The Monetary Background of Early Coinage

John H. Kroll

in The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195305746
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Monetary Background of Early Coinage

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  • Classical Studies
  • Ancient Greek History
  • Ancient Roman History



In the Greek world, monetary practices included the transactional use of weighed bullion. Special circumstances explain why coinage happened to originate in the Greek region. One was that electrum was indigenous to Lydia and by the seventh century was being extracted from the Pactolus River in legendary quantities. Consequently, among the Lydians and their Greek neighbors, electrum had become more abundant than silver and pure gold. The second circumstance was that electrum was an inconsistent and easily adulterated metal and thus poorly suited for reliable monetary exchange. Finally, the key factor that made coinage possible and distinguished it from all earlier forms of money was the involvement of the state. Coinage quickly came to be regarded as both an indispensable instrument of economic and public life and, like standard weights and measures, with which it was often associated, a fundamental responsibility of the well-ordered state.

Keywords: Greek; weighted bullion; coinage; money; monetary practices

Article.  4247 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Ancient Greek History ; Ancient Roman History

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