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Aux origines de la monnaie fiduciaire

Catherine Grandjean est professeur

d’histoire grecque à l’université
François-Rabelais, Tours.
Aliki Moustaka est professeur
d’archéologie classique à l’université
Aristote de Thessalonique.
Ausonius Éditions
— Scripta Antiqua 55 —

Aux origines de la monnaie fiduciaire

Traditions métallurgiques
et innovations numismatiques
Actes de l’atelier international
des 16 et 17 novembre 2012 à Tours

textes réunis par

Catherine Grandjean & Aliki Moustaka

Ouvrage publié avec le concours de l’Université François Rabelais, Tours, du CeThiS (EA 6298),
de l’IRAMAT (UMR 5060) et de la MSH Val-de-Loire

Diffusion De Boccard 11 rue de Médicis F - 75006 Paris

— Bordeaux 2013 —
Notice catalographique :
Grandjean, C. et A. Moustaka, éd. (2013) : Aux origines de la monnaie fiduciaire. Traditions
métallurgiques et innovations numismatiques, Ausonius Scripta Antiqua 55, Bordeaux.

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ISSN : 1298-1990
ISBN : 978-2-35613-092-1

Achevé d’imprimer sur les presses

de l’imprimerie BM
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14, rue Pierre Paul de Riquet
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Illustration de couverture :
Monnaie de bronze de Sicyone, EfA Argos, Warren10.

Catherine Grandjean et Aliki Moustaka, Avant-propos 9

Catherine Grandjean et Aliki Moustaka, Introduction 11

1. Nouvelles approches

Sophie Descamps-Lequime, De la cire à l’alliage cuivreux :

techniques des bronzes grecs 19

Hélène Nicolet-Pierre, Histoires de chaudrons 35

Maryse Blet-Lemarquand, Les analyses élémentaires de monnaies de bronze grecques

réalisées au Centre Ernest-Babelon de l’IRAMAT : méthode, résultats, synthèse 39

Sélènè Psoma, La monnaie de bronze : les débuts d’une institution 57

Olivier Picard, La valeur du bronze : du métal à la monnaie 71

2. Bilans régionaux

Louis Brousseau, La naissance de la monnaie de bronze en Grande Grèce et en Sicile 81

Catherine Grandjean, Une monnaie fiduciaire issue du monde colonial 97

John H. Kroll, Salamis again 109

Christos Gatzolis, New evidence on the beginning of bronze coinage in northern Greece 117

Brigitte Lion, Le bronze et ses usages économiques en Mésopotamie :

le cas de Nuzi (xive s. a.C.) 129

Pierre-Olivier Hochard, Les débuts du monnayage de bronze en Lydie :

essai de synthèse 145

Frédérique Duyrat, Développement et circulation de la monnaie de bronze en Syrie 161

Raymond Descat, Conclusion 185

Index des sources 189

Index général 191
Index géographique 195
Index des trésors 199
New evidence on the beginning of bronze coinage in northern Greece
Christos Gatzolis

The early date of the introduction of bronze coinage in northern Greece has quite early
been ascertained by scholars due to the indisputable presence of Archelaus’ of Macedon bronze
coinage1. However, the chronology of this incident was considered to be dated to the latest
period of Archelaus’ reign, about 400 BC2. That happened because the bronze currency, a really
monetary innovation, that was introduced to facilitate every day commercial transactions3, was
apparently not appropriate in a rather undeveloped economy, like that of Macedon of the 5th
century BC.
This chronology has recently risen up to about twenty years, as Psoma dated the first bonze
issues in the name of the Chalcidians of Thrace to the end of the 420’s or to the beginning of
the 410’s BC4; thus, the coinage of the Chalcidians of Thrace proved to be not only the earliest
in northern Greece but one of the earliest in the whole Greek world.
In this paper I will try to show that this innovative practice of the Chalcidians was not an
isolated incident, as new excavation finds and new interpretations of already known types reveal
a new numismatic picture in northern Greece5.

