion of one of the noble familiesof Attica, a poet
and a successfulmerchant,Solon,9was asked by representativesof the middle class in 594 B.C. to accept
election, nominally as a archon, but with dictatorial
powers to establish a new constitution and restore
stabilityto the state. His first measure was to cancel
all existing debts (except in all likelihood commercial
debts) and clearedall Attic land of mortgages. All persons enslavedfor debt were freed and those sold abroad
9. Solon, (638?-559 B.C.) Athenian lawgiver. Wrested
Salamis from the Megarians (ca. 596 B.C.) In period of
economic distress elected archon (ca. 594). Reorganized
the senate, popular assembly and council of the Areopagus.
Improved the lot of debtors and divided the population into
four classes. Left Athens for 10 years and traveled in
Egypt, Cyprus and Lydia. As Plutarch says: "Each day
he grew older and learned something new."

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were bought back and freed by the state. In the future

no one could be enslaved for debt. Also, limits were set
to the size of estates, and the dispossessed landless were
helped to recover their property.
The Athenians began to coin money about 615 B.C.
The first coins had a representation of an oil amphora,
a principal item of export, and on the reverse a punch
mark. Attica at the time was the sole state on the Greek
mainland that mined silver in its own territory. The
mines at Laurium, which is near Sunium, in the hills on
the southern point of Attica produced silver and other
metals for more than five hundred years. The strata
are limestone and schist. The Greeks early discovered,
perhaps before the Dorian invasions, that rich ores containing silver, lead, manganese and zinc lay between
these strata. Red iron oxide on the surface, which
usually accompanies lead crystals, supplied the clues
for digging. The tunnels were seldom more than a meter
high so the workers, usually slaves and criminals, had
to work on their knees or bellies. The ore was carried
out in sacks or baskets. Vertical shafts from 200 to 300
feet deep were driven into the mine in order to pull up
the ore by ropes and for ventilation. The mines were
state property, and each mine was let to a contractor on
a three to ten-year lease. The rate varied but was frequently a talent per year plus one-twenty-fourth of the
The ore was pulverized with mortar and pestle and
washed so the heavy metals would settle out. The lead
was melted with iron and a catalyst, such as calcium
carbonate. This yields ferrous sulfide and a mixture of
lead, silver and other metals. The silver was extracted
by filtering the molten lead through a material such as
bone ash or porous clays and heating with an excess of
The silver was .978 fine. The total production out of
this mine was over two million tons of silver bearing
lead, and the slag heaps contained less than 12% metal
indicating the efficiency of the smelting process. The
silver from Laurium contained minute quantities of gold
but somewhat less than Aegina's silver from the mines
at Siphnos.
The social and political change in Athens, and in
many of the other Greek city-states of this period, was
caused in part by the development of a flexible monetary
system. The old methods of barter with values based
on precious metals worked well in large transactions,
such as commerce, but much less well in the market
place. The development of coins in small denominations, which Greeks carried in their mouths, greatly
facilitated the exchange by the small farmer of his surplus production for the product of the local blacksmith
or shoemaker. Now the small farmer and the small
tradesman could easily sell their surplus production for
money. This meant the opportunity for making savings


