Did Ancient Greece Have Currency?

The question of whether ancient Greece had a currency is a fascinating one. Let’s delve into the topic and explore the use of currency in this ancient civilization.


Ancient Greece, known for its rich history and contributions to various fields such as philosophy, mathematics, and democracy, was a civilization that existed from the 8th century BCE to the 6th century CE. In order to understand if they had a currency system, we need to examine the economic practices of this era.

Barter System

Ancient Greece primarily relied on a barter system for trade. In this system, goods and services were exchanged directly for other goods and services – without the need for an intermediary form of currency. This method worked well for simpler transactions within local communities.

Advantages of Barter System

  • Simplicity: The barter system was straightforward as it involved exchanging goods based on their perceived value.
  • No need for currency: By eliminating the need for money, people didn’t have to worry about its storage or security.
  • Promoted community bonds: Bartering encouraged social interaction and strengthened relationships within communities.

Limitations of Barter System

  • Lack of standardization: The lack of a common measure of value made it challenging to compare different items’ worth accurately.
  • Inefficiency: Bartering often required a double coincidence of wants – both parties needed to desire what the other had to offer which could be difficult to achieve.
  • Inability to store wealth: Without a currency, accumulating and storing wealth became more challenging.

Use of Coins

While the barter system was prevalent in ancient Greece, the use of coins gradually emerged as a more convenient means of exchange. Coins made from precious metals, primarily silver and gold, began to circulate during the 6th century BCE.

The Lydian Influence

Ancient Greece’s adoption of coins was heavily influenced by its contact with the Lydian civilization. The Lydians, an ancient kingdom in what is now modern-day Turkey, were among the first to introduce standardized coinage.

Athenian Drachma

The Athenian drachma became one of the most widely used currencies in ancient Greece. It featured a design with an owl on one side and an inscription on the other. The drachma was widely accepted and used for both domestic and international trade.


While ancient Greek civilization initially relied on a barter system for trade, it eventually embraced the use of currency in the form of coins. The introduction of standardized coinage provided several advantages over bartering, such as increased efficiency and easier storage of wealth. The Athenian drachma stands as a testament to ancient Greece’s involvement in monetary transactions.

In summary, although they began with a barter system, ancient Greeks ultimately recognized the benefits of having currency. Their transition from bartering to using coins played a crucial role in facilitating trade and commerce within their civilization.