The case of Mende

A new bronze coin type came to light during recent excavations in the ancient city of Mende
at the Pallene peninsula of Chalcidice6. The new type bears a cantharus on the obverse and the
letters M and E framing a grape cluster on the reverse (fig. 1-2). Four pieces of this type were
found during the 1988, 2002 and 2003 excavation seasons. They weigh 0.60 (MENΔ 312),
0.80, 1.13 and 1.28 (MENΔ 278) grams, while their average weight is 0.95 grams, although the
0.60 grams piece is a little bit broken in its rim. Their average diameter is 10.25 mm. Therefore,
the new type has to represent the denomination C that is a chalkous. The four surviving pieces
seem to have been struck by different obverse and reverse dies.

Fig. 1. Inv. no. MENΔ 278, AE Fig. 2. Inv. no. MENΔ 312, AE
obv.: Cantharus obv.: Cantharus
rev.: Grape cluster; M – E rev.: Grape cluster; M – E

1 Price 1968, 91; Kraay 1976, 145; Westermark 1996, 291.

2 Westermark 1987, 181; Westermark 1989, 304.
3 Price 1968, 92; Price 1979, 351-358; Warren 1985, 45; Psoma 2001, 121; Chryssanthaki-Nagle 2007,
4 Psoma 2001, 143.
5 See Gatzolis 2010.
6 For the excavations at Mende see Vokotopoulou 1988; 1991; 1992; 1993; Votokopoulou & Moschonesioti
1993; Anagnostopoulou-Chatzipolychroni 2006.
However, this bronze coin type of Mende is not actually a new one. Another specimen of
this type, the first of its kind, came to light during the 1934 excavation season in Olynthus,
but since it could not be identified it was recorded as unattributed coin. On plate 33, in the 9th
volume of Olynthus publication, on coin no 8, both the cantharus on the obverse and the grape
cluster on the reverse are clearly distinguished, while the letter E is outlined right in the field and
the right vertical line of M is shown in the left field.7
185 bronze coins of the local mint were found during the recent excavations in ancient
Mende. The ratio by type and denomination is as follows:

Types pieces

Denomination C (cantharus/ grape cluster) 4

Denomination A (Dionysus/amphora) 15

Denomination B (Dionysus/2 amphorae) 11

Denomination C (Dionysus/amphora) 155

Total 185

On table, the distribution is the following:

Christos Gatzolis

Distribution of Bronze Mendean coins by type.

7 Robinson & Clement 1938, 362, pl. XXXIII, 8.

Thus, we have a new type in Mende’s bronze coins production that still remains within the
Dionysian iconographic tradition of that mint. The cantharus/grape cluster type is a direct
allusion to the famous 5th century tetradrachms of the city, on which Dionysus8 reclining on an
ass holding a cantharus is depicted on the obverse and a vine of five grape clusters9 (towards the
end of production even four10) on the reverse. The new bronze type seems to be an abbreviated
version of the tetradrachm type.
In numismatic iconography it is very common to use parts of the images found on the main
big silver denominations in the fractions. An example of this practice dated to the 5th century BC
can be found in the scale of denominations of Alexander I coin production, on which the
horseman was transformed to a horse afterwards to a forepart of a horse and finally to a horse’s
head11. One can find a similar practice on the coins of Acanthus12, of Stagira13 and of Argilus14
as well as on the coins of Mende, where the ass was finally reduced to a head15. Furthermore, the
transfer of a basic iconographic attribute from the main large silver denomination to a bronze
issue as obverse or reverse type is not without parallel in numismatic iconography. Potidaea
provides a typical example, where the trident of Poseidon Hippios from the obverse of silver
tetradrachms16 is used as a reverse type for the city’s denomination B bronze issues (Athena/
trident type)17.
The depiction of a cantharus as a main coin type is not uncommon in the numismatic
iconography of northern Greece, where Dionysian imagery is widespread. It occurs first in
Mende as reverse type in a series of small silver fractions18. It also occurs in a series of the
so-called uncertain Thraco-Macedonian coins19, and in three series of silver fractions recently
attributed to Maroneia20.
The grape cluster is a popular coin type throughout the Greek world. To mention just some
mints from northern Greece, the grape cluster occurs in silver fractions of Maroneia21, Dikaia-
by-Abdera22 and Tragilus23 dated to the 5th century BC. The depiction of a grape cluster also
occurs in the numismatic iconography of a series of cities in Chalcidice and especially in the
Pallene peninsula. In Mende it plays an important role as a supplementary motif on the obverse
of her tetradrachms24 from the very beginning of the coin production. Furthermore, the vine
of five or later of four grape clusters will be almost exclusively depicted on reverses of the same

