What Coins Were Used in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, coins played a significant role in the economy and commerce of the city-states. Coins were used not only as a medium of exchange but also as a symbol of power and prestige. Let’s take a closer look at what coins were used in ancient Greece.

The First Coins in Ancient Greece

The first coins to be used in ancient Greece were made of electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. Electrum was found in the rivers of Lydia (present-day western Turkey) and was easy to work with. The Lydians were the first to use coins, which they minted around 600 BCE.

Athenian Coins

The Athenians were known for their beautiful and intricate coinage. The Athenian Owl was one of their most famous coins, named after the owl – the sacred bird of Athena, goddess of wisdom and patroness of Athens. On one side of the coin was an image of Athena’s owl; on the other side was an image of Athena herself.

Spartan Coins

Sparta produced some very interesting coins that reflected their values and way of life. Spartan coins featured images of warriors or scenes from everyday life. They would often engrave phrases like “Return with your shield or upon it” on their coins, emphasizing their military ethos.

Corinthian Coins

Corinth had a long history as a trading hub, so it’s no surprise that they produced many different types of coins over time. Corinthian coins often featured images related to trade, such as ships or dolphins (which were associated with Poseidon – god of the sea). One unique coin they produced was called a Pegasus stater – it featured an image of Pegasus (a winged horse) on one side and Athena on the other.

The Value System

In ancient Greece, coins were valued based on their weight and metal content. A talent was the heaviest unit of weight (around 26 kg); it was divided into smaller units like minas and drachmas. The drachma was the most common coin, and it was worth about six obols.


Coins played an important role in ancient Greece, not only as a medium of exchange but also as a symbol of power and prestige. Each city-state produced its own coins with unique designs that reflected their values and way of life. Today, these coins provide valuable insights into the history and culture of ancient Greece.