Ancient Greek Gold Coin of Zeugitana
Circa 270-240 BCE
the sixth century BCE, the widespread adoption of coinage by the Greek
world fostered the introduction of designs which referred to the authority
of the city-state that minted them. The city-state's authority guaranteed
the quality and value of the coins and protected them against abuses, such
as forgery. Many of the designs chosen by the city-states to represent
their authority symbolized their religious cults or myths.
This ancient Greek gold coin of Zeugitana, minted in Carthage between
270 and 240 BCE, bears the head of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter,
the goddess of fertility, agriculture, and marriage on one side and a free
horse associated with the goddess on the other. Most of the Greek
coins were silver. The fact that this coin was minted in gold reflects
the availability of gold in this region.
It is unknown exactly why the Greek city-states changed from measured
pieces of silver to stamped coins in the sixth century BCE. Herodotus,
in the fifth century BCE, suggested that this change occurred for economic
reasons: it was easier to use coins to trade both within the community
and outside it. Many Greek coins of this era have been found in regions
as far away as Egypt, the Near East, and the Black Sea showing that they
were popular in long distance commerce.
In the fourth century BCE, the philosopher Aristotle wrote in his treatise,
The Politics, that it was simply for convenience, to save the hassle of
weighing the silver pieces out for every trade or financial transaction.
It has also been suggested by historians that coins were issued by Greek
city-states or rulers in order to meet various payments, such as civil
and military expenditures.
In addition, the city-state placed a value on the coins that it issued
which was higher than the value of the bullion from which they were made,
thereby enabling the government to accrue considerable revenue. This
proved most successful in city-states that had a strong balance of trade
in their favor.