New evidence of the beginning of bronze coinage

8 For a different interpretation of the Mendean coin type see Knoblauch 1998.
9 Noe 1926, 12, no 20 sq.
10 Ibid., 34, no 84 sq.
11 See e.g. SNG Alpha Bank, 19-44.
12 See e.g. Gaebler 1935, VI.
13 See Cahn 1973; SNG ANS 733-735; Sismanidis 2003, 15, pl. 8.
14 See Liampi 2008.
15 See SNG ANS 292-371.
16 SNG ANS 686-689.
17 SNG ANS 699.
18 SNG ANS 360-371.
19 Gaebler 1935, pl. XXVI, no 19.
20 Terzopoulou 2003.
21 Psoma et al. 2008, 173.
22 Terzopoulou 2003.
23 Papaevangelou 1995.
24 SNG ANS 299.
denominations during the 5th century BC, when the incuse square was abandoned25. From
424/423 BC the grape cluster is not used as a Mendean coin type, either in silver or in bronze
coins of the 4th century BC.
In a series of small silver fractions of neighboring Scione dated to the end of the third quarter
of the 5th century BC, a young male head is depicted on the obverse and a grape cluster inside
an incuse square on the reverse26. Also, in a rare bronze series of the same mint a female head is
depicted on the obverse and a grape cluster on the reverse (from Peter Franke collection now in
Yale University collection).
The Mendean style vine with grape clusters occurs also on the reverse of the biggest silver
denominations of the city of Aphytis dated to the 5th century BC27. Furthermore, in a rare
bronze series of the same mint a horned male head is depicted as an obverse and a grape cluster
as a reverse28.
In a very rare series of silver tritartemoria of Capsa a bearded male head with petasus to right
or a young male head with taenia to left is depicted as an obverse and a grape cluster framed by
the letters K and A as a reverse. These coins are dated “after the beginning of the last quarter of
the 5th century BC”29.

As we have seen from the above, the iconography of this new coin type is in the tradition
of the 5th century BC. The production of tetradrachms of the Dionysus on ass/vine with grape
clusters type seems to stop just after 432 BC. The series of drachms depicting Dionysus reclining
on ass holding a cantharus as an obverse and an amphora with the inscription ΜΕΝΔΑΙΗ as
a reverse is dated during the end of the 420’s30 Drachms of the head of Dionysus/amphora type
are dated to the 4th century BC as they refer to the new series of tetradrachms of the head of
Dionysus/ass type31, as well as to the well-known bronze coins of the Dionysus/amphora type,
issues of the 4th century BC. The beginning of production of the latter has been recently dated to
just after the liberation of the city by Lysander, after 404 BC and continues to be issued during
the 4th century BC.32
According to iconographic and stylistic criteria, the cantharus/grape cluster new type cannot
be placed in the production of bronze coins of head of Dionysus/amphora type, and should
therefore be dated to the 5th century and more specifically before 404 BC.
The silver tritartemoria of Capsa are very important for a more precise dating of the new
bronze type of Mende. The circular incuse square, the grape cluster, the abbreviated form of the
ethnic, everything is pointing out to the new bronze type of Mende33. Therefore a dating of the
new bronze type of Mende to the end of the 420’s or better to the begging of the 410’s seems

25 Supra n. 9-10.
26 SNG Ashmolean 2374-2375.
27 SNG ANS 209.
28 Robinson 1931, 39, no 71.
Christos Gatzolis

29 Psoma 2000a, 121.

30 Psoma 2000b, 32-33.
31 Ibid.
32 Psoma 2001, 111; Gatzolis 2011.
33 Psoma 2000a.
possible. If so, this type is the introductory bronze issue of Mende coexisting with the issuing
of reduced weight drachms. Also at the same time Olynthus issues her first bronze coins in a
corresponding denomination34.

