The Classical Zoo – Greece
The Greek historian Herodotus tells us the Lydians invented coins. Coins replaced ingots and bars because coins were easier for transport and trade. Initially, the Greeks imprinted familial coats of arms on their coins. As rulers of city-states took control of minting, symbols of animals were used on coins of the city-states. Often animal designs were determined by a particular deity for which the city-state had an affinity. For example, the front (obverse) of the coin display the head of Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. The back (reverse) of the coin shows the owl, associated with her worship. Animals were also used to identify the coins of specific regions of ancient Greece. This Historical Collection includes five lead free pewter reproductions of ancient Greek coins showing a variety of animals. These include:
Tetradrachm of Ainos
Ainos was a prosperous city and trading center on a Thracian peninsula at the mouth of the Hebros River. The original coin was made between 474 and 440 B.C. Obverse: shows a goat walking right. Reverse: shows the head of youthful Hermes. (Sear 1562).
Didrachm of Larissa
Larissa was the most important town in Thessaly. The original coin was struck between 350 and 325 B.C. Reverse: a horse trotting right. Obverse: displays the nymph Larissa three quarters facing right. (Sear 2119).
Tetradrachm of Athens
By the fourth century B.C. Athens became the center of the Aegean world and a great cultural and political center. The original silver tetradrachm was made between 440 and 413 B.C. Reverse: shows a standing owl facing right with olive twigs. The owl is the symbol of Athena and the city of Athens. Obverse: shows the head of Athena facing right. (Sear 2526).
Hemidrachm of Olympia
Olympia was the famous center of the ancient Greek Olympian games. The original silver coin was made between 271 and 191 B.C. Reverse: shows an eagle seated right on an Ionic capital. The eagle was the symbol of Zeus and the city of Olympia. Obverse: displays Zeus facing right. (Sear 2900).
Drachm of Aigina
Located between Athens and the eastern Peloponnese, the island of Aigina was the earliest island trade center to make and use coins for their maritime trade. Before the rise of political rise of Athens, Aigina was the greatest Mediterranean trade center in the Greek world. The tortoise was the symbol of Aigina. This replica of a silver drachm was minted between 404 and 340 BC. Obverse: shows a tortoise with a segmented shell. Reverse: shows incise square. (Sear 2606).