to tide them through lean periods and for expanding

their production by reinvestment, and so improving
their social, economic and political positions.
Prior to this time ownership of land, together with
an establishment of members of the family and slaves
which could self-sufficiently produce almost all living
requirements, had been the only basis for citizenship
and the only reasonably secure means of livelihood.
With the development of a money economy, all types of
manufacturing and trading businesses began to emerge.
Fortunes were made in mining, pottery manufacturing,
leather working, weapon and armor production along
with all kinds of metal working and, of course, commerce, money lending, tax farming, slave leasing and
many other businesses. These people, most of them not
of the old landed families, gradually gained political
power and under Solon and Peisistratus'lo in Athens
achieved the vote and the right to hold the highest office.
The other Greek development that tended to spread
the franchise was the emergence of the heavily armed
foot soldier, the Hoplite, who standing together in
phalanx with long spears, shields, swords and body
armor, became the decisive military force of the age.
These soldiers learned how to defeat cavalry and
chariots and they also were the marines in the large
navies that developed, particularly at Athens at this
time. In relation to their larger military value to the
city-state, they also were able to increase their political
The original coins of Athens were of the same weight
as the Pheidonian coins of Aegina. Seventy of these
made a mina. Solon reduced the size of the coins so
that 100 made a mina. The didrachm (double drachm)
weighed from 8.23 to 8.60 grammes and the obol
weighed about 0.7 grammes.
After Solon's voluntary exile from Athens, the aristocrats regained control of the government. Their coins
had a variety of designs including the triskeles (3 bent
legs radiating from the center), chariot wheels, the forepart of a horse, a bull's head, a horseman and other
designs. These were shield devices representing noble
families and clans. The triskeles and the chariot wheel
are associated with the Alcmaeonidae, the bull's head
with a priestly clan called the Eteobutadae, and so forth.
The chariot wheel coins are datable to 589-61 B.C., the
period between Solon's archonship and Peisistratus'
10. Peisistratus, Tyrant of Athens following Solon. Distinguished himself in war against Megara. Took up cause
of working class and seized power in 560 B.C. Driven out
twice, in 556 and 549 B.C., but established himself firmly
and governed from 546 till his death in 527 B.C. Preserved
and strengthened the democratic institutions of Solon.
Planted colonies on the Dardanelles. Built Temple of Zeus.
Founded Panathenaic games. Appointed a committee to
give the Iliad and Odyssey the form which we know. Collected the earliest library in Greece.


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number of different weights and, as indicated earlier,

with varying proportions of gold and silver. The Euboic
electrum stater varied in weight from about 8 grammes
to a maximum of about 8.75 grammes. The LydioMilesian stater, frequently referred to as the Phoenician
stater, varied in weight from about 14 grammes to about
14.3 and as mentioned earlier, the Phocaic-Chian stater
was somewhat heavier varying from 16 to about 16.5
grammes. These were the three principal electrum coinages of the time.
The next chapter will cover the standards for gold
coinage which were important in the western Greek
cities such as Syracuse. Greeks in Greece Proper very
rarely coined in gold and, in lonia and the Black Sea
regions, electrum and silver were much more common
than was gold.
The following were the principal denominations of
Greek silver coinage:

8 drachm
4 drachm
2 drachm
6 obol
4 obol
2 obol
1 1/2 obol
1/2 obol

Some cities also coined in fractions of 3/4 obol,

obol and even 1/4 and 1/8 obol. The term stater was
applied to gold, electrum and silver coinages and had
A tetradrachmwith a head of Athenaof archaic
style on the obverseand the Attic owl, whichwas
varying values in different cities. A silver stater was
the state seal, on the reverse. The first three
usually 2 drachm. However, in the case of Corinth and
letters of the city's nameare to the right of the
owl-a fairly early coin around540 B.C.
certain Ionian cities, the stater was broken up into
0 actual
tilyb ti ieand}
half times
(Oneand aabu
3 drachm.
became the dominate~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
after, Athens
The most extensive silver coinage was based on the
Euboic system of weight after Athens changed to it.
tyranny when the nobility were in the ascendency.
These drachm varied in weight from around 4.2 to 5
Peisistratus, a kinsman of Solon, took up the cause of
grammes. The next most extensive silver coinage was
the common people and it was he who issued the first
the Pheidonian, developed by Aegina and taken up by
two-sided coins, the Athena-Owl series, at the time of
most cities in the Peloponnese where the drachm varied
the first Panathenaic games in 566 B.C. He owned a
in weight from about 6 grammes to a maximum of about
large part of the mines at Laurium, later expropriated
6.3 grammes. Most of the islands in the Aegian also
mite of his
at the inchaa
by the
city from
adopted this weight standard for their coinage as did the
political opponents. He also slightly increased the
larger islands to the South such as Rhodes and Crete.
weight of the coinage, and Corinth followed suit.
The Lydio-Milesian silver drachm weighed from
Following the early coinage of lonia and the three
about 7 grammes to a maximum of about 7.3 grammes.
great early coinages of Greece Proper, which have been
However, in certain areas this coin was called a didiscussed in this chapter, many other cities in Magna
drachm and a coin of half the weight was called a
Graecia, Sicily and other areas began to issue coins in
drachm, adding to the confusion.
great profusion. Till about 500 B.C. Aegina appears
If we compare the silver shekel of Babylonia and
to be the mint whose coinage was most widely accepted.
Persia with a Greek drachm, we find that the BabyThe coins of Athens and Corinth were gaining substanlonian silver coin weighed from about 5.3 grammes to
a maximum of 5.44 grammes, and the Persian silver
coin ranged from about 5.55 grammes to a maximum of
5.7 grammes. In all cases these maximum weights are