The case of Potidaea

Until recently one series of bronze coins of Potidaea with two denominations was known.
Denomination A of Athena in Corinthian helmet/Pegasus type35 and denomination B of Athena
in Corinthian helmet/trident type36. These coins are rarely found in excavations. However, a
great number of denomination B, to be exact, 175 pieces and 4 pieces of the rarer denomination
A were found during the Olynthus excavation37. This series was recently dated around 361 BC38.
A second series of bronze coins with one denomination has recently been reattributed to
Potidaea39. It is the very rare series of the female head/bull in the position of sacrifice type40. This
series, although initially attributed to Potidaea by Postolakas, has been known until recently
as the denomination B of the first series of the Bottiaeans41 due to Gaebler’s misreading of
its legend ΠΟΤΕΙ as BOTTI42. In 1996 Psoma read the legend correctly and confirmed the
Postolakas attribution43. This second Potidaean series was recognised as denomination B dated
to the first decade of the 4th century BC, on the basis of stylistic criteria compared to the first
Bottiaean series44.
Until recently very few coins of this type were known. In Olynthus 14 coins are attributed
to the first series of the Bottiaeans counting among them, very probably 2 coins of Potidaea of
the female head/bull in the position of sacrifice type45. Robinson gives the weight only for one
of them, that is 1.13 grams for the Olynthus III, 777 specimen. Westermark gives two weights
for these coins: 2.14 and 1.13 grams46. During recent excavations in northern Greece some
new pieces came to light: two coins in Makrygialos (ancient Pydna) weighing 1.20 and 1.25

34 Ibid., 91.
35 Gaebler 1935, pl. XX, no 29.
36 Gaebler 1935, pl. II, no 4.
37 Robinson & Clement 1938, 306 and Robinson & Clement 1952, 418.
38 Psoma 2001, 112. New evidence of the beginning of bronze coinage
39 Psoma 1996, 18, n. 6.
40 The depiction of a bull kneeling its foreleg and lowering its head is usually described as a butting bull, but
it is certain that this position is not for charging but for preparation of sacrifice. See also Psoma 2001, 112.
41 For the real denomination B of the first series of the Bottiaeans of the female head/forepart of bull type
see Gatzolis & Psoma 2009.
42 Gaebler 1935, 51, no 4, pl. XX, 28. See also Westermark 1987, 184.
43 Psoma 1996, 18, n. 6.
44 Psoma 2001, 112.
45 Robinson & Clement 1938, 279, n. 113, 114. Some of these coins are, most likely, not issues of the
Bottiaeans or of the Potideans. E.g. Olynthus III, 819, 826 and Olynthus IX, 219, no. 2 are, very probably,
issues of Dikaia of Gaebler’s pl. XII, 23 type. Olynthus III, 834 is, very probably, an issue of Aeneia of
Gaebler’s pl. VI, 5 type. On the contrary, Olynthus III, 118 is probably an issue of the Bottiaeans of
denomination B while Olynthus III, 775 and Olynthus IX, 218-219, no. 1 (3 specimens) are issues of the
Bottiaeans of denomination A. Olynthus III, 778 and Olynthus VI, 775-776 are less possible to be issues
of the Bottiaeans. Finally Olynthus III, 777 and Olynthus IX, 219, no 3 are very probably issues of the
46 Westermark 1987, 184.
grams. Four coins in Methone weighing 1, 1.04, 1.06 and 1.30 grams respectively. Three coins
in Nea Kallikrateia (ancient Dikaia) weighing 1.26, 1.28 and 1.25 respectively. Two coins in
Mende both weighing 1.45 grams. Finally, one coin in Stageira weighing 1.03 grams. Their
diameters range from 9.5 to 11 mm. With the exception of Wertermark’s 2.14 grams weight,
which appears to be isolated, all the other weights and diameters suggest the identification of
these coins as denomination C, that is chalkoi.
The geographical distributions of these two Potidaean series are very different:

