Currencies of Antiquity


The Reichsmark was never an international currency.So studying inflation in the Weimar Republic is not enough.This post traces the history of the Drachma,Denarius,Bezant and Dinar–the international currencies of antiquity.I think knowing this history will help us see the parallels and understand our world better.If macro-economics is not really your thing,atleast knowing about the coins should give a rough idea of which ones would be more collectable for their bullion content!

The Drachma

wealthymatters.comThe Greeks minted stunningly beautiful┬ácoins.Non-Greeks thousands of miles away treasured these coins and so┬áthey became the first “international currency”.Archeologists have found Greek coins as far away as China, India and Northern Europe. In fact, even though Rome soon rose to eclipse Greece, most Asians kept using Greek money for centuries.

The main currency of Greece was the Athenian Drachma (pic on the left). It was a silver coin, and its weight and quality stayed amazingly consistent through the centuries. From Solon, around 600 BC, to Alexander the Great, around 300 years later, it stayed exactly 67 grains of fine silver. This was the money Alexander brought to India, and from there it traded yet further East becoming the monetary standard of all Asia. And even as Greece declined and was finally absorbed into Rome, its value did not fall much. By the end of the Drachma’s life, it had only declined to 65 grains of fine silver. This is an extraordinary achievement. No other civilization has ever had an international currency that stayed the same value —or pretty much so, since a fall from 67 to 65 grains of silver is a loss of less than 3%. And this was not only during the period of its greatest influence, but even as it declined in power over a period of six centuries.Whatever the secret of the Greeks was, no international currency since then has ever been able to keep its value, even as the government issuing it started on its seemingly inevitable decline.Certainly the conquering Romans were astounded at how the Greeks had mastered money. They paid Greece the ultimate monetary compliment by fashioning their own money, the Roman Denarius, as an exact copy of the Drachma right down to the size and weight. Read more of this post

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