A Book of Greek Coins

A Book of Greek Coins

A Book of Greek Coins

A Book of Greek Coins

Excerpt

PLANTS, birds, beasts and heraldic symbols, portraits and personifications are present upon the coins in our pockets and hand-bags to-day because the Greeks first thought of such things. Although this book is A Book of Greek Coins , it is also, by implication, an introduction both to all coinage as a commercial convenience and to coinage as a means to the publication of fine art. There is probably no other product of mankind in which two such diverse needs have for so long found their fulfilment; for the need to satisfy economic convenience is one thing -- the need to indulge artistry is quite another. Yet, ever since European man began to coin, he has constantly -- within his Age and his changing ephemeral traditions -- tried to make his money simultaneously useful and attractive. On the whole it is surprising to find how often he has succeeded in this aim, and how great is the number of fine and admirable coins which were made between the seventh century B.C. and the reign of King Charles II.

It began among the leaders of commerce in western Asia Minor, where kings of Lydia and merchant princes in Ionian cities like Miletus used pellets of white gold (I) and found that the variability in the gold and silver content of such lumps called for some form of guarantee. And so they set the seal of the State upon these pellets. Half a lion (2, 7) was the badge of the Lydian kings, and heraldic animals (3, 4, 5) emblazoned the early Ionian coins. By 600 B.C. King Alyattes set, in Lydian script, part of his name, 'Walwesh(attes)', in front of his lion (7); and fifty years later, his famous successor, the millionaire Croesus, stopped minting indeterminable white gold and introduced the earliest pure gold coinage (8) in history. With this went an issue of pure silver, and the money of the last and most famous of Lydian kings served as a pattern for the succeeding coinage of the kings of Persia. Here, upon the golden . . .

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