Athena/Pegasus and Athena/trident types

Number Site pieces

1 Makrygialos (ancient Pydna) 1

2 Nea Kallikrateia (ancient Dikaia) 1

3 Olynthus 179

4 Mecyberna 3

5 Aphytis 2

6 Mende 2

7 Stageira 2

Total 190

Female head/bull in the position of sacrifice type

Number Site pieces

1 Makrygialos (ancient Pydna) 2

2 Methone 4

3 Nea Kallikrateia (ancient Dikaia) 3

4 Olynthus 2

5 Mende 2

6 Stageira 1
Christos Gatzolis

Total 14

As we can see only two coins of the female head/bull in the position of sacrifice type were
found in Olynthus, although the overwhelming majority of the Athena/Pegasus and trident
types were found in this city. On the contrary, despite their rarity, coins of the female head/bull
in the position of sacrifice type were found in a certain number of cities like Pydna, Methone,
Dikaia Mende and Stageira and in some cases, like Pydna and Dikaia in greater number than
coins of the Athena/Pegasus and Athena/trident types.

The dating of the female head/bull in the position of sacrifice type to the first decade of the
4th century BC raises some questions.

The case of Olynthus

The liberation of Potidaea, Torone and Scione by Lyssander in 404 BC resulted in the
expulsion of the Athenian colonists (and Plataeans at Scione) and the return of the original
inhabitants or their descendents to their old homelands47. The majority of them had taken refuge
in the neighbouring Olynthus. As it was expected, living all these years with the Olynthians,
the refugees had developed friendly relations and felt gratitude for them. As a result these cities
came under the influence of Olynthus and soon joined the federation48. If these coins were
the first issued after 404 BC, one would expect them to find their way to the neighbouring
Olynthus in larger quantities. Furthermore, the large number of coins of the Athena/trident
type found at Olynthus was explained due to the proximity of the two cities49.

The case of Pydna

The finding of these coins in Pydna raises further questions about their dating during the
period from 404 to the first decade of the 4th century BC. As it is known, Pydna was abandoned
from the revolt of 410 BC50 until the reign of Amyntas III51. It seems most likely these coins
have entered Pydna before the siege of 410 BC.

The case of Sybaris-Thurii

The coin type of standing bull and of bull in the position of sacrifice is of Magna Grecian
origin and in particular it comes from the coinage of Sybaris-Thurii52. The influence of southern
Italy in the coinage of Macedon and Chalkidice, during the second half of the 5th century BC,
New evidence of the beginning of bronze coinage

has been substantiated by scholars53. The early tetrobol of Aeneia54 which copies in every detail
the counterpart drachm of Sybaris IV55 is the most typical case.

47 Plut., Lys., 14; Xen., Hell., 2.2.9.

48 West 1918, 94-95.
49 Psoma 2001, 112.
50 Diod. 13.49.2.
51 Besios 1992, 156; 1993, 241; Tselekas 1996, 12; Hatzopoulos & Paschidis 2004, 806.
52 Westermark 1996.
53 Ibid.
54 Gaebler VI, 2.
55 Rutter 1997, 44, 19.
The bull in the position of sacrifice is an advanced version of the standing bull found on
Thurii’s coinage56. The bull on coins of this South Italian city starts to be depicted standing r.,
head reverted (c. 440/435 BC)57, just like the Sybaris IV type (446-444 BC)58. The bull continues
to be depicted standing or head lowered (c. 435-410/405 BC)59, to end in the position of
sacrifice (c. 415/410-400 BC)60. Bronze coins developed in the same way as silver coins. The
Potidaean bull in the position of sacrifice is similar to the counterpart of the last group of Thurii
(c. 415/410-400 BC)61.
As it is well known, the Pan-Hellenic colony of Thurii was founded by Athens on the
site of Sybaris in 444 BC. The Athenian character of the new city is reflected in numismatic
iconography, even from the period of Sybaris IV, when the head of Athena in a laureate attic
helmet used as its obverse type is already “a very Athenian Athena”62. The iconographic type of
a bull standing or in the position of sacrifice seems to be adopted by cites in northern Greece,
which were under the influence of Athens. Aeneia remained loyal to Athens and it was the
only city in the Crousis that does not participate in the revolt of 432 BC63. Potidaea, after its
conquest by the Athenians in 430/429 BC is practically an Athenian territory, because the
Athenians installed cleruchs, after the Potidaeans were allowed to leave the city64. Bottiaeans of
the North made the known alliance with the Athenians in 422 BC65. Finally, Archelaus was a
firm ally of the Athenians66 and was honoured for his generosity to the Athenian people67.