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based upon a fair sample of nearly uncirculated coins

that have been found in various hoards.
The Greek banker, whose primary function was actually that of a money changer, had to deal with all these
coinages and, as we will see in the next chapter, a large
number of others that developed around 500 B.C. and
somewhat later. Within a hundred years of this period
a thousand or more Greek cities were minting coins.
There has been a tendency in recent years to down
date these early coinages. Some students suggest that
the Aeginetian coinage did not begin till after 600 B.C.
and that it is unlikely that Corinth began to coin before
that date. It is also suggested that the Athena-Owl
tetradrachms may not have come into circulation until
about 525 B.C. and are to be attributed to Hippias,"1
not Peisistratus. These questions remain unsettled and,
in this article, the author has elected to use the traditional dates pending additional evidence. *
11. Hippias, Son of Peisistratus, the brother of Pipparchas with whom he shares the rule from 527 B.C. to
514. After the assassination of his brother, he ruled with
great severity until forced into exile in 511 or 510 B.C.





Chester G. Starr, The Origins of Greek Civilization

1100-650 B.C.-Alfred A. Knopf, 1961.
Report on the
Joseph Alsop, From the Silent Earth -a
Greek Bronze Age Harper & Row, New York, 1962.
Leonard Cottrell, Realms of Gold
New York Graphic Society Publishers, Ltd.
Greenwich, Conn., 1963.
Paul MacKendrick, The Greek Stones Speak
St. Martin's Press, New York, 1962.
Fritz M. Heichelheim, An Ancient Economic History
Translated by Mrs. Joyce Stevens
Volume I-A. Sythoff-Leyden-1958
Volume II-1964.
Barclay V. Head, A Guide to the Principal Coins of the
Greeks, The University Press, Oxford, 1959.
Charles Seltman, Masterpieces of Greek Coinage
Bruno Cassieer Ltd., Oxford, 1949.
Stringfellow Barr, The Will of Zeus
J. B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia and New York, 1961.
Will Durant, The Story of Civilization: Part II
The Life of Greece-Simon & Schuster, New York,
J. B. Bury, A History of Greece
The Modern Library, Random House, Inc., New York.
Plutarch's Lives, Translated by John Dryden and revised
by Arthur H. Clough
The Modern Library, Random House, Inc., New York.


We're speaking of the 148 industrial parks

located in the Chicago area. These are parks
planned for industry. They offer ready-made
facilities, with water, gas, power, sewer and
rail spurs already in-ready for industry to
establish itself in the great Chicago area.
In the past 10 years, 1,850 taxpaying
companies employing more than 156,000
persons have located in industrial parks and
communities served by Northern Illinois Gas
Company. Such growth helps strengthen the


pulse and sinews of vigorous Chicagoland,

stimulates a healthy business climate with an
ever-increasing interchange of goods and
services among Chicagoland plants. And
Northern Illinois Gas Company works continuously, through its Area Industrial Development Department, to further the growth
of industry in its service territory.
Maybe the only swings these industrial
parks can offer is the swing shift. But they
make a lot more playgrounds possible.

Gas makes
the big difference

... costsless too.



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