What Was Money Called in Ancient Greece?

The ancient Greeks had a unique monetary system that played a crucial role in their society and economy. In this article, we will explore what money was called in Ancient Greece and how it functioned.

The Drachma: The Currency of Ancient Greece

The primary unit of currency in Ancient Greece was the drachma. The word “drachma” comes from the Greek verb “dratto,” meaning “to grasp” or “to seize.” It was a silver coin that was widely used throughout the Greek city-states.

The drachma had a significant impact on trade, commerce, and everyday life in ancient Greece. Its value varied over time and across different city-states, but generally, one drachma was equivalent to six obols or 100 bronze lepta.

Monetary Subdivisions: Obols and Lepta

To better understand the value of the drachma, it is essential to know about its subdivisions: obols and lepta.

An obol was worth one-sixth of a drachma. It derived its name from the Greek word “obelos,” meaning a spit or skewer. It is believed that obols were originally used as tokens for measuring precious metals during trade.

A lepton, on the other hand, was worth one-hundredth of a drachma. The word “lepton” means “small” in Greek, indicating its low value compared to other denominations.

Metallic Currency: Coins

In ancient Greece, coins were made from various metals such as silver, bronze, or gold. These coins often featured intricate designs and symbols that represented specific city-states or deities.

The drachma, as the primary unit of currency, was typically a silver coin. It had a standardized weight and purity to ensure its value and authenticity. Other denominations like obols and lepta were often made from bronze or copper.

Banking in Ancient Greece

In addition to physical coins, ancient Greece also had banking systems that facilitated financial transactions. One such system was the trapeza, which acted as a central bank in some city-states.

The trapeza provided services such as storage of coins, loans, and even exchange rates for different currencies. It played a vital role in promoting trade within and between city-states.


In ancient Greece, money was called the drachma. This silver coin served as the primary unit of currency and played a crucial role in trade and commerce. The drachma had subdivisions such as obols and lepta, which allowed for smaller transactions.

Ancient Greeks used coins made from various metals, with the drachma being predominantly silver. Banking systems like the trapeza provided additional financial services to support economic activities.

The study of ancient Greek monetary systems provides valuable insights into their society’s economic structure and the importance placed on commerce and trade.