The case of Athenian cleruchies

According to the above, it seems that the period of Athenian control over Potidaea (from
430/429 to 404 BC) was the ideal context for the issuing of a coin after a Thurian original. As
we have already seen, in this period, Potidaea was actually an Athenian cleruchy. On bronze
issues of Athenian cleruchs from Imbros, Lemnos and Scyros dated to the 1st century BC, the
ethnics Α-Θ-Ε/ΙΝΒΡΙ, Α-ΘΕ/ΛΗΜΝΙΩ, Α-ΘΕ/C-KY are inscribed68. However, these are
much later coins and it is probably not a good idea to examine them in conjunction with the
female head/bull in the position of sacrifice type.

The case of Pydna again

A very recent find provides confirmation for the arguments made in this essay. The fourteen
coins of the Potidaean female head/bull in the position of sacrifice type mentioned above were
found in excavations in northern Greece. None can however be used for a more precise dating

56 Rutter 1979, 199-205.

57 Ibid., pl. XXXII 1-2.
58 Rutter 1997, 44, pl. 19.
59 Rutter 1979, pl. XXXII 3-5.
60 Ibid., pl. XXXII 8-10.
61 Ibid., pl. XXXII 10.
62 Rutter 1997, 44.
63 See Zahrnt 1971, 114.
Christos Gatzolis

64 Ibid., 216.
65 IG I3 76.
66 Hammond & Griffith 1979, 137 sq.
67 IG I2 105.
68 Kroll 1993, 110-112, no. 159-161.
of the type. On the contrary, another piece, the fifteenth of this type, has come to light recently
in Pydna excavations. It was found in a pit, remnant of the basement of a house just outside the
city of Pydna. The pit was sealed by a destruction layer. According to the excavator, stratigraphy
and pottery evidence, date the destruction of the house during the siege of the city by Archelaus
in 410 BC.
On that basis, I think that we can date the Potidaean female head/bull in the position of
sacrifice bronze type to the 410’s BC.

The case of Archelaus

The bronze coins of Archelaus are of three types and two denominations:
1st type
Denomination B: Lion’s mask/forepart of bull; APXE
2nd type
Denomination B: Lion’s mask/forepart of boar; APXE
3rd type
Denomination C: Lion’s mask/forepart of boar; APXE

Comparing these issues with those of Rhegion and Thurii, Westermark considered the 1st
type as introductory of Archelaus’s bronze coin production arguing that it copies Rhegion lion’s
mask on the obverse and Thurian forepart of bull on the reverse69. She suggested that an exact
copy of a foreign original had been suitable for an imported species like bronze coinage. That
type “was soon found alien to the national scheme” so it was abandoned and replaced by a more
local type such as the 2nd and 3rd which bear a forepart of boar as a reverse, a type occurring in a
silver obol of Perdiccas II70 and continues occurring in issues of Archelaus’s successors.
However, if we observe the royal numismatic iconography, we see that when a king repeats
a numismatic type of his predecessor this is usually applied for his first issue. These are the cases
of Philip II71, Antigonus Gonatas72 and Philip V73. Therefore, it is more likely that the 2nd and
3rd Archelaus’ types were followed by the 1st type, while it is more probable that the beginning
of Archelaus’ bronze coinage took place during and not towards the end of his reign.
Furthermore, an Archelaus’ bronze coin of denomination C found in Pydna excavations74
supports the dating of the beginning of bronze coinage of Archelaus before 410 BC, since
New evidence of the beginning of bronze coinage

Pydna was abandoned from the revolt of 410 BC until the reign of Amyntas III75. Also, this
denomination was probably the introductory issue of Archelaus’ bronze coinage, just like the
Chalcidians, Mende and Potidaea.

