Did Ancient Greece Trade or Use Money?

Ancient Greece is a name that echoes through time and is associated with the birth of democracy, philosophy, and science. However, when it comes to the question of whether ancient Greece used money or not, there is a lot of debate among historians.

Some argue that ancient Greece had a sophisticated monetary system while others claim that they relied only on barter trade. In this article, we will explore this controversy and try to shed some light on whether ancient Greece traded or used money.

Barter Trade in Ancient Greece

Barter trade refers to the exchange of goods and services without the use of money. It was prevalent in ancient times when people used to exchange commodities such as wheat, meat, cloth, and pottery for other goods they needed.

In ancient Greece, barter trade was the most common form of commerce. Farmers would exchange their crops for goods such as clothes or pottery with craftsmen who would then sell these products in markets.

The Problem with Barter Trade

Barter trade had several disadvantages. First and foremost, it was difficult to determine the exact value of different commodities because they were not standardized.

For example, how many bushels of wheat were equivalent to a piece of pottery? This made it difficult for people to conduct fair trades.

Secondly, barter trade required a double coincidence of wants which meant that both parties had to want what each other had at the same time. This could be quite challenging because often people needed different things at different times.

The Rise of Coinage in Ancient Greece

Despite these challenges posed by barter trade, it wasn’t until around 600 BC that coinage was introduced in ancient Greece. The first coins were made from electrum which is a natural alloy of gold and silver found in rivers in western Turkey.

Coins quickly became popular because they solved many problems associated with barter trade. They were standardized, easily divisible, and could be used to represent different values. This allowed people to conduct transactions more easily and with greater confidence.

The Benefits of Coinage

Coins had several benefits over barter trade. Firstly, they were portable which made them easy to carry around.

Secondly, coins were durable which meant they could be used over a long period of time. Thirdly, they were difficult to counterfeit which made them more trustworthy than other forms of currency.

Coins also allowed ancient Greeks to trade with people from other regions because they could be exchanged for other currencies such as Persian darics or Roman denarii.


In conclusion, while barter trade was the most common form of commerce in ancient Greece, the introduction of coinage revolutionized their economy. Coins became an essential part of their monetary system and allowed them to conduct business more efficiently and accurately. The use of coinage also paved the way for international trade and commerce.