Coins of the archaic and classical eras.
Coins appeared around 650 BC either in the Lydian kingdom, or in the Ionian Greek cities (most likely Ephesus or Miletus). For about 100 years, they were made only from electrum (an alloy of gold and silver), actively mined at that time from deposits controlled by the lydian king. The content of pure gold in the alloy from different sources varied significantly, and, most likely, the desire to effectively use the abundant, but in a sense "capricious" resource of the precious metal was the impetus for the invention of the coin.
Secondary or alluvial gold was discovered in the channels of many rivers on the northern slope of Mount Tmol (modern name Boz Dağ). The most famous deposit was located in the bed of a small river Pactolus, which flowed near the fortress walls of the city of Sardis, the capital of the Lydian Kingdom. These placers, apparently, were discovered after the fall of the Hittite Empire. There is a legend about the Phrygian king Midas, who, having washed himself in the waters of Pactolus, got rid of his "gift" - to turn everything into gold with a touch, after which the river became gold-bearing. The first of the non-Greek kings, Midas dedicated a gift to the Delphic Oracle - his golden throne, and, according to one of the many versions, the first gold coin in history was minted under him.
The rapid flourishing of the Lydian Kingdom is undoubtedly associated with the use of gold from the Pactolus River, and the founder of the Mermnad dynasty, King Gyges (c. 680-644 / 43 BC), who came to power as a result of a coup, like Midas, became famous for generous gifts of gold and silver to the Delphic Oracle. The fabulous wealth of the Lydian kings became a household word in connection with the tragic story of the richest man of his time - King Croesus (c. 560-547 / 46 BC). His great kingdom and, most likely, he himself perished under the onslaught of the Persians - at that time completely unfamiliar with luxury and prosperity. The richest gifts of Croesus to the Oracle of Delphi, about 5.5 tons of electrum and 467 kg of pure gold in ingots and products, apparently, were a reality.
In any case, the fact is the precious initiatory gifts discovered during the excavations of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, among which were electric coins. The earliest treasure was hidden c. 640-620 BC. inside the green schist foundation on which the statue of Artemis stood. It is decisive in the discussion about the date of the appearance of the first coins, among which are the royal Lydian units with the image of a lion's head and the sun in the form of a four-pointed star.
Our collection contains a similar coin, same dies to specimens from the Temple of Artemis.
Lydian coins were issued in a system of denominations multiples of two, where the biggest coin was a unit weighing about 4.7 grams, and the smallest coin was 1/64 of it, weighing only 0.07 grams.
The surprising fact is that the quality of the weight control of Lydian royal coins is comparable to European coins of the 18th century made by using a mechanical press.
In our collection, the first coins are also represented by the Ionian hekte and hemihekte of the 7th century BC.
The level of trade relations and economic power of the states and cities of Asia Minor is well illustrated by the fact that already at the initial stage, large coins were minted - staters, weighing 14-16.5 grams. Similar electrum staters of the city of Kyzikos (about 16 grams), referred to in ancient written sources as "kyzikenes", became one of the first universal coins in history. Their early, relatively small, issues date back to the second quarter of the 6th century. BC. Their truly abundant production lasts for about 200 years from the end of the 6th to the end of the 4th century BC and in terms of the mass of processed precious metal, they confidently take second place after the staters on behalf of Alexander the Great.
In total, the number of types of electrum coins of Kyzikos, Phocaea and Mytilene is at least 465. Among this varieties there are images of animals, mythological creatures, gods and humans, various objects and weapons. Many of the compositions are complex, and some of the portraits probably depict real people. These coins perfectly reflect the richness of the ancient culture of the classical era, and many images are quite worthy of the title of masterpieces of medal art.
Despite the relatively small mass of hektes (1/6 of the stater) of Phocaea and Mytilene (on average, about 2.55 grams), their coinage was so plentiful that, in terms of the mass of processed electrum, each of these policies exceeds the Roman coinage of gold until the time of Julius Caesar, and in total, they are on a par with the emission of one of the richest cities of antiquity - Carthage.
Our collection includes the hektes of Mytilene, Phocaea and Heraclea Pontika (previously attributed to Erythrai).
Located on the southern coast of the Black Sea, the city of Heraclea was founded around 560 BC. It got its name in honor of Hercules, who, according to local legend, descended into the underworld here for the dog Cerberus, performing his last 12th feat.
The rulers of many states produced their genus from Hercules. So, the Macedonian kings and Alexander the Great considered themselves the descendants of the hero - the Heraclids; according to Herodotus, these were 22 generations of Lydian kings before Gyges.
Minted around 530-520 BC the hekte bears on the front side an image of Hercules in the skin of the Nemean lion, made in the archaic style. This is the earliest known depiction of the hero on coins.
Of particular note is the hekte with the image of Zeus-Ammon, whose cult is of central importance in the history of Alexander the Great.
The origin of the image of Zeus with ram's horns is explained by Herodotus:
“Hercules once wanted to see Zeus without fail, but he did not at all want Hercules to see him. When Hercules began to persistently seek [a date], Zeus came up with a trick: he skinned a ram and cut off his head, then put on a fleece and, holding his head in front of him, appeared to Hercules. Therefore, the Egyptians depict Zeus with the face of a ram, ... in Egypt, Zeus is called Ammon".
Third place in the ranking of the most massive gold coins of antiquity are occupied by darics minted from “the purest gold”.
Introduced around 512 BC, they were a symbol of the power of the Persian state for almost 200 years. Herodotus speaks of the plan of King Darius to create a monument for himself, which no other king has ever erected for himself, meaning just golden darics, on the front side of which is depicted a king shooting from a bow. Darius extremely jealously guarded his monopoly right to mint a coin, and an unauthorized attempt to issue it in Egypt ended in the death of the satrap of this region. In any case, the darics, named after their creator, became the first coin in history, the image on which correlated with a real person - the Persian king.
The weight of the daric was one Persian (historically Mesopotamian or Babylonian) shekel and it is possible that they "participated" in the restoration of the Jerusalem Temple, thus falling into the category of coins mentioned in the Bible. Together with kyzikenes, darics are mentioned on the pages of Xenophon's Anabasis as a traditional monthly payment to a mercenary warrior, and together these coins leave the historical scene, giving way to the most massive coins of antiquity - gold staters on behalf of Alexander the Great.
Our collection includes two staters and a hekte of the Kyzikos city, dating back to the late archaic period (ca. 500-450 BC) depicting a dog and a griffin protome, as well as a gold daric, minted during the reign of Darius III, against whom Alexander the Great campaigned.
As a result of this campaign, both Hellenes and Asians ended up in one huge state with a universal monetary system, and the "Macedonian" gold staters of Attic weight (on average about 8.58 grams) and tetradrachms replaced other universal money, among which it is worth mentioning the classical Athenian tetradrachms with an owl.
The Athenians minted gold very rarely and only in case of emergency, as, for example, in 407/406 BC. when, as a result of military failures, the city was forced to make coins from the gold of dedicatory gifts and decorations of seven of the eight statues of the goddess Nike from the Acropolis.
The power of Athens and their famous coins with the image of the patroness of the city of Athens on the obverse and an owl on the reverse side are directly related to the extraction of silver in the mines of Lavrion belonging to the city, located nearby.
Our collection includes such a coin minted in Athens around 440-420 BC - the time of the highest prosperity of the city, when the construction of the main structures of the acropolis and the Parthenon was completed, Herodotus wrote the History, Phidias worked ...