69 Westermark 1996, 293.

70 Raymond 1953, 164, pl. XIg.
71 Portolos 1996.
72 Gatzolis 2000.
73 Mamroth 1935.
74 See Gatzolis 2010.
75 Supra n. 50-51.
The case of Acanthus
A very important hoard of 36 coins (CH 9.23) has recently been published by Kaltsas in
Akanthos I, the first volume of the publication of the Acanthus’ excavations. It is a grave hoard
of 36 coins from the Acanthus cemetery and it actually consists of two lots as follows76:
Lot I: 27 silver coins as follows:
Bull head/incuse square: 3 coins
Head of Apollo/lyre: 17 coins
Chalcidian League
Head of Apollo/laurel branch TPIH: 7 coins
Lot II: 9 bronze coins as follows:
Denomination B: Head of Athena/AKAN in a four part linear square
The excavator dated the burial of the hoard to the end of the 5th or to the beginning of the
4 century BC77. However, it is obvious that this dating was proposed because of the presence

of the bronze coins, since all the silver coins can be dated within the 5th century BC.
I suggest that the hoard can be dated to the 5th century BC, together with the Acanthian
bronze coins of denomination B. The presence of another grave good seems to support such
an early dating. It’s a small clay bowl78, a local imitation of an Athenian original dating to
450 BC79. Although as an imitation this bowl has to be dated later than 450 BC but not much
later than that. According to recent suggestions “the chronological distance between an attic
original pot and a local imitation should not be as large as is usually considered”80.

The evidence presented in this essay reveals an entirely new picture of the begging of bronze
coinage in northern Greece. It seems that quite a few minting authorities, like the Chalcidian
League, Mende, Potidaea, the kings of Macedon and possibly Acanthus started issuing bronze
coins in the last two decades of the 5th century BC. The view that bronze coinage was introduced
to facilitate every day commercial transactions replacing the small silver fractions with the larger
in size but smaller in value and therefore more practical bronze issues raises some questions.
According to the above, the introductory bronze denomination is mainly the chalkous. It is the
smallest possible denomination, a new denomination, sub multiple of the silver obol which had
never been issued in silver. Therefore its name does not indicate its relation to the silver obol but
simply the metal chalkous, apparently as unprecedented.
If denomination C is actually the first one, it will be difficult to support that bronze coinage
was introduced, at least to northern Greece, in order to replace silver small fractions to facilitate
retail transactions. Furthermore, these initial issues which survived in such small numbers
indicate that these coins were issued for a very short period of time and probably for a specific
Christos Gatzolis

76 Kaltsas 1998, 36-38, pl. 18.

77 Ibid.
78 Ibid.
79 Sparkes & Talcott 1970, pl. 34, no 905 and 911.
80 Drougou 2005, 37, n. 97.
reason. Some of the issuing authorities, like Mende, and Potidaea chose totally different types
when they decided again to strike bronze coinage.
The dating of the introduction of bronze coinage to the last two decades of the 5th century BC
places this development in the context of the Peloponnesian War and the events that took place
in this region. I think the war was the main reason for the introduction of bronze coinage in
this territory of the Greek world81. The use of coinage for military reasons led some developed
economies (such as that of Mende), to use it also for the purpose of trade. However, bronze
coinage in the Macedonian kingdom remained restricted to military purposes, until the reign
of Philip II82.

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81 The case of Timotheus’ bronze coinage (Aristotle, Oecon., 2.1350 a 23) is very characteristic although is
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82 See Gatzolis 2010.
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Christos Gatzolis

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