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Exhibition curated by
Sarah E. Hafner
National Endowment
for the Humanities 2005
Summer Curatorial Intern

 

Reverse of a tetradrachm of Athens, 4th c. BCE Ethel Chubb Collection of Coins Bryn Mawr College Art and Archaeology Collection

Note the archaic spelling of Athens represented on this coin— The “ E” or epsilon, would have been an “ H” or eta, at the time of this coin’s production.

 

 

 

From Asia Minor the use and production of coinage spread throughout the Greek world. This may be explained by the fact that minting coinage was considered an important component of autonomy for a Greek polis, or city-state. Coin types for each polis, particularly the large and powerful ones, such as Athens, Corinth, and Syracuse, tended to change conservatively over hundreds of years in order to maintain their standard authority. Coins of these cities, on display in the exhibition, have consistent types that change only in the refinement of the art (i.e., from the archaic to the classical style). Athens and Corinth particularly display this “conservatism” by continuing to use inscriptions on their coins that represent archaic spellings of their cities’ names (see caption at right). The Romans began producing crude coinage in the fourth century BCE, though their Greek neighbors in Southern Italy and Sicily had an established tradition of fine coinage which had begun in the 5th century BCE. Within two hundred years, the Romans were producing fine silver coins of their own, and as they conquered the Mediterranean, their coinage became the standard.